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Film / The House With a Clock in Its Walls

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"Three gongs. Last time it was four. What happens when it gets down to one?"
Jonathan Barnavelt: This house used to be owned by another warlock.
Mrs. Zimmerman: He’s very wicked, very powerful.
Jonathan Barnavelt: He left a hidden clock in the walls. We don’t know what it does, except something horrible.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is an 2018 American Gothic Horror Fantasy film directed by Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke, starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro and Kyle MacLachlan. It is an adaptation of the book of the same name.

Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro), a young orphan, has to help his warlock uncle Jonathan (Black) and their witch neighbor Mrs. Zimmerman (Blanchett) to find a clock that could cause the end of the world.

It was released on September 21, 2018 by Universal.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • In the book, Lewis was a rather pudgy boy, which is an important plot point for why he gets picked on and tries to be friends with an athlete like Tarby (and why he tries to use the coin amulet in the sequel). Here he's small and thin, with the same plot being accomplished by giving him a typically nerdy appearance and interests.
    • Also, Mrs. Zimmerman in the book is in her 60s and is a fairly prototypical nice old lady next door type (who also happens to be a powerful witch), whereas in the film she's played by the very beautiful and already Older Than She Looks 49-year-old, Cate Blanchett. No effort is made to make Blanchett look older or homelier; she simply looks like Cate Blanchett with grey hair, also making this a clear case of Age Lift.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Aside from what is mentioned below about Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman's families, this version of Isaac Izard was once a good man and a friend to Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman. He was even part of a magic act with Jonathan for years, before falling into despair and misanthropy thanks to his experiences in World War II and becoming the crazed, world-destroying warlock we know from the book. Additionally, it is shown that Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman actually tried to talk Isaac out of his plans, and tried to break into the house to end his spell/save his life, rather than simply being left in the dark as to his activities before his sudden demise. And finally, not only was a reason for Isaac's misanthropy never given in detail in the book, but here it was the demon Azazel who gave him the plans for the clock, rather than it being something he invented and designed himself.
  • Adaptation Deviation:
    • The books eventually reveal that it was Lewis's father Charles who was brother to Jonathan; here Lewis's mother was Jonathan's sister. This leads to a minor instance of headscratching, since Lewis and Jonathan have the same last name - which makes sense in the books, but should not be the case here.
    • In the book it was Selenna who was brought Back from the Dead by Lewis to impress Tarby (with a judicious bit of manipulation by planting her name in his mind to write in the magic circle). Here, it's Isaac himself (who in the book only appeared as the clock was striking and summoning him back, and dissipated when it was destroyed). As a result, while Selenna does still do various manipulative things in the background (most notably appearing as Lewis's mother in his dreams to get him to find the book and key), she is reduced to Isaac's Dragon here (or at best, a CoDragon), rather than the main Big Bad as she was in the book.
    • In the book, Lewis simply raised the dead using a book he found in Jonathan's library, rather than with a special evil book of Isaac's that Jonathan had locked away. Also, his mistake in raising Selenna (or in this case Isaac) was much more understandable since the tomb was marked not with a name but the Omega Symbol, rather than the diamond and twin 'I's from the movie. (Not that Jonathan explained the significance of that to Lewis, either...)
    • In the book, the clock key was hidden inside of a brass light fixture and stolen when Selenna (or, more likely, Hammerhandle) broke in and ransacked the house. In the movie, the break-in still happens, but nothing is found because Jonathan already took the key from Isaac's book and carried it with him; it has to be taken from him later, after all of them are captured and Lewis's life is placed in danger.
    • In the book, Lewis found the plans and notes Isaac made about the clock and the doomsday cloud patterns hidden inside an old organ. Here, Jonathan is the one to find them in the secret room, but can't read them because they are written in code—the same sort used in the Captain Midnight serials, of which both Lewis and Isaac are/were fans.
    • The plan to find the clock still depends on Lewis doing magic in his own crazy, weird style, but it's a lot less convoluted (and more focused on this version's love of words) than the book's version. It does, however, still center on the Magic 8-Ball.
    • A minor one, but in the book Jonathan playing a saxophone in his yard at three in the morning is just a hypothetical example that Lewis comes up with, as something Jonathan would do if he felt like it.
    • Finally, the showdown with the Izards still comes down to only Lewis in the end, except rather than being paralyzed by the hand of glory, Mrs. Zimmerman is left fighting the serpent monster from the closet created by her Magic Misfire while Jonathan is reduced into a babynote  by the clock. And while in the book the clock was a simple clock Lewis could smash, here that was only a Red Herring as the real clock was below; Lewis has to stop it by literally blocking and breaking the gears (again with the 8-ball).
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Uncle Jonathan is a redhead in the books. Here, he's played by Jack Black, whose hair color matches his name.
  • Adaptation Expansion: This film expands on Tarby being more deceptive and despicable then his book self.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Selenna's name was changed to the more common spelling of Selena.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • In the books, Florence Zimmerman was widowed long ago, and never had any children, but she's relatively happy. In the film, she's still mourning the loss of her husband and daughter in the war, and has lost access to her powers as a result.
    • Additionally, the backstory provided with Jonathan having run away from home (or been thrown out) after he and his father disagreed about his interest in magic.
  • Adaptational Villainy: While in both the film and book versions he is a Bratty Half-Pint, Tarby here is more despicable then the book version of the character.
  • Adapted Out: Hammerhandle is nowhere to be seen (nor is the hand of glory Selenna made from him, although a visual Shout-Out to this is one of the items in Jonathan's library).
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Florence Zimmerman is from Paris, but has the last name "Zimmerman", a husband and daughter who died in World War II, and a number tattoo.
  • Arc Symbol: The Omega Symbol, which is heavily associated with Isaac and the Doomsday Clock. He is later revealed to have gotten it from Azazel, the demon who gave him the plans for the clock.
  • Arc Words: Well, word. "Indomitable."
  • Back from the Dead: Isaac Izard, who is unwittingly revived by Lewis's necromantic spell.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension/Slap-Slap-Kiss: Lampshaded and Subverted. Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are close friends and trade barbs almost constantly, but they are not romantically interested in each other.
  • Berserk Button: Saying anything that reveals or even implies that Tarby is scared really insults him to a point it was one of the factors of Tarby wearing his patience with Lewis thin until he threatens then assaults him to get him off his back.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Isaac and Selena Izard, who plan to use the clock to reset the world, leaving only them remaining to shape history to their liking.
  • Big Fancy House: The titular mansion.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Tarby, who was only nice to Lewis to get votes for class president. He shows his true colors after winning once he loses his patience with Lewis, while the other bully Woody Mingo turns out to be his dragon.
  • Broken Bird: Mrs. Zimmerman can no longer use the full power of her magic after the trauma of losing her husband and daughter in the war. She only regains her magical powers once she determines not to let grief and anger consume her (like Isaac Izard did) and move past her emotional torment with the help of her substitute family, Jonathan and Lewis.
  • Broken Pedestal: Tarby becomes this to Lewis after the former reveals his true despicable colors. Lewis tragically becomes this to Jonathan after confessing to using Necromancy and accidentally bringing back Isaac; however, after Mrs. Zimmerman talks to Jonathan, it's all water under the bridge.
  • Brought Down to Normal: While she retains all of her magical knowledge and experience, Mrs. Zimmerman has lost access to her powers due to trauma suffered during World War II. She gets better.
  • The Bully: Tarby, and another bully Woody Mingo who's initially played as the sole example of this until he's revealed to be Tarby's second-in-command, with nothing but contempt for Lewis.
  • Character Tics: It is mentioned that what makes magic work is their "weirdness"; something that makes the magic user unique to help channel inner energies and use them as magic.
    • Jonathan demonstrates this fact by conjuring a small galaxy after scatting on his saxophone (something he is apparently prone to do at odd hours of the night).
    • Lewis has a fascination with discovering unique words and has an attachment to his Magic 8-Ball, both of which used in creating a Parody Magic Spell that manages to find Isaac's clock.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Jonathan teaching Lewis to channel electricity which he uses to blast Isaac and Selena down into the clock works after they try to dislodge the 8-ball.
    • Lewis's Magic 8-Ball. It was originally the last gift he received from his parents before they died, and thus he uses it as something akin to a Security Blanket, becoming upset when Jonathan accidentally implies its lack of worth. He later uses it as a catalyst in a Parody Magic Spell (which works, considering magic is established as unique between users) and later used to jam the cogs in the clock, saving the world.
  • Chekhov's Hobby:
    • The reason Jonathan collects so many clocks is to help drown out the foreboding ticking of the clock Isaac hid.
    • Lewis's attachment to words and his dictionary is significant to his discovering the location of the clock.
  • Collector of the Strange: The House is riddled with oddities and unusual content (justified, considering that the house's owners - Isaac and then Jonathan - are both warlocks who have worked as Stage Magicians). Such weirdness includes sentient furniture, a library of spellbooks, a cabinet with horseshoes nailed to it housing a particularly dark Tome of Eldritch Lore, a living topiary winged-lion that poops dried leaves, a variety of humanoid animatronicsnote , a purple snake creature locked in a closet, a stained-glass window that changes its picture, a massive collection of clocksnote  and a Tick Tock Tune Doomsday Device capable of reversing time itself if the right parameters are met.
  • Cool Uncle: Jonathan is established as Fun Personified despite his bumbling (inviting Lewis to his poker game, treating him to cookies as dinner, teaching him magic, etc.) with only one rule that he wants Lewis to follow: do not open the locked cabinet.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The chair chases the griffin topiary with a chainsaw (after which the standard disclaimer appears as "No furniture or griffin topiaries were harmed in the making of this film"); then little animations of various characters and items appear, all drawn in a style reminiscent of Edward Gorey (who illustrated the book).
  • Creator Cameo: Director Eli Roth appears as Comrade Ivan, the in-universe Big Bad of Captain Midnight's TV show, cracking a safe using a stethoscope. This inspires Jonathan to use one to try and find the Doomsday Clock.
  • Deal with the Devil: Or Azazel, to be precise. Isaac cut a deal with Azazel for the knowledge to reverse time and end humanity, seeing it as preferable to letting the evils of humanity continue.
  • Death by Adaptation: Mrs. Hanchett, Jonathan's neighbor across the street, is killed by Selena Izard. In the book, she and her husband were merely scared out of the house so the revived Selenna Izard could move in and watch the Barnavelt house in preparation for finding and using the clock.
  • Destruction Equals Off-Switch: Lewis tries this with the Doomsday Clock, but it is merely the catalyst for a much larger mechanism and is mostly hollow. Jamming up the gears of the real one, on the other hand, does the trick.
  • Dirty Coward: Tarby is revealed to be one, as he bolts when Isaac emerges from his grave, while in general he only cares to preserve his image by not letting anyone know of his cowardice.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Jonathan only has one rule: do not open the cabinet. It is hard to miss really, what with it being covered in iron horseshoes (which is established to keep evil away) and a large padlock keeping it shut. Naturally, Tarby wants to open it as soon as he sees it.
  • The Dragon: Selena Izard is this to Isaac, while Woody Mingo is eventually revealed to be one to Tarby Corrigan.
  • Dreadful Musician: Jonathan and his saxophone.
  • Dying as Yourself: Isaac is briefly returned to his pre-undead state before vanishing completely due to the chronal energy of the clock.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Rose Rita appears in person in the film, as opposed to the book, where she was merely mentioned as his new friend in the last chapter and first appearing properly in the second book. Also Woody Mingo, who would not appear until the second book as Lewis's bully nemesis.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: A monster appears behind Lewis in this manner.
  • Enfant Terrible: Tarby is revealed to be one, when he threatens Lewis to break his arms if word gets out he's a Dirty Coward, and then socks him when Lewis tries to fight back.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Isaac’s voice is heavily distorted after his return from death.
  • Exact Words: After the Tempting Fate moment below, we get this exchange:
    Lewis: That's safe?
    Jonathan: As long as it's fed.
  • False Friend: Tarby is one for Lewis, who becomes the former's Unwitting Pawn to get him to become class president before dropping him like a rock after winning.
  • The '50s: While the original story was set from August 1948 to April 1949, the film gives a timestamp of 1955. (This makes it more plausible for Isaac Izard to be the same age as Kyle McLachlan, 59 at the time of the movie's release, while also having been a veteran of World War II.)
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Tarby absolutely refuses to believe in magic, and even after witnessing Isaac Izard returning to life, he is in vehement denial of the whole thing.
  • Foil: Isaac Izard could be seen as being a foil to Mrs. Zimmerman. They are both powerful magic users who underwent extremely traumatic experiences during World War II. Said experiences completely broke Izard and sent him fully over to the dark side, turning him into an evil madman who believed that Humans Are Bastards and therefore humanity should be wiped from the face of the earth. By contrast, Mrs. Zimmerman is a kind and gentle woman who eventually had the strength of character to move past her overwhelming grief and emotional pain (which temporarily rendered her magic mostly unusable) and then use her re-found magic for good, helping to save the very same world that Izard was trying to destroy.
  • Foreshadowing: Tarby being a False Friend is subtly hinted at by how the school bully is prominently wearing one of the pins Tarby passes out for his class president campaign.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Just after Mrs. Zimmerman gives a somewhat vague statement about how some past trauma left her unable to use magic anymore, her arm moves in a way that reveals a small numeric tattoo, indicating that she and her family were held in a concentration camp during the war. This suggests that her husband and daughter were likely victims of The Holocaust.
  • Gambit Roulette: The Izards' scheme required:
    • That Lewis's parents die and Jonathan take him in.
    • That Lewis learn enough about magic to be able to work the spell calling back Isaac Izard, but not enough to realize how incredibly bad of an idea it was.
    • That Tarby would decide to look in the forbidden closet, discover the book, and open it to find out what was inside it, all without Jonathan catching him and Lewis.
    • That Lewis would take Selena's suggestion and try necromancy to impress Tarby (instead of trying some other magic trick or just letting him go), and that Jonathan would once again not catch him.
    • And all this had to happen within a very tight time limit, since the clock can only be activated during the total lunar eclipse.
  • Genius Loci: The house seems to be alive. Not only can it sense and react to the things its inhabitants say, do, and feel, but after Isaac is brought back from the dead, Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman discuss how they can feel that the house "knows he's back" and is waiting for him like a dog for its master. This is reflected in how the pumpkins and topiary are turned to evil, how Lewis can no longer do things like make his bed with a wave of his hand, and how the stained-glass window, which normally changes in playful and amusing ways, suddenly depicts Jonathan, Mrs. Zimmerman, and Lewis as skeletons in their graves.
  • Genre Blind: Lewis's experience with entertainment seems to be exclusive to the Captain Midnight serials, or at least he doesn't consume works of fantasy, or he'd have cottoned on right away to how strange it was that his mother would not only appear to him in his dreams but be able to give him information about Jonathan, magic, and the Izards that she should not have known. Granted, once he learned magic was real he likely chalked it up to more of the same, and the way she played off his fears and Jonathan's idiosyncrasies, coupled with Jonathan hiding things from him and what he knows of the past differences between Jonathan and his sister, all kept him from telling Jonathan anything about this. But even before that he wasn't suspicious? Youth and grief strike again, sadly.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Lewis wears a pair because his hero Captain Midnight does.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Florence is a dignified, matronly woman who wears purple in most of her scenes.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The demon Azazel, who gave Isaac Izard the plans for the clock.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Following getting his cast off and winning the class presidential election, Tarby increasingly loses patience with Lewis, from Lewis initially refusing to use dark magic to prove to him magic's existence to Tarby finally having it with Lewis when the latter tries to go to him for help, only to get punched in the stomach by the fed up former.
  • Hate Sink: Tarby and his crony Woody Mingo are likely designated to be the most despicable characters to make the others (including Isaac the Big Bad) look sympathetic in comparison.
  • Hell Is That Noise: A consistent whisper of "ticking" can be heard throughout the trailer.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jonathan and Isaac are implied to have been this before the latter's descent into insanity.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Izard fought in World War II, and his experiences caused him to make a Deal with the Devil in exchange for the means to turn back time for the entire world and make sure humanity never existed.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Jonathan tries to appeal to this trope with Isaac, calling on not only their former friendship but the goodness he knows must still be in there which would not want to carry out such an evil plan. It fails.
  • Incompletely Trained: This is implied to be the case with Jonathan. While it is implied that magic is inherent in the family and that he was taught much of what he knows by Isaac, he is not nearly the same level as Florence (whom he claims has degrees from a Wizarding School).
  • Insult of Endearment: Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman are best friends and Platonic Life-Partners who are constantly volleying affectionate insults (such as 'Mush Brush' and 'Weird Beard' from Mrs Zimmerman and 'Deranged Cuckoo' and 'Weird Purple Skeleton' from Jonathan) at each other.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Tarby suggesting that Lewis stop wearing goggles to school. While Tarby is written to be a xenophobic Hate Sink, and this is framed as not respecting Lewis's individuality, it's genuinely good advice. Lewis is desperate for friendship, and most of his peers find the goggles off-putting.
  • Karma Houdini: Other then getting publicly humiliated by a basketball to the face K.O. from Lewis at the end, Tarby gets off unpunished for taking advantage of Lewis and making him bring back a wizard who tried to end the world. But that happened in the story too, and it just served to make Lewis become more mature and find better company.
  • Key Under the Doormat: Jonathan apparently thought it would be okay to put the key to the incredibly guarded cabinet in one of the cabinet's unlocked drawers. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Kill and Replace: Izard's wife, Selena, did this with their neighbor Mrs. Hanchett.
  • Logo Joke: The Universal Pictures logo is the 1970s version, from the era when the House With a Clock in its Walls story was first published (1973), and plays backwards, mirroring the purpose of the clock. (It also brings to mind E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, in which the Universal logo also goes backwards.) The Amblin Entertainment logo used is the original version.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Jonathan is this to Lewis; their first meeting is when Lewis comes to New Zebedee to live with Jonathan. Lewis says that his mother spoke often of her big brother, who left home because he wanted to pursue magic and his father disapproved.
  • Loophole Abuse: Jonathan despairs after the Izards get away with the key, because they had revealed the clock is hidden by a "witch's hex" which no warlock or witch, no matter how powerful, can penetrate. But Lewis points out that since he isn't a warlock yet (because he hasn't passed the test of defeating an evil spirit), he can cast the spell to find the clock.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Jonathan, Florence, and Isaac originally worked as stage magicians (Jonathan and Isaac as a pair, Florence having done her work in France) using their very real magic to entertain the masses. This is most obvious with Jonathan, who uses the infinite handkerchief trick to try and cheer-up a crying Lewis and later turns playing cards into keys to pick locks. It is implied by a poster seen in the end of the film that Lewis will become Jonathan's new partner in this business, with Florence as an opening act or similar.
  • Meaningful Name: It isn't spelled out (no pun intended) the way it is in the book, but the Big Bad having the last name Izard is a reference to "izzard", the British word for the letter Z... as in, the final letter of the English alphabet, just as Omega was the last Greek letter and symbol of The End of the World as We Know It.
    • It also rhymes with wizard.
  • The Millstone: Tarby peer pressuring Lewis to use dark magic is what brought Isaac back.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Because in this version it is Isaac who is raised from the dead and Selena is young rather than old, it is his spectacles Lewis sees in Mrs. Hanchett's window rather than Selena's. And although the moment at the tomb is changed because it's a sarcophagus rather than a mausoleum, and the Chase Scene with the headlights was cut, Isaac's glasses still have the telltale pale gleaming light his wife's had in the book. The glasses are also prominently shown getting crushed in the clock's gears after the Izards fall, paralleling Selenna's smashed spectacles on her skull after the clock was destroyed in the book.
    • And speaking of that Chase Scene, Jonathan has a similar Cool Car in the movie, even if it doesn't play as large a role.
    • More hilariously, the brief moment when Mrs. Zimmerman insults Jonathan by referencing his back hair would seem to be a reference to the book, where Lewis, upon first meeting his uncle, sees the thick red hair on his hands and arms, sticking out from his sleeves, and wonders if it covers his whole body.
  • Never My Fault: Tarby is the one who caused the events of the Big Bad coming back to life to cause havoc, and even bolts when he witnesses him coming back to life; but he is in vehement denial of it and is a Weirdness Censor, Flat-Earth Atheist, Straw Vulcan, and Dirty Coward. While this is still true to a great extent in the book, here he takes it one step farther by being the one to actually unlock the cabinet and take out Isaac's dark book.
  • Noodle Incident: It's clearly unknown how Tarby injured his left hand that requires him to wear a cast. At first, it was thought to be a sporting injury due to him being both a basketball player and a baseball player. However, after getting the cast off and revealing his despicable Enfant Terrible nature, there is also an implication he injured himself while physically intimidating one of his past victims, either by hurting his hand when striking the poor sap or when the victim chooses to fight back. He uses his initial injury at the beginning as probably part of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit in order to become class president by getting sympathy credits.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: What the clock can do exactly is unknown for a lot of the film.
    Jonathan: We don't know what it does, except... something horrible.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: It's eventually revealed that Mrs. Zimmerman's husband and daughter died during World War II, quite possibly in a concentration camp. Mrs. Zimmerman has never fully recovered from the loss, and when Jonathan is thinking of sending Lewis away (albeit in part for his own protection), she angrily tells him that parenting is a full-time job, and that she would give anything to have her daughter back.
  • Parody Magic Spell: Lewis casts a spell to find the location of the Doomsday Clock by shouting out the definitions of "Discover", "Location", "Secret", and "Clock" at the top of his lungs while waving his Magic 8-Ball around vigorously. It is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. It also works.
  • Pet the Dog: The Izards make a evidently genuine offer to Lewis to join them in surviving the clock's doomsday.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Jonathan Barnavelt and Florence Zimmerman, who are together almost constantly and are depicted as very close, yet are specifically noted to not be "anything kissy-faced."
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Tarby and his henchboy Woody Mingo are extremely xenophobic of "weirdos." This is prevalent, considering the time setting; in The '50s, social class issues were occurring which resulted in such events like McCarthyism and the Civil Rights Movement (even though African American students are shown attending Lewis and Tarby's school with no apparent hard feelings from others, and racial issues are never brought up) and being set at a time before geek culture and social deviance became accepted as they are today.
  • Punny Name: The purple snake monster in the closet is named William Snakespeare.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Mrs. Zimmerman is a very powerful witch, described as being much more powerful than Uncle Jonathan himself, and she's always clad from head to toe in the color purple. She tried to turn her pet snake purple (she succeeded but also turned him into a monster by accident) and even has a purple house. Her magic also glows purple when she regains her full power late in the film, too. At the very end, when Lewis invites her to join his and Jonathan's "bevy of black swans," she asks if she can be a purple one instead.
  • Race Lift: Selena Izard was white in the novel; she's African-American in the film. Similarly, Rose Rita.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: Mrs. Zimmerman apparently thinks it's very unusual to make chocolate chip cookies with nuts.
  • Scary Black Woman: Selena Izard, after undergoing Race Lift for this film.
  • Sequel Hook: Not a blatant one, but Rose Rita's introduction in the movie has the same "And the Adventure Continues" overtones that it did in the book. Also, the demon Azazel, who taught Isaac how to build the clock and work other evil magic, could easily be adapted into the role of the demon Aziel from the later book The Ghost in the Mirror (in which Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman team up to fight evil). Considering the movie's lukewarm reception, it may or may not happen.
  • Shapeshifting: Selena Izard is shown to have this ability, which she uses to disguise herself as Mrs. Hanchett and Lewis's mother.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Isaac Izard after fighting in World War 2. Whatever he experienced was horrific enough to make him wish destruction on humanity and leave him susceptible to the influence of the demon Azazel.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A theater marquee lists Space Man From Pluto, the title that a Universal executive reportedly wanted to force into Back to the Future.
    • Considering the fact that the script for this movie was adapted by Eric Kripke, the inclusion of a yellow-eyed demon named Azazel is almost certainly a Supernatural reference.
  • Slimeball: Tarby is a Bratty Half-Pint type, a two-faced, slimy, shortsighted, xenophobic and selfish diaper stain of a Flat-Earth Atheist Manipulative Bastard Dirty Coward who Baited the Dog toward Lewis into thinking he is befriending him, when in reality he is just using him as an Unwitting Pawn to make himself publicly look good to become class president. He even has The Dragon Woody Mingo to act outwardly bratty at school to deviate negative attention from himself, when in reality he is as much of a school bully as his partner. By having a cast on his left hand at the beginning, he pulls a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to earn sympathy from others to make them think he's just another victim who needs love.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: A variation; the "slob" happens to be Lewis, the kid demeaned for being weird, while the "snob" is the popular, athletic, but selfish, shortsighted and xenophobic Tarby.
  • Supernatural Repellent: Pumpkins (especially when made into jack-o'-lanterns) and iron (especially when made into horse-shoes) are mentioned to be the two best methods of keeping out evil forces, Jonathan lining his front yard with jack-o'-lanterns and nailing iron horseshoes to anything that needs extra security. Both methods fail when put to scrutiny: Isaac burns off every horseshoe in and out of the house and turns the jack-o'-lanterns into glue-spewing monsters.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Jonathan: (to Lewis) Have a look around, you're safe here.
    (A giant snake suddenly appears from behind a door, with Jonathan forcing the door shut)
  • That Man Is Dead: Variation. When Jonathan appeals to Isaac not to use the clock because of "the goodness that's still in you from before you died", Isaac responds that he "was dead before I died."
  • Tick Tock Terror: The first trailer heavily emphasizes the oppressive, rhythmic clock chimes to create a mysterious, foreboding and, well, clock-themed atmosphere. Throughout the film itself, a deep tick-tock can be heard in the background almost constantly.
  • Time Bomb: Isaac's magic clock operates as the literal translation of this. When he uses the clock key on it during the lunar eclipse, the clock’s mechanics will reverse time to its dawn, whereupon Isaac and Selena will alter history so that the human race would never have existed.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Lewis's Magic 8-Ball was a gift from his parents just before they died. Lewis ends up sacrificing it to save the world.
  • Undercover When Alone: In her disguise as the neighbor, Selena is seen whispering to her dog that Lewis and Florence are crazy while watching them work on their house, well out of their hearing range. Given that she's the Big Bad who knows why they are doing this, and is standing well out of their earshot, that's an odd statement to make.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Mrs. Zimmerman and Jonathan trade barbs almost constantly, but they're very good friends regardless.
  • War Is Hell: Isaac Izard became an Omnicidal Maniac because of the trauma he suffered in World War II, and Mrs. Zimmerman lost her power after being imprisoned in the concentration camps where, presumably, her husband and daughter died. The anti-war theme of the movie leads to two changes from the book: the removal of the scene where Jonathan creates an illusion of the Battle of Waterloo Played for Laughs, and Rose Rita's hobby being changed to entomology instead of military history.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Jonathan and Isaac were good friends before the latter went mad.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Isaac Izard's actions are monstrous and his ultimate goal is even worse, but once you find out what caused him to be this way, it's hard not to feel at least a little bit sorry for him. Before this, he was implied to have been a decent person and a very close friend to Jonathan, and interestingly, he offers to save Lewis when the eclipse starts and the clock's power activates. Ultimately, he's been so twisted by his trauma and dark magic that whatever's left of the person Jonathan and Florence knew is long gone by the time he comes back from the dead.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Tarby likely used his cast on his left hand to play the sympathy card towards his classmates to help him win the class presidential election.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A non-fatal example. After winning the class presidential election, Tarby ditches Lewis, since the latter had served his purpose to help him win.