Thursday, December 27, 2018

The House with a Clock in Its Walls 4K Ultra HD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Eli Roth, known for his gory horror films (sometimes called torture porn) brings you the PG-rated The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The man who directed Cabin Fever, Hostel and Hostel Part II has delivered the scariest PG movie I can recall seeing. Instead of blood and gore, you have thrills and creepiness as young Lewis Barnavelt is introduced to both the light and dark side of magic. The screenplay is written by Eric Kripke (writer for Boogeyman and TV’s Supernatural and Timeless) and is based on the novel by John Bellairs.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) has just lost both his parents. His eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) has sent for Lewis. Jonathan has never met Lewis before and is unlike anything Lewis expected. There are no rules about bedtime, or eating healthy foods for dinner. While he seems to be a very strange, but nice man strange things happen at night. The house has a strange ticking sound and Jonathan is up searching for something. Jonathan’s purple obsessed neighbor Florence (Cate Blanchett) is a frequent presence in the house. She is also a powerful witch and Jonathan is a warlock. 

When Lewis is downright terrified of the house and his uncle, Jonathan explains the situation. He says that he is nice, but not a particularly good warlock. Although her spells have been going wrong, Florence is a master of her craft. Jonathan also explains that Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan) used to own the home with his wife Selena. Izard put a clock in the walls. They don’t know where or why but it seems to be counting down to something ominous.

Jonathan agrees to teach Lewis to become a wizard. Unfortunately, Lewis tries to impress a boy at school named Tarby Corrigan (Sunny Suljic) with the magic in the house. At Darby’s insistence, Lewis breaks Jonathan’s only house rule. The one thing he is serious about it not allowing Lewis to touch a magically warded cabinet. Opening the cabinet leads Lewis down a dark path that puts the fate of the world in jeopardy.

This is a very creepy film.  It deals with death, magic (both good and bad) which includes necromancy.  It was also incredibly sad at one point.  Jack Black and Cate Blanchett are the perfect neighbors, throwing loving insults at each other throughout.  Young Owen Vaccaro is believable and fits into the time period well.  This is not a story I was familiar with and I was surprised it took such a dark turn.  That said, I still enjoyed it very much and this is a PG film that I would watch without my child.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The House with a Clock in Its Walls presents nicely on UHD, with increased depth of color and clarity compared to the Blu-ray format.  On UHD, you can truly appreciate the rich colors of the interior of the home and items like its stained glass window their brilliance.  The flesh tones are even and accurate in both formats but appear nuanced in 4K.  Fabrics show off detail and texture and the black levels are better as well.  You shouldn’t be disappointed with the Blu-ray but after comparison will notice that this dark film is enhanced on UHD.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ Dolby Atmos soundtrack aptly handles all that the film offers.  The ticking clocks are of extreme importance to the plot and they are appropriately felt from all directions.  Both sound effects and music are robustly delivered. The school speaker system and the crowded school hallways create an authentic soundscape.  Dialogue is clear and intelligible from this impressive audio presentation. 
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
The 4K UHD disc contains a few of the items listed below, but all are included on the enclosed Blu-ray.

Blu-ray and 4K UHD:

  • Audio Commentary: Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black explore all of the basic commentary highlights with, unsurprising given Black's participation, a humorous bend.
  • Alternate Opening and Ending: A four-minute opening with shorter ending scene. Includes optional commentary by Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black. 
  • Deleted Scenes (9:20 total runtime): The following deleted scenes are available with optional commentary by Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black: More Books, Please; A Horrible Practical Joke; Tarby Ditches Lewis; Eat Up; Play for Him; Get Out of the Way; Time Is of the Essence; The Clock That Never Breaks; and 12 Minutes to Go. 
  • Gag Reel (3:33): Funny outtakes from the shoot. 

Blu-ray only:

  • Warlocks and Witches: A look at casting the main actors in Finding Lewis (2:16), Jack's Magical Journey (2:57), The Great Cate (2:19), and The Terrifying Eddie Izard (2:26). 
  • Movie Magic:  Featurette’s focused on special effects and specific locations: The Ultimate Haunted House (2:26); Automatons Attack (2:18); Pumpkin Puke (2:10); Moving Pieces (1:24), and Baby Jack (1:36). 
  • Tick Tock: Bringing the Book to Life (3:27): A brief feature that looks at taking the story from page to screen.  
  • Eli Roth: Director's Journals: Director Eli Roth discusses locations, scenes, and his cameo in:  Candler Mansion (1:34); Newnan, GA (1:04); The Chair (1:02); Comrade Ivan (1:03); New Zebedee Elementary (1:06); and Wrap Day (1:39). 
  • Owen Goes Behind the Scenes Owen Vaccaro takes you through the set in:  Around the Set (1:04); Behind the Camera (0:58); The Big Interview (1:02); and Downtime on the Set (1:05). 
  • Theme Song Challenge (2:48): Director Eli Roth, and actors Jack Black, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, and Lorenza Izzo bring you a funny theme song. 
  • Do You Know Jack Black? (4:01): Questions about the film’s star are attempted by Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, and Lorenza Izzo.  
  • Abracadabra! (1:06): Eli Roth performs a magic trick for Owen Vaccaro. 
  • Jack Black's Greatest Fear (1:27): Jack Black is pranked.
  • The Mighty Wurlitzer (2:26): Composer Nathan Barr discusses talks about the Wurlitzer’s history and he and Eli Roth discuss the restoration and it’s use in the score. 

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
The House with the Clock in Its Walls is the creepiest PG movie I’ve seen. Nightmare prone children will have their issues fueled by the dark story and the evil side of magic. My ten year old had no issues with is whatsoever but I can think of two of his friends that should avoid it at all costs. Director Eli Roth brings a very sinister feel to the whole project, and for me that’s not a bad thing. I enjoyed the film which was well directed and acted. The 4K UHD version is an improvement over a high quality Blu-ray and the extras are well thought out and interesting. Recommended.

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