Directed by Gil Kenan (Directorial Debut)
The creepy house in a small town has darker secrets than anyone can imagine. And now three kids-D.J. (voiced by Mitchel Musso), Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner), and Jenny (voiced by Spencer Locke)-must stop it before it is too late.
This is a great kid friendly horror themed animated feature. The story remains strong to this day because while it takes place at Halloween with elements of the supernatural, it deals with universal themes of adolescence and fitting in along with themes of love and obligation. Many small towns still have a creepy neighborhood house. We have all gone through puberty and our first attempts to attract someone were probably quite awkward as in a fashion similar to what these boys did with Jenny.
These are “authentic” children here. They get caught up in the moment and go off on an adventure without considering the consequences. These were children coming of age but not quite ready to do so.
Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi), unbeknownst to everyone, has spent the past 45 years protecting the neighborhood from his wife’s angry spirit which has merged with his home. Even though Constance (voiced by Kathleen Turner) was part of a freak show and tormented by other she was no saint. I would even postulate that the relationship between her and her husband was emotionally abusive with her being the abuser. Constance was definitely the one in charge and while her husband decided to protect her in life in death, he was forced to protect others from her. Even though she was dead he could not move on with his life because there is no way he could bring anyone around him without risking their safety.
The environment they create in the movie is reminiscent of the late 80s or early 90s in a small town. Or at least what movies from that time would have you believe. Having grown up in a small town I cannot think of ever encountering anyone in any of the takeout places that resembled supernatural “expert” Skull (Jon Heder), but characters like him were in many movies of the time. And the look where the action happens was of an older development much like the Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street films took place in. I am curious if these things were an homage to this movie’s live action predecessors.
We even got a horror movie babysitter with Elizabeth or “Zee” (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who also has the boyfriend that she brings over that she should not named Bones (Jason Lee) who ends up getting killed. But not really since this is family friendly. He along with the doubting cops Officer Landers (Kevin James) and Officer Lister (Nick Cannon) are old school horror film tropes.
The script is well written end contains the efforts of Dan Harmon who was responsible for shows like Community as well as Rick and Morty. With his talent in part behind the screenplay, I guess that’s part of the reason Monster House still holds up. Those are some fantastic shows.
You can feel the awkwardness of the two boys as they try to figure out how to deal with a girl. It is a romantic triangle that only has really two participants. Yet it ends on a sweet note and without either D.J. or Chowder necessarily getting smacked down by Jenny.
The CGI animation still looks okay and that is my only real complaint about this. Everybody insists on doing movies with computer animation but as technology advances the animation generally ages poorly. I really wish people would stop making so many CGI movies.
Look at the Disney movies. I think Snow White has its issues, but it was as far as I know it was the first feature length animated film ever so a lot can be forgiven there. When you do something pioneering it may not be perfect, but it can still look good long into the future. What has come since from Disney and other companies in the realm of hand drawn animation has aged quite well because in the end hand drawn animation is art. It is crafted in a fashion similar but not identical to any form of drawing and drawings when done well retain their beauty because that kind of art is timeless. CGI is only as good as the year in which it was made. Very little ages well beyond that. Because CGI animation is not pioneering at this point any issues are not forgivable. Monster House is getting to the point of looking bad.
Monster House is a great Halloween treat for the kids. It is not necessarily a horror film, but it is intense enough for children that they will get the same vibe. And it is entertaining enough for adults that they will not want to stab their eyes out or fall asleep while watching. It is a great animated Halloween movie that everyone can enjoy. I highly recommend this.