An orphaned boy named Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is placed in the custody of a Warlock uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) who quickly proceeds to groom the lad in the art of sorcery. With the premise precariously set in place, director Eli Roth relinquishes control to the production designer and special effects technicians who in turn do most of the heavy lifting. This might not have been a bad thing had the technicians been able to imbue the house with a style and personality of its own. As is, an average episode of The Munsters or The Addams Family packs more laughs, and more imagination went into the design of both 1313 Mockingbird Lane and 0001 Cemetery Lane than this kiddie variation on Cabin Fever. All that Tarantino’s gag-writer brings to the table is a string of junior league jump scares and a wrought iron topiary Griffin excreting a load of mulch. With Cate Blanchett picking up a check as the kid’s magical aunt. (2018) — Scott Marks
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