“Monster House” is another of this season’s many computer-generated films. The critics have been somewhat split on this movie. Those who liked it, really like it. Those who hated it, really hated it. I fall into the latter group. I absolutely hated this film!
The story is built around a haunted house that appears to have human characteristics: Very bad human characteristics. The children in the neighborhood where the house is located are afraid to get too close to it because it likes to steal their toys. Sometimes, it even tries to take the children as well. When the house tries to swallow sweet little Jenny (voiced by Spencer Locke), twelve-year-old DJ Walters (voiced by Mitchel Musso) and his chubby little friend Chowder (voiced by Sam Lerner) decide that it is time to investigate. Together with Jenny, the intrepid youngsters, who are sick of being terrorized by the house, join forces to fight back. They soon discover that what they always believed about the house is true. It is really a monster. Unfortunately, none of the adults in the neighborhood believe their claims so they are left to their own clever devices in dealing with the house. This results in a series of events that are sometimes funny, but for the most part are just plain scary.
On the day before Halloween, the trio of heroes have a run-in with the house’s owner, Mr. Nebbercracker. Their basketball, which wandered onto his lawn, is mysteriously swept into the house. The children want it back but Nebbercracker refuses their request. In frustration and anger, they turn to the only person they know of who might understand what is going on inside the house. Skull (voiced by John Herder) – – the supposed expert – – tells them the only way he knows of to stop the house is to strike at its heart, which the kids decide must be the furnace in the basement. Eventually, the children come up with what seems to be a foolproof plan. They take a vacuum cleaner disguised as a human and fill it with cold medicine. Then they offer up their bait to the house, figuring that once the house is asleep, they can sneak in and put out the furnace with their squirt guns.
As you might guess, however, their little plan goes awry and what results is some very disturbing and frightening scenes that many young people may find much too scary. A lot of the children in the theater where I took my grandson found these sequences hard to watch. Some demanded to go home while others just began crying. About one-quarter of the audience actually left before the movie was over. To be fair, however, these were younger children probably between the ages of three and five. The older kids in the audience seemed to love the film. This makes a case for some better labeling on movies that might not be suitable for younger audiences.
Although the movie contains a cast of colorful personalities like Catherine O’Hara, Kevin James, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kathleen Turner, Steve Buscemi, and Fred Willard, their talents seem almost wasted on this film. However, first-time director Gil Kenan proves his worth with an adept high-tech production. The film is visually stunning and the digital techniques used here are masterful to say the least. It is the story that seems lacking in depth and character.
“Monster House” is a Columbia Pictures production, distributed by Sony Pictures. It was produced by Robert Zemeckis of “Whom Framed Roger Rabbit?” fame. It is rated PG for scary images and sequences, thematic elements, and some crude humor and bad language. It is one hour and 31 minutes in length.