When a movie is produced by such illustrious names as Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, audience expectation runs high. The production values of Monster House meet those expectations, but the story flip-flops back and forth from horror to comedy without warning and creates a blend that’s hard to judge.
Visually, Monster House is stunning. The computer generated cartoon is smooth, filled with color, and makes use of digital effects almost effortlessly while hitting on every cylinder. There’s always something happening on screen, and a lot of it is unexpected or so over the top it takes the viewer’s breath away.
The sound stands out, too, especially over a surround sound system. Every creak, roar, crash, and explosion rocks the house. And when the film goes silent to spike the anticipation and dread, that absence of noise blasts across the viewer’s nervous system. I watched the movie with my nine-year-old and he was on the edge of his chair the whole time, except for when he was laughing his head off. I had a good time with it, but there was the confusion about whether it was a horror movie or a comedy.
The story revolves around DJ, a pre-teen boy who lives across the street from the Nebbercracker house. Spielberg specializes in bringing suburbia to life and filling it with creeping evil and science fiction (Poltergeist or E.T., anyone?) and his touches are apparent in this film. Even if he didn’t do them himself, the creative department pulled a card from his deck of tricks.
The Nebbercracker house is THE house — the house that every kid in the neighborhood is certain is haunted. When the movie opens and shows a little girl riding her tricycle across the sidewalk, then accidentally driving onto the Nebbercracker lawn, you just know that something bad is about to happen. When Nebbercracker rushes out screaming, then takes her tricycle away, you know he’s nuts.
But things turn out even worse than that when DJ and his buddy Chowder lose Chowder’s basketball in Nebbercracker’s yard. DJ ends up in an argument with Nebbercracker and the old man has a heart attack. Thinking he’s killed him, DJ totally freaks. But like all pre-teen boys, he just can’t stay away from things.
Later, during the babysitter from hell sequence that is played so well, DJ learns the dark history of the house (at least as everyone else knows it) from Bone, the babysitter’s mean boyfriend. Later, when Bone is lured into the house after being so mean to DJ, I felt like cheering when Bone was swallowed up. But I knew that meant the danger to DJ was even greater.