The Classic Movies That Inspired The House With A Clock In Its Walls

Cate Blanchett Jack Black Talking The House With A Clock In Its Walls

Eli Roth's The House With A Clock In Its Walls very much feels like a throwback. On beyond being a period story based on a classic novel from the early 1970s, kid-friendly horror is a tradition that we simply don't see celebrated as often as we used to on the big screen. Really it's a high-stakes live-action adventure in the vein of some of the greatest hits of the 1980s, and as I recently learned from screenwriter Eric Kripke, many of those key titles were in the back of mind during the making of the film:

We certainly played it as sort of an homage to the Amblin movies that we grew up on, and we wrote it before Amblin got involved. So that was fate working for us. But yeah, you know, we grew up, Eli [Roth], Brad Fischer and I, we grew up watching Back To The Future, Gremlins, Goonies, Beetlejuice - movies that were fun and funny, but had a lot of heart, but also the stakes were real. Kids movies today are so often too soft, and they don't give kids enough credit that they can handle a little bit of real thrills and real stakes and real darkness where real people die. We just said no one's making those kinds of movies anymore, and we wanted to make one.

There certainly has been an uptick in recent years when it comes to sensitivity in regards to parents, their kids, and the movies they watch -- and according to Eric Kripke The House With A Clock In Its Walls is a chance for moms and dads everywhere to perhaps ease up a touch. While that may seem like a big proposition, during an interview earlier this week he pointed to a number of modern classics that were both kid-oriented but not without an important level of maturity. Amblin titles like Gremlins and Goonies didn't pull its punches and weren't afraid to challenge or scare younger audiences a bit, and that's a vibe the new film is hoping to capture.

While the highlighted 1980s titles were vital in crafting the tone for The House With A Clock In Its Walls, in a separate interview with Eli Roth the filmmaker also told me about two other films that were influential in his approach: Spider-Man and The Lord Of The Rings. Specifically, those were two family-friendly blockbuster titles helmed by directors who had their roots in indie horror, and he kept those journeys in mind as he was making a similar venture:

I look at the directors that I really admire, like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson and their early films. And then I remember when Sam Raimi did Spider-Man, I was so excited to see it because of Evil Dead, and when Peter Jackson did Lord of the Rings I couldn't wait to see it because of Meet The Feebles. Those movies are very different, but they still have those directors' sensibilities and sense of fun and sense of mischief and style.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is certainly a long, long way away from the horrors of titles like Cabin Fever and Hostel, but it's also a film that ultimately still shows the same kind of appreciation and passion for genre. It's a very different color for Eli Roth, but you can still recognize texture and shading.

Those curious to see the finished work will have their chance to do so very soon, as The House With A Clock In Its Walls -- starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, and Kyle McLaughlin -- arrives in theaters this Friday. Tickets are on sale now, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with Eli Roth and Eric Kripke.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.