House with a Clock in its Walls, The

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Not recommended under 8 years, parental guidance under 13 years due to supernatural and low-impact horror themes, frightening and disturbing scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for House with a Clock in its Walls, The
  • a review of House with a Clock in its Walls, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 October 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to scary scenes, supernatural and low-impact horror themes
Children aged 8–13 Ok for this age group, but parental guidance recommended
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: House with a Clock in its Walls, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild supernatural themes and violence, some scary scenes
Length: 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

When 10 year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) loses his parents in an accident, he is sent to live with his estranged and eccentric Uncle Jonathan (Jack Black). Lewis soon discovers that his Uncle is a good (though not very skilful) warlock, who with the help of his witch neighbour Mrs Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), has been searching for a doomsday clock hidden somewhere in the house, by the evil warlock Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan). When Lewis borrows his Uncle’s forbidden book of dark spells to impress his new school friend Tarby (Sunny Suljic), he accidentally brings Isaac back from the grave. Lewis, Jonathan, and Mrs Zimmerman must now race to find and destroy the clock before Isaac and his wife Selene (Renee Elise Goldsberry) bring about the Apocalypse.   


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a parent; bullying; magic and supernatural themes.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Lewis uses magic to knock out two bullies with a basketball – this is rewarded by the other children who cheer for him
  • An explosion throws characters to the ground – one dies (blood is seen in his mouth)
  • Mrs Zimmerman makes frequent jokes about wanting to stab herself in the ears when listening to Jonathan
  • Tarby threatens to break Lewis’ arms if he doesn’t do what he tells him – Tarby then punches Lewis in the stomach

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Many scenes are scary and creepy – children under five will find most of the film disturbing
  • Selene transforms into different people – this may disturb children over five as well
  • Isaac is reanimated as a living corpse – he is frightening in appearance and voice
  • Creepy dolls and dummies come to life on a number of occasions – they attack the characters
  • Jack ‘o’ lanterns come to life and attack the characters
  • Books come to life and attack Lewis like birds
  • There are numerous jump scares and loud noises

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Lewis’ parents are said to have died in a car crash
  • Mrs Zimmerman’s family is said to have died in an accident
  • Lewis is trapped in a cage hanging above swords – he is saved at the last second but is not hurt
  • An evil magic teacher (who is revealed to be a demon) is shown – he is very frightening in appearance and behaviour

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Lewis and Isaac both cut their hands to use in dark magic rituals – necromancy is involved
  • Isaac is shown coming out of a war scene covered in blood
  • Isaac and Selene say they murdered their neighbour and used her bones to make a key for the doomsday clock

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing of concern

Product placement

  • Converse shoes
  • Ovaltine

Sexual references

  • Isaac and Selene (in disguise) kiss each other intimately

Nudity and sexual activity

  • Nothing of concern

Use of substances

  • Nothing of concern

Coarse language

  • Idiot
  • Damn
  • Hag
  • Freak

In a nutshell

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is Eli Roth’s live action remake of the children’s novel by John Bellairs.  It is entertaining and well-made, but is likely to frighten children under 8, and is inappropriate for children under 5, given the supernatural themes, physical transformations, and depictions of death.  This film will be enjoyable for slightly older children and adults who enjoy spooky films and Jack Black-style comedy, but parents should be conscious of the low-impact nature of the film’s supernatural and horror themes when taking children under 10.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • Being different is a strength
  • Accept others for who they are and don’t try to change to please others

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Gambling – specifically poker
  • The importance and reasons behind having rules in the house – including why children can’t eat cookies for every meal