Quick Hit: Toeing the line between horror and kids film is a tough thing to traverse.
As the years go, I appreciate more and more the freedom I had as a young boy. My parents realized that I was “older” than my age, and I was given a lot of reading material that may have been over my head. I’ve written previously about how Goosebumps was my gateway drug to an eventual Stephen King addiction, and as I’ve grown, my love of horror has defined me in a way that few other things in my life have. But there seems to be much less of a market for this type of thing for kids now – there aren’t nearly as many book series or young adult horror films out there as I think there used to be (this may just be a nostalgic look back at what might have been versus what is). But, I see a light at the end of this lack of horror tunnel, because of the movie in today’s review.
THWACIIWs, which is based on a young adult horror novel, isn’t bad, and isn’t what I thought. It turned out to be a pretty deep film, that provides evidence of adult and child trauma without going full Disney on it. There are characters that exist platonically that aren’t just there to have a romantic connection. There are evil warlocks who come back to life to set in motion the doomsday clock inside a mansion. You know, normal stuff. And despite the occasional topiary who has mulch excrement that hits people, there isn’t much of the tastelessness you consistently see in PG movies.
The movie follows Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) as he moves in with his uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black). His uncle is odd, and has a platonic relationship with Ms. Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) who lives next door. Oh, and they’re a warlock and a magician, respectively, and soon take the outcast Lewis under their wings (in montage form, no less). It’s a fun thing, but ultimately Lewis can’t get past his need to be liked. He eventually sets in motion a plan from an evil warlock who previously inhabited the house, bringing him back from the dead. This brings some of the true horror to the screen that may be too much for our younger audience members.
While there may be an overabundance of CGI, there is still a cohesiveness to the story that builds as it goes. It has strong characters, and their relationships are the highlight of the film (Blanchett and Black shine together). There’s some moments that I laughed out loud, and there’s other moments where you notice small touches of previous trauma, like the numbers tattooed on Zimmerman’s wrist, that hint at a much larger trauma that is hidden amongst the vomiting pumpkins and flying books.
Overall, it’s not a perfect film, but I liked it nonetheless. I’m going to give it a “C+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"