Cabin Fever. Hostel. Death Wish.
Eli Roth’s résumé wouldn’t make him the most obvious candidate to adapt John Bellairs’s 1973 kid-lit classic The House With a Clock in Its Walls into a PG-rated romp, but the director best known for grisly horror and blood-soaked kills is clearly turning over a new leaf.
“The idea was to do an old-school Amblin movie, but for a new generation,” said Roth (watch above), referring to the production company co-founded by Steven Spielberg that was behind ’80s classics like E.T., Gremlins, and The Goonies.
Amblin Entertainment produces the new film version of House, which is about a boy (played by Owen Vaccaro) who moves in with his Uncle (Jack Black) in a sleepy Michigan town only to discover supernatural oddities in his new abode. “There was this world of PG scary movies that I just feel isn’t done anymore. It feels like kids’ movies now are either superhero movies and animated movies. And while that’s great, there isn’t a movie that if you love scary movies, you can take your kids to.”
As Roth told Vaccaro, House With a Clock on Its Walls is a “gateway” horror movie.
Cate Blanchett, the Oscar winner and mother of four who previously forayed into kids’ flicks with Disney’s 2015 hit Cinderella, plays the boy’s new neighbor, who, like his uncle, practices mystic arts. “Oftentimes, films say, ‘Let’s not show the monster under the bed.’ Kids need to see the monster under the bed. And it’s thrilling for parents to sort of revisit their own scares and fears that they had when they saw films in their childhood and go through that with your kids. Because I think kids are much more robust and excitable than we allow them to be in contemporary cinema.”
Black, who last dabbled in children’s horror (chi-hor?) with 2015’s Goosebumps, says the approach isn’t any different when gearing scares for the preteen set. “We just approach it the same as you would any movie, whether its kids in the audience or grown-ups in the audience,” he said. “When they were making Raiders of the Lost Ark, were they thinking, ‘How do we keep this safe and sane for the kids?’ No, they’re like, ‘Let’s party!'”
The House With a Clock in Its Walls opens Friday. Watch the trailer:
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