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Here’s the interesting thing with horror – it is easy to do, but hard to get right.

It’s a stance taken in various guises on this website alone, but for a quick reference as evidence, I would point you to the myriad of online horror flicks that look like they are a film school graduation project. And then write down how many of them are any good…

But I digress. If horror films are hard to do right, then you can imagine the extra layer of challenging you get when you have to make them PG as well!

On the surface it may seem an oxymoron, but there are plenty of great examples of TV shows & films that straddle the enviable line of embracing (and paying respect to) 2 tastes without offending one or the other.

In this case, adult content that is equally entertaining for children and vice versa.

In terms of kid’s comedy with serious dramatic elements, the UK series Press Gang instantly springs to mind. In terms of horror for a pre-teen audience, you also have Goosebumps (and the soon to be released sequel) plus there is the 2009 film The Hole.

Although now that I type this out loud, I didn’t think Goosebumps was any good. And The Hole was quite good…but for the life of me I can’t remember a thing about it. So maybe these aren’t great examples of PG horror.

But what about The House With A Clock In It’s Walls?

Set in the 50’s, it follows 10-year-old Lewis who is recently orphaned (which is very Up – OH UP! That’s a great example of an adult AND kid friendly film!) Anyway, he is taking a bus to live with his uncle Jonathan, who he has never met before, but seeing as he’s being played by Jack Black, he’s probably a lot of fun.

And Uncle Jack’s next-door neighbour is Florence Zimmerman, who is being played by Cate Blanchett, so you just know she’ll be awesome. Which for the most part she is. Especially at the beginning, as the banter between her and Black drives the movie and is the biggest highlight of the film (from an adult point of view).

Soon young Lewis – who is played by Owen Vaccaro, who has passable chops as the film’s protagonist (but is mostly whiny and annoying) – wakes up in the middle of the night in Uncle Jack’s house (which is old style and creepy) to the sound of a mysterious clock *tick-tocking* in the walls.

Jack Black roams the halls trying to locate it, as it seems to move from night to night, and when he thinks he’s found it, he tries to get at it. With a fire axe. Which is a little terrifying for a 10-year-old to witness…but he soon puts that all behind him when he finds out Uncle Jack is an everyday Warlock, and neighbour Cate is an exceptional Witch.

And from there the supernatural spooky (and PG) hijinks ensue.

Does it do well?

The Diagnosis:

No. Not really. THWACIIW is pretty safe fair, where the scares are pretty bland, and the ideas are just fine. Not even a super magnetic acting force like Blanchett can punt it over the bar, but in terms of colour & bounce it may appeal to kids. But for that you’ll have to go to the Junior Surgeons of Horror Website for the children’s review of The House With A Clock In It’s Walls.

PS: There’s no such website.

PPS: Yet.


  • Antony Yee