There’s something kind of wonderful about traditionally adult-oriented directors taking on films aimed at younger viewers – it has a way of distilling their essence to its purest form, with the lovely byproduct of making “family films” that don’t make parents wretch. (Lookin’ at you, Trolls.) Wes Anderson did it with Fantastic Mr. Fox, Martin Scorsese did it with Hugo, Spike Jonze did it with Where the Wild Things Are, and Todd Haynes did it with the forthcoming Wonderstruck. And now, it seems, Mr. Eli Roth will join their ranks.
This raises some questions about what, exactly, Roth’s new work will distill, since he’s best known for graphic horror films like Cabin Fever, the Hostel duo, and The Green Inferno. But he’s been looking to expand that template for a while; his 2015 psycho-sexual thriller Knock Knock was quite energetic and engaging, and advance word is good on his forthcoming Death Wish remake with Bruce Willis. So, hey, family flick, why not?
And the project brings plenty of its own goodwill: Roth will reportedly direct a film adaptation of The House With a Clock In Its Walls, the beloved 1973 YA horror novel written by John Bellairs, with illustrations by Edward Gorey. That book has been a fave for decades, launching a series of twelve books (to date) featuring child protagonist Lewis Barnavelt. Jack Black has signed to star in the film, presumably as Lewis’s uncle; it will be his third recent appearance in an adaptation of a hallowed children’s literary property, following 2015’s Goosebumps and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, due out this December.