"Do you hear the ticking?"
We certainly do, as we (im)patiently count down the days, minutes, seconds until The House with a Clock in Its Walls – the highly anticipated fantasy spooktacular from director Eli Roth – finally hits Cineworld screens this September.
Adapted from the 1973 novel of the same name – the first in a hugely popular series written by John Bellairs and, later, Brad Strickland – the film follows 10-year old Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro): an orphaned child sent to live in a creaky old house with his uncle (Jack Black) who he later discovers is, in fact, a warlock. Along with witchy neighbour (quite literally) Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett), the trio must uncover the sinister secrets of a mysterious ticking clock located somewhere in the house's walls before it's all too late.
The film certainly marks a shift in tone for Roth, a writer/director who has built a career almost exclusively on pushing 'body horror' to its very limits with such grisly graphic outings as Cabin Fever (2002) and the first two instalments in the infamous Hostel series (2005-2011). But, fear not, folks; while it's is sure to be home to a feast of fantastic frights, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is largely aimed at a much younger audience, so you won't have to worry about any of the trademark Roth splattering with this one.
So, set your alarms and disable that snooze button as we eagerly await The House with a Clock in Its Walls and all its devilish delights. In the meantime, scroll down to discover five timeless family-friendly horror movies to sink your teeth into...
1. The Witches (1990)
Adapted from the Roald Dahl book of the same name, The Witches, for many, ranks as one of the best – and creepiest – children's horror films ever made. Utilising tropes of the classic Grimms' fairytale – diabolical villains, orphaned child heroes, pathos, and some seriously sinister undertones – and weaving them into a modern setting, The Witches brilliantly captures the dark, witty tones of Dahl's prose while putting on a show of imaginative visual splendour.
At times intense, this is a film that certainly doesn't pull as many punches as others in the genre; however, The Witches is underpinned by a rollicking adventure tale of good vs evil, complete with fist-pumping Grandma and mouse partnerships, and one wonderfully wicked turn from Anjelica Huston. Purple-eyed, square-footed child haters heed this warning – the kids are coming for you!
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Perhaps more festive than frightening, a film with 'Nightmare' in its title is sure to have a few scares tucked away in there somewhere though, right?
Cleverly hopping genre borders – from the Christmas film, to horror to musical – while characters physically cross into different worlds – from Halloween town to Christmas Town – Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas has both tricks and treats; both terrifying and terrific.
Wonderful imagery, inventive storytelling, and some catchy songs to boot, Jack Skellington is the guy everybody wants to take to the party. This is, quite simply, the quintessential family cult classic.
3. Monster House (2006)
Remember that creepy old house down the street that you wouldn't dare go anywhere near? You know, the one you heard all those nightmarish stories about? Well, Monster House – the directorial debut of Gil Kenan, who would later go on to direct the 2015 remake of Poltergeist – is a film that, quite literally, captures that very fear.
The movie neatly combines recognisable horror tropes – gothic structures, creepy old men, babysitters – with wonderful homage – shades of the original Poltergeist permeate an America suburbia setting that could easily pass for Hallloween's setting of Haddonfield. It blends it all together with a Goonies-esque sense of pre-teen adventure, imagination, and curiosity, telling the story of three plucky youngsters who go up against a house that, on Halloween night, has quite literally come to life.
Clever, funny, creative, and a heavy dose of '80s nostalgia, this is a thrill-ride for all ages.
4. Coraline (2009)
Directed by The Nightmare Before Christmas' Henry Selick, Coraline offers up devious Burton-style darkness with a wonderful fantasy adventure about a young girl who discovers a parallel world behind a secret door in her new home.
With inspired use of 3D stop-motion animation (courtesy of the masters at Laika studios), Coraline is a visual sensation that has creepiness in abundance. Case in point: the alternative world features adults with buttons for eyes, an image we're still struggling to shake off now.
5. ParaNorman (2012)
Witches, zombies, ghosts, with deft nods to Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Sixth Sense, George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and the splatter films of the 1980's – ParaNorman has it all. Hard to believe, then, that this is a film for children.
The brainchild of Laika's Chris Butler who, prior to ParaNorman, had worked on both Corpse Bride and Coraline, and has since written Laika's fabulous Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman tells the tale of a young boy who can interact with the dead. He is the only one who can stop a vengeful witch and end a 300 year old curse before his small town is completely razed to the ground by zombies.
A charming little movie with a brilliant cast and an important message at its heart, ParaNorman is also a delicious feast of frights for kids who like things a little meatier – treading where Disney dare not – and those parents who've grown up devouring the classics.
George Nash is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.