Animating Halloween: Monster House Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: DJ is obsessed with watching the house of his scary next-door neighbor, Mr. Nebbercracker. He goes insane with rage at everyone who dares set one foot on his yard or get anywhere near his house. When DJ accidentally ‘kills’ Mr. Nebbercracker, he believes his spirit went on to haunt his house, nabbing up anyone who gets near. DJ, his best friend, Chowder and a local girl named Jenny team up to stop the house, but the situation is far more complicated than they ever anticipated.

Breakdown: Making horror movies for kids is a tricky area. You can’t put in anything ‘too scary’ or else the parents will get up in arms. You can’t tone it down too much or else the movie will be boring, even for kids.

Gentle middlegrounds are hard to find, and this one hits the mark quite well.

I watch Monster House every year on Halloween, but it’s one of those movies that I mostly forget unless it’s the Halloween season. Sometimes, I even forget it until I randomly see it on TV for Halloween.

It was strange to me because I always enjoy this movie whenever I watch it, and it wasn’t until I watched it for the review that I realized why I probably let it slip my mind whenever it’s not Halloween – this movie has very irritating characters.

Granted, they are ‘realistic’ tweenagers, teenagers and adults, but there’s no one in this movie that’s even slightly likable until the last 15 minutes or so.

Let’s go down the line –

DJ is one of those kids who wants desperately to be treated as a mature adult, but still does a lot of immature things. He’s obsessed with Mr. Nebbercracker because of his harsh behavior and the creepy urban legend that he killed his wife and ate her. DJ is probably the least annoying, but that’s not saying much.

His parents, while only getting brief screentime, also don’t get a good light shed on them. They’re mostly harmless, but then we see that his father refuses to show DJ any affection, fighting his wife against telling him he loves him before he leaves on a trip or giving him a hug goodbye. Then we get a completely serious implication that his mother wouldn’t care if she accidentally killed him.

She believes she backed into DJ with the car and his father fully implies she wouldn’t care if it was.

Then we have Chowder, who is just obnoxious. He’s the typical comic relief immature best friend. Almost all of his scenes involve him being incredibly annoying in some way.

For good measure, we have Jenny or the obligatory love interest who is literally thrown into the story. She doesn’t even live in their neighborhood nor had the two boys met her before the story began. She’s an alright character, but not only is she clearly just meant to be a love interest for the boys (though obviously meant for DJ because since when does the sidekick get the girl?) she says stuff like ‘are you mentally challenged?…Because, if you are, I’m certified to teach you baseball!’ to them upon first meeting.

There’s Zee, who is the bitchy punk rocker babysitter who loves to torment DJ.

Then we have her boyfriend, Bones, who’s even more of a prick than she is. During his screentime, he does such charming things as getting drunk, ripping apart DJ’s stuffed bunny rabbit and getting pissy that Zee doesn’t want to fool around with him.

Following them, we have Skull, a local gamer who is about as typical as any depiction of a gamer since The Wizard. He’s obsessed with video games, is a complete jerk and is so into his games that he can play them without looking and talks smack to them.

After that, there’s the police. There’s the veteran cop who laughs at the kids claims of there being something wrong with the house, but eventually tries to arrest them for minor offenses toward a vacant house.

Then there’s his partner, a rookie cop who is one of those types who gets way too into it and is fully drunk on the power before he even gets his feet wet. It’s scary how he treats these kids, too. He’s gleefully happy to take them in, taunts them as if they’re adult criminals and will swing his gun around like it’s not even there.

The only characters left to address are Mr. Nebbercracker and his wife. Mr. Nebbercracker is meant to be a scary, mean old man, but in the last 20 minutes or so, you realize he wasn’t being this way to be a jerk. He was actually trying to protect everyone.

His wife was a bitch who only had a soft spot for him, but it’s understandable that she is so defensive given her backstory.

I won’t go any further to avoid spoilers, even though this movie is old enough to warrant them. I think the twist is a good chunk of the fun.

I will ask a couple of spoiler-y questions, though. Be warned until the list is over.

1 – Constance fell into the cement for the foundation……and…..Horace just built…over her? Why didn’t he dig her out? Why would he ever feel comfortable building a house on his wife’s remains?

2 – Considering how thin the cement was over Constance’s remains, I feel like that wouldn’t have even been enough to kill her. Certainly Horace should have been able to save her.

3 – The house was haunted by her spirit since her corpse was in the foundation, yet when the house actually uprooted itself and started traveling all over town, the spirit didn’t leave it. If it was detached from the foundation, I don’t really see why the house itself was still haunted.

4 – This is from earlier in the movie, but if you had a guy who was clearly not dead and was only suffering from a heart attack or something, why would you treat the guy like a corpse? They don’t give him medical attention or anything. The plop him on a gurney, don’t even put him in a body bag or cover him up, and let his arm dangle and drag the ground. Even if they thought he was dead, you don’t treat patients like that.

Outside of that, this is still a great horror movie for all ages. The scares are effective for kids and adults alike, and some of the visuals are wonderfully done.

The backstory was well-written, and I was legitimately happy for everyone in the end. I only wish they all, barring Nebbercracker for obvious reasons, could’ve been more likable from the start so I could really get emotionally invested.

The art and animation is where some people falter on this movie, and I can see why. It’s a strange amalgamation of motion capture and clay-like CGI animation. The heads are super big, the hair doesn’t move at all, and some of the movements are surreal when coupled with the animation. The movements of the arms and bodies will be fine, but then the heads will just seem strange.

The music was also nice. Even though nothing stood out as being fantastic, it was a very fitting soundtrack that melded well with the ambiance.

Monster House has been getting very positive reviews every since its release….but check out the reviews on Common Sense Media. Remember how I said horror movies for kids might get parents up in arms? These reviewers have their parental arms fully up.

They bitch about the littlest things like one character saying ‘I stole drugs for you!’ when the ‘drugs’ were bottles of cold medicine…meant to knock out a sentient house, or saying ‘kiss my butt’ or ‘moron.’ All of these reviews amount to a one-star rating.

One reviewer said this movie scared their two-year-old kid…..THEIR TWO-YEAR-OLD KID.

You let your two-friggin’-year-old kid watch a horror movie – I don’t give a crap if it’s meant for kids, it’s still a damn horror movie. And it’s rated PG, meaning it’s already meant for an older audience than friggin’ two-year-olds.

The icing on the cake – they complained about the fact that there was a creepy monster house that eats people………IT’S…..THE….ENTIRE….TITLE….OF….THE…..MOVIE.

MONSTER. HOUSE. It could not be clearer if they called it ‘Scary Goddamn Morphing Monster House That Eats People and Also a Movie Your Two-Year-Old Probably Shouldn’t Watch.’ I bet your two-year-old can read better than you.

It borderlines between PG and PG-13. I agree it probably could’ve garnered a PG-13 rating, but, honestly, PG also suits it just fine. Just talk to your kids about the questionable stuff, if necessary, and if they aren’t ready for horror movies, don’t let them watch it….hence the Parental Guidance suggested thing.

I believe people of all ages will get enjoyment out of this movie, especially around Halloween considering it’s both a great animated horror movie and it’s set around Halloween. I do applaud it for having realistic characters, but I just wish they had been more likable.

Also, just for the sake of the people on Common Sense Media, yes, people get gobbled up, but the ending assures us that they all lived. Dumbass Bones even got to keep his stupid kite.

Recommended Audience: I already basically went over this, but I’d say 10+

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