Monster House (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gil Kenan|
|Music by||Douglas Pipes|
|Cinematography||Xavier Perez Grobet|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$141.9 million|
Monster House is a 2006 American 3D computer-animated supernatural horror film directed by Gil Kenan in his directorial debut from a screenplay by Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler, about a neighborhood being terrorized by a sentient haunted house during Halloween. The film features the voices of Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Nick Cannon, Jason Lee, Fred Willard, Jon Heder, Catherine O'Hara and Kathleen Turner, as well as human characters being animated using live action motion capture animation, which was previously used in The Polar Express (2004).
Produced by Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, the film was released theatrically by Columbia Pictures on July 21, 2006 to generally positive reviews from critics. It grossed $140 million worldwide against a production budget of $75 million.
When the parents of 12-year-old D.J. Walters are away for the weekend, he is left in the care of his negligent babysitter Zee. D.J. has been spying on his elderly neighbor Mr. Horace Nebbercracker, who scares away children and confiscates their belongings that land in his front yard. After D.J.'s best friend Chowder loses his basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn, D.J. is caught attempting to retrieve it, but the enraged Nebbercracker suffers a heart attack and is taken away by ambulance. That night, D.J. gets phone calls from the house with no one there and eavesdrops on Zee's boyfriend Bones, who tells her about losing his kite on Nebbercracker's lawn when he was younger and that Nebbercracker supposedly ate his wife.
Later, Bones sees his lost kite in the house's front door, but is suddenly devoured by the house while attempting to retrieve it. D.J. meets up with Chowder and the two investigate, but retreat when the house comes to life and attacks them. The next morning, schoolgirl Jenny Bennett sells Halloween candy and goes to the house; D.J. and Chowder rush out to save her before she gets eaten. Jenny promptly calls police officers Landers and Lister, who unfortunately don't believe the trio.
The trio then consult local video gamer Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, supposedly an expert on the supernatural. They learn from him that the house is a rare monster created when a human soul merges with a man-made structure and that it can only be killed by destroying its heart. Concluding the heart must be the furnace, the trio create and bring a dummy containing cold medicine taken from Chowder's father's pharmacy to the house. Before the dummy reaches the house however, Landers and Lister return, thwart their plan and arrest them after Landers discovers the stolen medicine inside the dummy. The house eats the two officers and their police car where D.J., Chowder and Jenny have been shut.
After the house falls asleep, the three begin exploring. In the basement, they find toys accumulated from Nebbercracker's lawn as well as a door opening to a shrine containing the encased-in-cement body of Nebbercracker's late wife, Constance the Giantess. The house becomes aware of their presence and attacks them, though they force it to vomit them outside by grabbing its uvula. Nebbercracker returns alive, revealing that Constance's spirit is within the house and that, instead of eating her, he had given her the happiest times in her life. As a young man, he met Constance, then an unwilling member of a circus freak show, and fell in love with her despite her obesity. One Halloween, as children tormented her due to her size, Constance tried chasing them away but lost her footing and fell to her death in the unfinished basement. Nebbercracker had finished building the house, knowing it was what she would have wanted. Aware that Constance's spirit made the house come alive, however, he pretended to hate children in order to protect them.
D.J. convinces Nebbercracker to let Constance go, much to the house's anger. It breaks free from its foundation and chases the group to a construction site. Nebbercracker realizes the recent trouble Constance caused and attempts to blow the house up with dynamite, but it attacks him. As Chowder fights off the house with an excavator, D.J. and Jenny climb to the top of a crane and D.J. throws the dynamite given to him by Nebbercracker into the house's chimney, causing it to explode and release Constance's ghost. D.J. apologizes to Nebbercracker for his losses, but Nebbercracker thanks the trio for freeing him and his wife from being trapped for 45 years. Later that night, children in their Halloween costumes line up at the site of the house where Nebbercracker, D.J., Chowder and Jenny return their toys to them. After Jenny's mother picks her up and D.J.'s parents return, Chowder and D.J. go trick-or-treating, which they earlier felt they were too old for. Those who were eaten by the house emerge from the basement.
- Mitchel Musso as Dustin Jay "D.J." Walters
- Sam Lerner as Charles "Chowder" Martin
- Spencer Locke as Jennifer "Jenny" Bennett
- Steve Buscemi as Horace Nebbercracker
- Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth "Zee"
- Kevin James as Police Officer Landers
- Nick Cannon as Police Officer Lister
- Jon Heder as Reginald "Skull" Skulinski
- Jason Lee as Bones
- Catherine O'Hara as Mrs. Walters
- Fred Willard as Mr. Walters
- Kathleen Turner as Constance Nebbercracker, Horace's wife
- Ryan Newman as Eliza, a six-year-old who trespasses on Nebbercracker's lawn
The film was initially set up at DreamWorks Animation, based on a pitch by newcomer Gil Kenan. By 2004, the studio put the film in turnaround, to which Sony Pictures picked up the project and began production on August 24 of that year.
The film was shot using performance capture, in which the actors performed the characters' movement and lines while linked to sensors, a process pioneered by Robert Zemeckis for his film The Polar Express (2004). A stereoscopic 3D version of the film was created and had a limited release in digital 3D stereo alongside the "flat" version. It was also released in approximately 200 theaters equipped with the new RealD Cinema digital 3D stereoscopic projection. The process was not based on film, but was purely digital. Since the original source material was "built" in virtual 3D, it created a very rich stereoscopic environment. For the film's release, the studio nicknamed it Imageworks 3D.
Review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 75% approval rating, based on 161 reviews with an average rating of 6.83/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Monster House offers adults and children alike into a household full of smart, monstrous fun." On Metacritic the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Ian Freer of Empire gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating "A kind of Goonies for the Noughties, Monster House is a visually dazzling thrill ride that scales greater heights through its winning characters and poignantly etched emotions. A scary, sharp, funny movie, this is the best kids’ flick of the year so far." Jane Boursaw of Common Sense Media also gave it 4 stars out of 5, saying "This is one of those movies where all the planets align: a top-notch crew (director Gil Kenan; executive producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis), memorable voices that fit the characters perfectly; and a great story, ingenious backstory, and twisty-turny ending." Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel also gave the film four stars out of five, saying "This Monster House is a real fun house. It's a 3-D animated kids' film built on classic gothic horror lines, a jokey, spooky Goonies for the new millennium." Scott Bowles of USA Today gave the film a positive review, saying that "The movie treats children with respect. Monster's pre-teens are sarcastic, think they're smarter than their parents and are going crazy over the opposite sex. Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "It's engineered to scare your pants off, split your sides and squeeze your tear ducts into submission." Michael Medved called it "ingenious" and "slick, clever [and] funny" while also cautioning parents about letting small children see it due to its scary and intense nature, adding that a "PG-13 rating would have been more appropriate than its PG rating." A. O. Scott of The New York Times commented, "One of the spooky archetypes of childhood imagination—the dark, mysterious house across the street—is literally brought to life in "Monster House," a marvelously creepy animated feature directed by Gil Kenan."
However, the film was not without its detractors. Frank Lovece of Film Journal International praised director Gil Kenan as "a talent to watch" but berated the "internal logic [that] keeps changing.... D.J.'s parents are away, and the house doesn't turn monstrous in front of his teenage babysitter, Zee. But it does turn monstrous in front of her boyfriend, Bones. It doesn't turn monstrous in front of the town's two cops until, in another scene, it does." In a dismissive review, Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote: "Alert 'Harry Potter' fans will notice the script shamelessly lifts the prime personality traits of J. K. Rowling's three most important young characters for its lead trio: Tall, dark-haired, serious-minded DJ is Harry, semi-dufus Chowder is Ron and their new cohort, smarty-pants prep school redhead Jenny (Spencer Locke), is Hermione.... it is a theme-park ride, with shocks and jolts provided with reliable regularity. Across 90 minutes, however, the experience is desensitizing and dispiriting and far too insistent."
Monster House opened theatrically on July 21, 2006, alongside Clerks II, Lady in the Water and My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and grossed $22,217,226 in its opening weekend, ranking number two at the North American box office. The film ended its theatrical run on October 22, 2006, having grossed $73,661,010 domestically and $66,513,996 overseas for a worldwide total of $140,175,006 against a production budget of $75 million.
Awards and nominations
|Academy Award||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Annie Award||Best Animated Feature||Nominated|
|Directing in an Animated Feature Production||Gil Kenan||Nominated|
|Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production||Maggie Gyllenhaal||Nominated|
|Writing in an Animated Feature Production||Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Animated Feature Film||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Animated Film||Nominated|
|Best Young Actor/Actress||Mitchel Musso||Nominated|
|Best Score||Douglas Pipes||Nominated|
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But then this is a kids’ horror...
- Daly, Steve (July 26, 2006). "A chat with Monster House director Gil Kenan". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 29, 2015.
I can’t imagine a better natural setting for a horror film than adolescence.
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- "Review by Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
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- Monster House
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- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- Fox, Matt (3 January 2013). The Video Games Guide: 1,000+ Arcade, Console and Computer Games, 1962-2012 (2nd ed.). McFarland Publishing. p. 192. ISBN 9780786472574.
- Columbia Pictures press release titled "Monster House: July 21, 2006" (offline)
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