Horror director Eli Roth may be many things, but we did not have him pegged as a Harry Potter fan. And yet he secreted a sneaky Potter Easter Egg in his new film, The House with a Clock in its Walls, as a nod to JK Rowling’s boy wizard.
The House with a Clock in its Walls is based on a classic 1970s children’s book and has more than a few passing similarities to Potter. In fact, it may well have influenced JK Rowling as she was writing her Hogwarts saga. In a post-Potter world, however, it makes sense that a new film version of the John Bellairs novel would find itself referencing the young wizard, intentionally or otherwise.
Roth says, “Well, we’re all Potter nerds but we know that book was written in 1973 and there are certain things that are in the book that appear in the Potter books. I’ve read the entire series and I love them. But we really had the Potter police — and that was our producer Tracey [Nyberg], who has a dog named Muggle. I’ve read them but Tracey really, really knows them. So there was one thing with the umbrella that Cate [Blanchett’s character] does that Hagrid does where we were like, ‘OK, we’re letting that live because it’s a cool idea and that’s like our little nod.’ But other than that we wanted to keep the [two properties] pretty separate.”
More Potter Parallels
You might notice a parallel between young Lewis’s goggles in the film and Harry’s glasses – something that may have influenced Rowling but for Roth was a literal translation from the book. In Bellairs’ novel, and also in Roth’s film, wannabe warlock Lewis is obsessed with a TV show called Captain Midnight, in which the titular character sports pilot’s goggles.
“No, that was really from the book and that was Captain Midnight“explains Roth. “So I wasn’t really going for Harry Potter with that one. As much as I love those movies and the books.”
There’s also a Master of the Dark Arts reference, which obviously calls Potter to mind but which here refers to the film’s villain Isaac Izard, played by Kyle MacLachlan.
For all the Potter parallels (a story which itself has some pretty dark elements), Roth, who is known for modern body horror classics Cabin Fever and Hostel, says The House with a Clock in its Walls is his horror film for kids.
“I think of it as a gateway movie. If you love scary movies, you’re going to bring your kids to it and get them into scary movies. This is the gateway film.”
He adds “I think you want to scare kids but not traumatize them.”
The House with a Clock in its Walls hits screens in the UK and US on September 21, and Australia on September 20. Alternatively, catch an advance screening from September 15.