The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

Film and Plot Synopsis

The House with a Clock in Its Walls takes place in 1955. Lewis Barnavelt is a newly orphaned boy who arrives in Michigan to live with his uncle Jonathan. He soon finds that Jonathan is a warlock, and his best friend, Florence Zimmerman. is a witch. Jonathan agrees to teach Lewis magic, but he has one rule—he is not to open the locked chest in the house.

At Lewis’ new school, the students all think he’s weird. Only one kid, Tarby Corrigan, will talk to him, but that is because he wants his vote for class president. When Lewis invites Tarby over, he unlocks the cabinet. It reveals a book about necromancy inside. This leads the boys to the cemetery where they resurrect the dead body of Isaac Izard—an evil warlock with plans to destroy mankind.

‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)The House with a Clock in Its Walls takes place in 1955. Ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) arrives in New Zebedee, Michigan to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) after Lewis’ parents’ death from a car crash. As he arrives, Lewis meets Jonathan’s neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett). The two BFFs exchange some witty banter and playful insults before Jonathan shows Lewis around his new home.

Lewis has little to unpack. The only thing he now has to remember his parents is a Magic 8-Ball they gave him before the crash. On his first night at the strange home, Lewis tries to sleep. However, he hears a faint ticking noise that keeps him awake. When he looks around, he spots Jonathan checkin out the noise too.

The next day is Lewis’ first day of school. There he meets Tarby Corrigan (Sunny Suljic)—a kid looking for everyone’s vote for class president. While he’s nice to Lewis for the vote, the other kids think Lewis is weird. They don’t understand the goggles he wears is to look like his favorite TV hero, Captain Midnight.

Soon night falls again, and Lewis dreams his mother (Lorenza Izzo) is there with him. She tells him that Jonathan’s hiding something from him, and that the ticking sound he hears is real. She then tells him to find a book and a key.

This immediately wakes up Lewis, and he begins to sneak around the house in the dark. Along the way, he finds several creepy-looking dolls before watching Jonathan smash a wall with an ax. When he runs off in fright, he sees the windows, piano, and a pet chair named Chairy spring to life.

Now, Jonathan feels he must explain himself, and also tell Lewis the truth about the magic within the house. He reveals he’s a practicing warlock, and that Florence is a witch. The house’s previous owners, Isaac Izard (Kyle MacLachlan), and wife, Selena (Renee Elise Goldsberry), are sinister magicians too. Before the evil Isaac died a year ago, he left a clock in the house. Jonathan’s been trying to find it ever since to discover what it does.

Of course Lewis now wants to become a warlock too, and eventually gets Jonathan to agree to teach him. In order to be a legitimate one though, Lewis must learn to fight an evil spirit using his own magic. However, Jonathan gives him one immediate rule—never open the cabinet he locked.

We then see Jonathan flip through an old book with clippings of Isaac from when he was a famous illusionist and also of him during World War II. When Florence asks him if he’s told Lewis everything about Isaac, Jonathan says no. He plans on continuing to lie to him.

Soon Lewis is ready to try his first spell ever, and Jonathan and Florence help prep him. He reads the spell from the books, but it doesn’t work. That’s because Lewis needs to learn to use his own brand of magic for it to work.

After a night of bonding over magic, Lewis decides to ask Jonathan why he left home. It turns out it was because his father didn’t agree with it, so he split. He also felt that Lewis’ mother wouldn’t have wanted him at her funeral.

Lewis continues practicing magic even while at school. This draws the attention of a curious girl named Rose Rita Pottinger (Vanessa Anne Williams). It looks like Lewis is making another friend (or first friend depending on your perspective).

Meanwhile, Jonathan discovers an old picture of Isaac and Selena with a gnome statue in it. Once upon a time, the gnome was missing an arm, but now it has two. Jonathan pulls on the new one, which opens up a secret entrance that leads him into a previously hidden room. Inside, he finds blueprints for the clock.

Back at school, Tarby wins the election for class president, and he immediately stops acting like Lewis’ friend. However, Lewis still want to be friends with him, and invites him to his place to show him magic tricks. While there, Tarby opens Jonathan’s locked cabinet!

Once open, Lewis spots the book that his mother mentioned to him in his dream. When Tarby takes it out, and the first page is a spell for necromancy. Nervous, Lewis quickly puts the book back. With the fun over, Tarby declares Lewis to be a weirdo, and goes home.

When Jonathan and Florence examine the blueprints, they find themselves stumped on their meaning. Florence does point out an omega symbol with a skull; something Isaac mentioned before his death. In early Christianity, it was a symbol for Judgment Day.

Later that night, as Lewis sleeps, his mother once again visits him in his dreams. When he tells her that Tarby doesn’t like him as a friend, Mrs. Barnavelt recommends he use a spell from the forbidden book that will make Tarby want to be his friend. Good idea, mom!

The next day, Lewis invites Tarby to watch him use a spell that can raise the dead. After nightfall, Lewis and Tarby find a tomb that will work before Lewis reads the spell aloud. As the tomb creaks opens, Tarby runs away in fright. What Lewis doesn’t know is that he just brought the evil Isaac Izard back from the dead.

Soon Jonathan and Florence realize that Isaac has returned, and their magic isn’t going to be strong enough to face him. Instead, they nail horseshoes to the house to keep him out. Lewis feels bad for what he did, and he tries to tell them the truth. However, when Jonathan and Florence vow to make the one who resurrected Isaac pay, Lewis keeps his mouth shut. Jonathan then sends Lewis off to stay with Florence for a few days.

Once in Florence’s home, Lewis notices a poster with Isaac and Jonathan as a magical duo. Florence reveals through flashbacks that show Isaac and Jonathan perform together as magicians until Isaac goes missing during World War II.

While Isaac later returned home, something about him changed after he found himself in The Black Forest where dark magic looms. Florence believes Isaac made some evil deal with an evil warlock there in exchange for the new powers he seemed to possess. Soon after, he met and married the wicked Selena.

She then reveals that Isaac performed a dark magic ritual to make a key for the clock shaped from Selena’s finger bone. However, Florence can’t help stop Isaac because of her pain from losing her husband and daughter. Ever since their deaths, she hasn’t been able to work the same magic.

Eventually, Lewis tries to warn Tarby about Isaac, but Tarby punches him in the stomach before ordering him to keep quiet or he’ll break his arms. When Lewis goes back home to find the blueprints in order help Jonathan out, flying books attack him. Jonathan and Florence arrive just in time to help him escape.

Lewis says he can read the blueprints, but needs Ovaltine first. They go to a local candy store where Lewis uses the chocolate powder to decipher the markings on them. It reveals the clock is a doomsday device which reverses time all the way to the beginning.

When the three return home, they find someone removed the horseshoes. Isaac is home, and he ransacked the place. Jonathan and Florence try to destroy the key, but it doesn’t dissolve in the acid they dip it in. Lewis then confesses that he’s the one who resurrected Isaac. He only did it to impress Tarby, and also resurrect his parents if the spell worked. While Jonathan feels Lewis betrayed him, Florence scolds him for being a coward for trying to avoid responsibility for the boy.

Lewis then notices Isaac visiting Jonathan’s other neighbor, Mrs. Hanchett (Colleen Camp) across the street. Lewis tries to bring her to the house to save her, but Isaac appears. We find that Mrs. Hanchett is really Selena in disguise. She killed the real Mrs. Hanchett, and took her place when Isaac made that key. They used her bones instead of Selena’s. Selena also reveals that she took the form of Lewis’ mother to trick him into bringing Isaac back.

Once Isaac captures Lewis, he also manages to nab Jonathan and Florence. He reveals that because of the horrors of war, he wanted to completely forget what he saw. When he was in The Black Forest, he came upon a demon named Azazel. He granted Isaac the power to make his wish come true. The mysterious clock will turn time back so that humanity never existed. He then uses the house’s creepy dolls and killer pumpkins to send the three out of the home.

Jonathan finally gets the chance to apologize to Lewis for how he talked to him, and the three regroup. Lewis uses his Magic 8-Ball to learn that the location of the clock which is under the boiler room. Using all their magic, the three go back to the house, and destroy the pumpkins and dolls guarding it.

Inside, Jonathan’s snake, Snakespeare, has mutated into a large beast, and it captures Florence. This leaves Lewis and Jonathan to face Isaac and Selena on their own. Their time is limited as Isaac waits for the approaching lunar eclipse to activate the clock’s power. While his and Selena’s position in the clock protects them from its magical chaos, Lewis and Jonathan are having a terrible time of it. As they try to stop it, its magic turns Jonathan into a baby with an adult head.

Once the eclipse hits, people around town begin to de-age into children. Lewis consults his Magic 8-Ball one more time. When it says, “Say goodbye,” he finally understands that just as Florence must let go of the pain of losing her husband and daughter to regain her magical powers, he too must let go of the pain from losing his parents to fully utilize his abilities.

He drops the ball into the clock’s gears which begins to slow it down. This makes Isaac and Selena leave their protected position within the clock to stop him. Using magic of his own, Lewis zaps Isaac and Selena, and they fall. As they do so, they de-age until the clock erases them from existence which causes everything to go back to normal. Florence, letting go from her pain, then magically fixes Snakespeare, and Lewis asks her to become part of his new family.

When Lewis goes back to school the next day, he has more confidence. However, Tarby and his friends still dislike him. As they refuse to pick him for their basketball team, Lewis uses some magic to make the ball bounce off his and another boy’s face before heading into the net. Even though everyone now wants Lewis on their team, he decides to hang out with Rose Rita instead.

After school, Jonathan picks him up to go home to Florence as the three try to live as a regular family…or as regular as witches and warlocks can be.

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Universal Pictures released The House with a Clock in Its Walls on September 21, 2018. Eli Roth directed the film starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, and Owen Vaccaro.

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