The House With a Clock in its Walls (based on the novel of the same name by John Bellairs) is the latest movie from Eli Roth. Yes, THAT Eli Roth. Eli- Cabin Fever, Hostel, The Green Inferno-Roth. Eschewing blood, guts and gore for glue-spitting pumpkins, houses that tick and a possible literal doomsday clock, The House With a Clock in its Walls is a fantasy/light horror movie aimed at a younger audience, telling the story of recently orphaned Lewis Barnavelt who goes to live with his uncle and finds himself stepping into a world of magic and mystery.
Soundtrack duties here fall to composer Nathan Barr, who also composed the music for True Blood, Hemlock Grove and Hostel among others. Thirty-three tracks long and with a total running time of 70 minutes, there are a few tracks which deserve to be singled out, specifically ‘Poker Face which is a slow, Spanish-flavoured waltz, ‘Backyard Magic’ which is a light, wistful affair of bells and strings, and ‘Secret Entrance’ which has moments reminiscent of the scenes inside V’ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
A soundtrack composer must always walk a fine line. The music, in general, is there to serve as an enhancement to the scene, to pluck at the audience’s subconscious and elicit emotions to emphasise the events taking place on-screen. If it is too brash or too forceful or if it doesn’t sit well with the scene then it pulls the audience from the moment, their attention is diverted. Such are the constraints of the TV or film composer.
But at the same time, there are many soundtracks that stand proudly on their own as being not only effective within the confines of the film, but as stand alone pieces of music in their own right. Arrival, Aliens, Ghost in the Shell, Moon, The Untouchables, every one worthy of a place on any music lover’s shelf, and here the soundtrack to Clock falls short.
The disappointment here is that very few of the tracks are anything you might consider to be clock-themed, with only a handful of them using any sort of ticking or heartbeat motif that you might expect from a film with the title The House With a Clock in its Walls. Taken on its own, the soundtrack as a whole is a somewhat generic affair of fantasy-themed music that could have come from any fantasy movie from the last thirty years. There are no immediately recognisable motifs, no themes that recur throughout the soundtrack’s running time, nothing that makes it truly stand out as an album worth owning in its own right. At the same time, for those who have seen the film, it is very good at bringing the accompanying scene to mind.
In conclusion, does it accomplish what a soundtrack is primarily there to do? Yes, definitely. Is it worth buying on its own merits? Sadly no.