A personal childhood classic for me, ‘Monster House’ is one of those rare kids films that isn’t afraid to explore darker themes of death and grief. Whilst still managing to be a solid piece of entertainment for any family urging for a creepy adventure, as producers Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg jump on-board alongside Gil Kenan director of the ‘Poltergeist’ remake from 2015 in his directorial debut, this animated adventure is always a joy to return to for me.
After their creepy old neighbour who lives across the street suffers from a heart attack and is taken to hospital, three teenagers discover that their neighbour’s house is really a living, breathing monster. Eventually leading them to devise a plan to destroy it and save their neighbourhood.
This simple, yet extremely strange plot is one of the best aspects of the film, as the director makes as much use out of this concept as possible. Usually getting extremely creative and even catching the audience by surprise at a few points, no matter their age. Having a great blend of both comedy and tame-horror, the film has a mostly light-hearted tone, aside from the occasional dark scene of course, which actually works quite well for the film’s story. The jokes throughout the film are also pretty decent, as despite some gags being a little too cheesy or immature at points. For the most part, the comedy throughout the film can get a laugh out of me.
The three main characters within the film are portrayed by Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner and Spencer Locke, who all provide likeable and varied personalities to each of their respective characters, while Steve Buscemi lends his voice to the creepy: ‘Old Man Nebbercracker’ who actually turns out to a very interesting and even sympathetic character by the end of the film’s runtime.
The animated cinematography is overall nothing outstanding, but does lend itself well to creating some attractive shots and eerie visuals throughout the film. I also personally enjoyed how the film utilized more hand-held like camera movements during the more chaotic scenes of action or terror throughout the story. The film even blends its bright animation colour palette with a more dark/pale horror-esque palette, only a little detail, but I appreciated it regardless. The original score by Douglas Pipes is also a wonderful element of the film, combing elements of a classic animated film with undertones of horror and tension.
Although the animation can sometimes range in quality, the visual look of the almost stop-motion-like animation does give the film an overall creepy appeal. However, due to the film’s age, the film has definitely begun to show some cracks here and there, as various points in the narrative characters can begin to look a little clunky or unnatural with their movements. This is mostly due to the motion capture technology that was used very heavily throughout the film, long before films such as: ‘Avatar’ or ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ truly tested the limits of it.
Many of the character designs throughout the film are also quite memorable, especially with the character: ‘Bones’ in particular, who always comes to mind for me when thinking of this film. I also personally adore the design of the ‘Monster House’ itself, as the design is incredibly menacing and really feels like a true horror antagonist.
‘Monster House’ never fails to be entertaining for me, every-time I revisit it. As the film truly provides a creepy experience which most other family/animated films simply can’t, as films such as: ‘Hotel Transylvania’ or ‘Goosebumps’ (2015) always try to capture this tone, but usually fall short. It’s here ‘Monster House’ succeeds, as despite some clunky animation and cheesy dialogue at points, the film succeeds in being an eerie adventure with a fantastic cast, and effective original score that the entire family could enjoy. Maybe it’s nostalgia for me, but I personally believe the film is honestly a great choice when it comes to a Halloween night, or maybe just a rainy day, overall I’d say a 7/10.