Friday, October 28, 2011

Monster House (2006) (Movie Review)

      Time for one last post to conclude Mr. Movies October marathon, and I got a special one for today. When I was a kid around Halloween, my friends and I would turn off the lights in the house, have some scary music and sound effects playing, and it made the setting feel spooky and haunted. Some friends would dress up in monster costumes, while others would go exploring with flash lights, and it was like we were in a Halloween adventure of our own universe. By the end of my 3rd grade year, we moved away and I regrettably was never able to have a Halloween with them again. So, I gradually began to lose that excitement of exploring a fictional haunted house with friends. Then, toured the end of my High School years, I saw a movie that immediately took me back to that time when friends would go adventuring in a spooky house on Halloween … this is the 2006 animated masterpiece called “Monster House”.

     This is by far one of my favorite spooky kid’s movies, and fits right along with my favorites of the season. If you thought monsters under the bead were scary, just wait till you see an entire house come to life. Our spooky venture focuses on three neighborhood children named DJ, Chowder and Jenny. Kind of the basic, yet classic formula of a small group of friends, made up of two boys and one girl. The lead boy DJ is having suspicions about this angry old man who lives in a creepy looking house just across from his home. After an unfortunate accident, DJ feels responsible for the apparent death of the old man, who seemed to pass away in his front yard while DJ and his friend were playing outside. 
Then he begins to notice some strange things happening over at that creepy house. People are diapering, and his two friends were almost eaten by the house itself. None of the adults believe them, so they have to take matters into their own hands, find a way to defeat the house, and save the kids of the neighborhood before Trick r’ Treat. On paper, this may sound like a very cliché haunted house film for kids, but the writing is quite competent, and the back story of how the house became haunted is surprisingly tragic. The rest of the movie is just these kids going on exciting, funny and sometimes scary adventures, exploring an old dark house, and facing dangerous obstacles … it’s awesome!         

    The child characters, while admittedly annoying at times, are still a lot of fun, and manage to carry the film rather well. I love how the two boys have been friends for years, while the girl Jenny had never met them before all the spooky cause, and was just roped into the situation. She doesn’t even like them at first, but there’s no one else who’ll believe her story about a killer house. She almost plays like the audience character, who doesn’t really know them, but gradually warms up to them through the experience. The one down side is that all the supporting characters are really annoying and forgettable. I do however love these two cops, who are like a classic comedy duo along the lines of Abbott and Costello, and they have their silly quotable lines … “You have the right to shut up!” Easily my biggest issue with this movie is the animation of the human characters. It’s hard to explain, but there is something completely off-putting and awkward about the way they look and move. It almost makes me feel like it’s stop motion, except even stop motion characters from movies like “Coraline” look better than this.    

     Film legend Steven Spielberg (the same talent behind “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial”, “Jurassic Park” and the “Indiana Jones” Trilogy) helped produce this movie, along with Robert Zemeckis, who’s done some of my favorite family movies of all time like the “Back to the Future” trilogy and “The Polar Express”. While the animation on the human characters is off-putting, everything else in this film looks amazing. 
Some of my favorite visuals are the fall scenery, skinny trees, and creative spooky imagery. I especially love the animation design of this one nightmare sequence. The movie also has a talent for making common house hold objects look freighting, and the interiors of the house are stunning. There’s one moment with our characters running past various obstacles in the house, and it almost resembles a theme park ride. All the different visuals that were used to bring this house to life are absolutely brilliant, and some of the most thrilling animated sequences ever put into a spooky Halloween film. Everything builds to a climactic final battle, in which the house rises up from the ground, and attacks the kids. When this finally happens … hot Damn is it spectacular!
     Watching these kids go exploring through this visually amazing house, discovering clues and hidden secrets is so much fun, and rekindles the inner child in me looking for adventure on Halloween. It really does take me back to that time when I was young and would go on imaginary spooky haunted house adventures with my friends. I can’t make a persuasive argument that this is a film for everyone, as some may be put off by the annoying character animation or other details. Perhaps it’s more of a guilty pleaser for me, but a favorite all the same. It’s like getting all the tricks and treats you’d want around Halloween, and it welcomes both kids and adults alike into an imaginative household full of smart, exciting, nostalgic and monstrous fun. 

I give the animated 2006 movie “Monster House” … 4 stars out of 5, it’s awesome!

     So ends my October Marathon, hope it was fun, regular posts will begin again next month and ...

                                                     Happy Halloween!  

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