Monster House is a 2006 American 3D computer-animated family horror comedy film directed by Gil Kenan, produced by ImageMovers and Amblin Entertainment, and distributed by Columbia Pictures about a neighborhood at the mercy of a demonic haunted house around the holiday of Halloween, starring Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Nick Cannon, Jason Lee, Jon Heder, Kathleen Turner, Catherine O'Hara, and Fred Willard.
Executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, this is the first time since Back to the Future Part III that they have worked together. It is also the first time that Zemeckis and Spielberg both served as executive producers of a film. The film's characters are animated primarily utilizing performance capture, making it the second film to use the technology so extensively, following Zemeckis' The Polar Express.
Monster House received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed over $140 million worldwide. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 79th Academy Awards, but lost to Happy Feet.
The parents of twelve-year-old DJ Walters leave town for the weekend, leaving him in the care of his babysitter, Zee. DJ has been spying on his elderly neighbor Horace Nebbercracker, who confiscates any item landing in his yard. After DJ's best friend Chowder loses his basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn, DJ is caught by Nebbercracker trying to recover it, but the enraged owner apparently suffers a heart attack and is taken away by an ambulance.
That night, DJ receives phone calls from the house with no one on the other end. Eavesdropping on Zee's boyfriend Bones, DJ hears him tell Zee about losing his kite on Nebbercracker's lawn when he was a child and that Nebbercracker supposedly ate his wife. Later, Bones sees his kite in the doorway of Nebbercracker's house, but he is consumed by the house while retrieving it. Meanwhile, DJ meets up with Chowder, and the two investigate the house, but flee when it comes alive and attacks them. The next morning, a girl named Jenny Bennett is selling Halloween candy. DJ and Chowder see her going to Nebbercracker's house and rush out to warn her and barely save her from being eaten. Jenny calls her mom, who doesn't believe her, and then she, DJ, and Chowder call the police, but they don't believe them, either.
The trio consult Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, a supposed expert on the supernatural. They learn 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. They conclude that the heart must be the furnace and Chowder provides a cold medicine-filled dummy that should cause the house to sleep long enough for them to douse the furnace. Police Officers Landers and Lister thwart their plan and they are arrested when Landers finds the cold medicine stolen from Chowder's father's pharmacy inside the dummy. When the officers go to examine the house, it eats them and their car; DJ, Chowder, and Jenny narrowly escape the car, but are trapped inside the house.
When the house falls asleep, the kids begin exploring. In the basement they find a collection of toys accumulated from Nebbercracker's lawn, as well as a door that opens to a shrine containing the body of Nebbercracker's wife, Constance the Giantess, encased in cement. The house realizes they are inside and attacks them. DJ, Chowder and Jenny force the house to vomit them outside by grabbing its uvula. Nebbercracker arrives home alive, revealing that Constance's spirit is within the house and that he did not eat her but instead had given her some of 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. After he helped her escape, they began building the house. 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 basement. Nebbercracker had finished the house, knowing it was what she would have wanted but, aware that Constance's spirit made the house come alive, he pretended to hate children in order to protect them.
DJ tells Nebbercracker it is time to let Constance go, but the house overhears this. Enraged, it breaks free from its foundation and chases the group to a construction site. Nebbercracker attempts to distract the house so he can dynamite it, but the house notices and attacks him. Chowder fights it off with an excavator and DJ is given the dynamite. While Chowder distracts the house, DJ and Jenny climb to the top of a crane and DJ throws the dynamite into the chimney, causing the house to explode. The trio then see Nebbercracker with Constance's ghost before she fades away. DJ apologizes to Nebbercracker for the loss of his house and wife, but Nebbercracker thanks the kids for freeing him and his wife from being trapped for 45 years. Later, children in their Halloween costumes are lined up at the site of the house, where DJ, Chowder, and Jenny help Nebbercracker return the toys to their owners. Jenny says goodbye to DJ and Chowder with the hope of seeing them again in the future before going home with her mother, and DJ and Chowder go trick-or-treating, which they previously felt they were too old for. Those who were eaten by the house emerge from the basement.
- Mitchel Musso as Dustin J. "DJ" Walters, a 12-year-old boy
- Sam Lerner as Chowder, DJ's best friend
- Spencer Locke as Jenny Bennett, a young red-haired girl from a girl’s school whom DJ and Chowder develop feelings for.
- Steve Buscemi as Horace Nebbercracker, a 72-year-old former US Army "demolition squad" expert
- Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth "Zee", DJ's punk babysitter
- Kevin James as Officer Landers, a police officer
- Nick Cannon as Officer Lister, a police officer
- Jason Lee as Bones, Zee's punk rocker boyfriend
- Jon Heder as Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, a videogame-crazed comic geek and expert on the supernatural
- Kathleen Turner as Constance "The Giantess" Nebbercracker, a 675-pound woman who was featured against her will in a circus' freak show in the mid 1940s
- Catherine O'Hara as Mrs. Walters, DJ's overprotective mother
- Fred Willard as Mr. Walters, DJ's overprotective father
The film was shot using performance capture, in which the actors performed the characters' movement while linked to sensors. This process was pioneered by Robert Zemeckis on his film The Polar Express, also produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks.
Digital 3-D version
As with The Polar Express, a stereoscopic 3-D version of the film was created and had a limited special release in digital 3-D stereo along with the "flat" version. While The Polar Express was produced for the 3-D IMAX 70mm giant film format, Monster House was released in approximately 200 theaters equipped for new REAL D Cinema digital 3-D stereoscopic projection. The process was not based on film, but was purely digital. Since the original source material was "built" in virtual 3-D, it created a very rich stereoscopic environment. For the film's release, the studio nicknamed it Imageworks 3D.
Monster House grossed $73,661,010 in the United States and Canada, and $66,513,996 overseas, for a worldwide total of $140,175,006.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Based on 158 reviews collected by review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a 74% approval rating, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Monster House welcomes kids and adults alike into a household full of smart, monstrous fun."
Ian Freer, writing for Empire, gave the film 4 out of 5 stars with the verdict, "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 out of 5 stars and wrote, "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 wrote, "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." He also gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Scott Bowles of USA Today observed, "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."
Dissenting critics included Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, who praised director Gil Kenan as "a talent to watch" but berated the "internal logic [that] keeps changing.... DJ'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." 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.... [I]t 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."
In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Animation Films list.
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 & 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|