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The House With A Clock In Its Walls Sets Its Sights On ’80s Spielberg

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2018 has been a big departure year for divisive genre auteur Eli Roth. After building his reputation with a string of oddball, gore-drenched horror movies (Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Green Inferno), he ventured into more traditional Hollywood territory earlier this year with a remake of Death Wish. He returns to theatres later this week with The House with a Clock in Its Walls, an uncharacteristically family-friendly fright fest starring Jack Black and Cate Blanchett that turns to the ’80s for some PG inspiration.

“We certainly played it as sort of an homage to the Amblin movies that we grew up on,” explains screenwriter Eric Kripke (who adapted the novel by John Bellairs), adding that the fabled company got involved in the production several months later. “That was fate working for us. But yeah, you know, we grew up… watching Back to the Future, Gremlins, The Goonies, Beetlejuice—movies that were fun and funny, but had a lot of heart, but also the stakes were real. Kids movies today are so often too soft, and they don’t give kids enough credit that they can handle a little bit of real thrills and real stakes and real darkness, where real people die. We just said no one’s making those kinds of movies anymore, and we wanted to make one.”

When it came to capturing that elusive Amblin tone, Kripke says that they had the ultimate consultant: company founder Steven Spielberg: “It was direct conversations between Spielberg and Eli, and Spielberg said, ‘No, no, no, you want it to be scary. You want it to be just scary enough that parents are uncomfortable with their kids watching.’ You want the kids to feel a little bit of danger. That is invaluable, that they’re daring each other a little bit to watch it. It feels a little dangerous; it’s not going to mess them up, but there are definitely some real jumps, and those were the types of movies that he created. It’s a real honour to sort of be carrying the flag forward on the tradition.”

The House with a Clock in Its Walls arrives in theatres on Friday. Check out the trailer below.