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Steven Spielberg told Eli Roth to scare the shit out of kids with The House With A Clock In Its Walls

“This is how many kids I want pissing themselves over this thing, Eli. PER THEATER.”
Photo: Albert L. Ortega (Getty Images)

We’re less than a month away from the release of The House With A Clock In Its Walls, over-the-top horror auteur Eli Roth’s first foray into the world of PG-rated scares. It’s a pretty serious departure from (or, as he’d term it, evolution of) Roth’s signature style, an attempt to translate his love of horror into something that parents won’t be taken to jail for showing to their kids (and also, presumably, an attempt to frighten his audiences without dipping back into his old “What if there were 11 murderers in a really dirty room?” school of scares).

It’s fitting, then, that The House is being produced at Amblin, the studio where Steven Spielberg, once the master of scaring the crap out of kids with movies like The Goonies and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, made so many of his “Oh shit, the Fratellis are really going to murder those children” classics. Spielberg apparently attempted to pass a little of that child-traumatizing magic on to Roth while he was working on the upcoming Jack Black feature, telling him, “Make it scary. Kids want to be scared. You gotta make it scary.” 


This is per an interview Roth recently gave with Vulture, outlining how he sees the move into kids entertainment as “the new shocking,” and discusses the way he’s grown out of his earlier tendencies toward hyperbole and spectacle. (“Look, I’m certainly aware of my reputation. But I would say this: I think everybody grows up.”) He also cited a number of other classic “non-horror” horror moments that the movie hopes to touch on:“Sebastian’s lab in Blade Runner was a huge influence on this. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The clown dream in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure — there are shades of that. Tim Burton, you can feel that influence.”

For what it’s worth, Spielberg appears to have been pleased with the end result. Roth described his reaction to the John Bellairs adaptation thusly: “Eli, you really did it. You really made a true Amblin movie. It’s not mocking or beholden to something before it, yet it feels like it’s in the tradition of those. You’re really carrying the torch.” 


The House With A Clock In Its Walls arrives in theaters on September 21.

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