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The House With A Clock In Its Walls (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Horror is doing what its doing and doing it well from all sorts of angles and subgenres. Be it awards-level prestigious like Hereditary, original blockbusters like A Quiet Place, familiar territory like It or a beloved franchise getting a new entry like Halloween, its covered. One overlooked, but important sublet of the genre is the family or kid horror film. We saw an all-timer in RL Stine’s Goosebumps a few years back (That even having a sequel this year). This year saw The House With A Clock In Its Walls, based on a popular book and directed by one of the modern experts in directing horror, Eli Roth. Keeping familiarity with the kids, Jack Black is here in the film for good measure. Its such that I feel like many people could have been confused and thought this Goosebumps-related. Universal has brought its hit film to the 4K Ultra-HD format (Unlike you, Goosebumps 2!) and you can pick it up at any time, as it was released on the last new release Tuesday of the year, December 18th.

Film 

Ten-year-old Lewis goes to live with his oddball uncle in a creaky old house that contains a mysterious `tick tock’ noise. He soon learns that Uncle Jonathan and his feisty neighbour, Mrs Zimmerman, are powerful practitioners of the magic arts. One Night when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead, the town’s sleepy facade suddenly springs to life, revealing a secret and dangerous world of witches, warlocks and deadly curses.

Funny enough, The House With A Clock In Its Walls is a terrific bit of fun to no surprise. This is one of those cases where the film looks like its going to be pretty good via its trailers (And for some, the strength of the source material) and winds up living up to those expectations with ease. This latest venture into family horror brings about some touch moments, laugh, genuine chills and a wonderful bit of absurdity and weirdness in its little universe.

Eli Roth channels some of the Amblin hallmarks, but ultimately he’s the difference maker in what sets this apart from being an also-ran and forgettable to one yourself (and your kids) will return to for repeat viewings. He’s got a fine handle on balance and really delivers both the monsters and the scares in the film in such effective haunting and memorable ways. I’m not being a dick when I say this, but I feel like this is probably his best film. Granted, he usually takes more chances, and its his safest film, but as a bigger production and stuff, he also shows restraint and service of story rather than shock.

While the kids are solid in the film, its the adults who really get to have the fun. Jack Black here plays a wily warlock in the film and holds onto a nice mentor role. He’s loony but not to the point where he isn’t compassionate or reasonable. Cate Blanchet is having a blast here and is probably my favorite. Her and Black share a fun bit of back and forths throughout the film, Kyle MacLachlan, in a smaller role, is a welcome presence, and when he’s a allowed to let loose, they really just let him go and its pretty fun.

Goosebumps in this era, probably isn’t getting topped, but The House With A Clock In Its Walls found itself to be a pretty worthy challenger. If anything, the two work as a nice 1-2. They both have a good sense of imagination on display and share a cast member, but they both have unique styles and agendas. This is definitely one not to miss and not to keep mentioning Goosebumps (But thats the bar we have and best comparison), but if your little ones like that movie, grab The House With A Clock In Its Walls right away.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: The House With A Clock In Its Walls was shot a 2.8K meaning this was likely mastered at 2K and this would then be a 4K upscale. No matter, the 4K image is still pretty good and impressive in many areas. Details are pretty strong, with sharp, crisper modern digital image. Some of the computer effects look just a tad obvious in some moments but nothing too distracting takes place to make you think that overall.

Depth:  I think this movie was made in 3D when it came out, but it looks pretty groovy here with the camera movements really providing an impressive depth of field. Movements are confident, fluid and very smooth with no rapid motion distortion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are plenty deep and handled quite well here. Most of the film is dark and its nice to be able to see nuances in the dark. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: The film features a dark overall look, making clothing with brighter fabrics and then magical special effects glow with good ease.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features and textures are terrific in close ups and very good in medium shots with some moments looking a little too smooth.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 7.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: The House With A Clock In Its Walls provides a super fun Atmos track. It utilizes and takes advantage of everything. Whoever engineered this deserves a pat on the back. There is some fun speaker interplay while also keeping a healthy balance of the vocals, musical score and sound effects. Said sound effects are plenty crisp, well layered and sound of “in the room with you” quality. This track packs a whallop in both its quiet and louder moments.

Height: Tick tock, some clock noise comes from above, as do spells and other fun noises in the house and typical action bursts.

Low Frequency Extension: Magical powers, stomping, explosions, debris falling, car engines and more shake up and bump the subwoofer very well.

Surround Sound Presentation: As mentioned above, this track utilizes all channels. Sound travels incredibly natural and really rolls on through the speakers. Placement to match on screen is very accurate. The ambiance in here is very intricate and fun too.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud, clear and crisp. Voice overs and haunting vocals come through with good clarity.

Extras 

The House With A Clock In Its Walls comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. Most bonus materials are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

4K UltraHD

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black

Alternate Opening And Ending with Optional Commentary by Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black (4K, 5:35) 

Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Eli Roth and Actor Jack Black (4K, 9:20)

Gag Reel (4K, 3:33)

Blu-ray

Warlocks And Witches (HD, 9:58) – A 4-part featurette that focuses on the casting of the film and those who were chosen to play the roles.

Movie Magic (HD, 9:53) – This 5-part featurette shines a light on the visual effects and locations used in the movie.

Tick Tock: Bringing The Book To Life (HD, 3:27) – Tells the story of bringing the book to life for the film.

Eli Roth: Director’s Journals (HD, 7:23) – 6 parts of Eli Roth’s journey in making the film on set.

Owen Goes Behind The Scenes (HD, 4:11) – 4 parts of star Owen Vaccaro doing his own behind the scenes videos.

Theme Song Challenge (HD, 2:48) – Eli Roth, Jack Black, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro and Lorena Izzo attempt to come up with a theme song for the movie.

Do You Know Jack Black? (HD, 4:01) – A You Don’t Know Jack kinda trivia that has Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, and Lorenza Izzo trying to answer questions about Jack Black.

Abracadabra! (HD, 1:06) – Eli Roth does a card trick for Owen Vaccaro.

Jack Black’s Greatest Fear (HD, 1:27) – Eli Roth and Owen Vaccaro play a prank on Jack Black.

The Mighty Wurlitzer (HD, 2:26) – Focuses on a unique instrument used in the score that Eli Roth and the composter had to restore to use for that purpose.

Summary 

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is a whole lot of fun for anyone of any age. Like Goosebumps before it, this will hopefully serve as a nice little gateway to the horror genre in movies for the youngsters for years to come. Universal brings it to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a terrific presentation and a host of decent to solid extras. You’re getting a full on worthwhile package here, so if you’re wanting to grab it for the kids, make sure to do so.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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