As a parent, I understand how hard it can be to find an appropriate Halloween movie that can interest adults and give kids a mild scare. Monster House is a rare gem that delivers on just that. Back when the film was in theaters in 2006 I was still in the movie business (selling popcorn) and took my little brother to see it. We both thought it was great, him in his early teens and I in my early 20s. This Halloween season, it has become a favorite of my four year old son and I’m so happy to see him enjoy it.
In Monster House, DJ lives across the street from Mr. Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi), the creepy old man on the block, and his equally creepy house. Whenever a ball lands on his lawn or a little girl veers her tricycle off the sidewalk, Nebbercracker runs out yelling, “Get off my lawn!” and takes the toy, scaring the kids away. Lately, DJ has been watching his every move.
While DJ’s parents are away, just days before Halloween, his friend, Chowder, comes over and his new basketball lands on the forbidden lawn. As DJ darts across the lawn to retrieve the ball, Nebbercracker is on him, physically shaking the kid and suddenly collapses on top of him. After the ambulance leaves, the kids think Nebbercracker is dead and DJ is riddled with guilt. All night, it seems like the house is watching him. He even gets a call from across the street, knowing no one is home. And soon, the house is outright attacking people and snatching them up, throwing them inside. Could it be Nebbercracker from beyond the grave? Or could the house hold a mystery even more macabre?
The unique design used in Monster House sets it apart from most other animated films. The characters are a slightly stylized out of reality but not created to be overly cute, like in so many other animated films. Nebbercracker and Bones are both wonderfully creepy characters in very different ways while DJ and his friends are lovably dorky kids. Even better, the imagination and style used to turn a creepy house into an all out monster works great here. Little details go a long way, from the way shingles ruffle and the porch contorts to teeth to the interior’s dark and cavernous appearance.
Monster House is a lovably creepy film perfect for Halloween that will engage the whole family. Some themes might be a bit much for very young kids, but the older ones will appriciate a cartoon that isn’t watered down too muh. And while you may think you know how this story is going to go (duh, the house is a monster) there is more here than you would have expected. Way back when I first saw this film, my brother and I really enjoyed the major revelation and how it became a very redeeming factor. That and the high caliber animation helped seal the film’s Oscar nomination for best animated feature. I suggest enjoying this film as a family before trick-or-treating.
“Chowder, your ball just landed on Nebbercracker’s lawn. It doesn’t exist anymore…”