Monster House
Film poster showing three children standing behind and looking at the haunted house. The tagline "There goes the neighborhood." appears at the top of the poster, and the title and the names of the cast and crew appears at the bottom of the poster.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGil Kenan
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Dan Harmon
  • Rob Schrab
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyXavier Perez Grobet
Edited by
  • Fabienne Rawley
  • Adam P. Scott
Music byDouglas Pipes
Production
companies
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
  • June 30, 2006 (2006-06-30) (Lowe's Motor Speedway)
  • July 6, 2006 (2006-07-06) (Hollywood)
  • July 15, 2006 (2006-07-15) (Los Angeles)
  • July 21, 2006 (2006-07-21) (United States)
  • July 27, 2006 (2006-07-27) (Russia)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$75 million[2]
Box office$141.9 million[2]

Monster House is a 2006 American computer-animated supernatural horror comedy 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). It was Sony's first computer animated film produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Produced by Robert Zemeckis' ImageMovers, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment (marking their first theatrically-released fully animated film since Balto) and Relativity Media (their first animated film),[3] the film was released theatrically by Columbia Pictures on July 21, 2006. It was a critical and commercial success, receiving generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $142 million worldwide against a $75 million budget.[2] Monster House received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Happy Feet.

It later premiered on Syfy on October 2020 as part of Syfy's 31 Days of Halloween.

Plot

On October 30, 1983 in Mayville, Wisconsin, the parents of 12-year-old D.J. Walters go to a dentist convention for the weekend, leaving him in the care of his babysitter Zee. D.J. has been spying on his elderly neighbor, Horace Nebbercracker, who scares away children from his front yard and confiscates their belongings. After D.J.'s best friend, Chowder, misplaces his basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn, D.J. is caught attempting to retrieve it and the enraged Nebbercracker appears to suffer a heart attack from overexerting himself and is taken away by an ambulance. He is presumed dead by D.J. who holds himself responsible. That night, D.J. gets phone calls from the house with no one on the other end.

Zee's boyfriend, Bones, comes over for the night and reveals that as a child, Nebbercracker stole his kite and was allegedly rumored to have eaten his wife. After Zee throws him out, he sees his lost kite in the house's front door, but is abducted by the house while attempting to retrieve it. D.J. and Chowder investigate but retreat when the house comes alive and attacks them. The next morning, schoolgirl Jenny Bennett sells Halloween candy and goes to the house; D.J. and Chowder save her before she gets eaten. Jenny calls police officers Landers and Lister, who do not believe the children because the house is inactive when adults are present.

The trio consults supernatural expert Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, learning that the house is a rare monster created when a human soul merges with a man-made structure, and can only be killed by destroying its heart. Concluding that Nebbercracker's spirit was responsible and that the heart must be its furnace, they create and bring a dummy containing cold medicine from a pharmacy owned by Chowder's father. Before the dummy reaches the house however, Landers and Lister thwart their plan and arrest them after Landers discovers the stolen medicine. Before they can leave, the house devours everyone and the police vehicle.

After the house falls asleep, the three begin exploring it. In the basement, they find a shrine containing the cement-encased skeleton of Nebbercracker's late wife, Constance the Giantess. The house attacks them, though they force it to vomit them outside by grabbing its uvula. Nebbercracker returns alive and well, revealing that the house is actually possessed by Constance's spirit. As a young man, he met Constance, then an unwilling member of a circus freak show, and fell in love with her. After helping her to escape, they were married and he bought a piece of land to construct a house. One Halloween, two children tormented Constance for her size. Constance became enraged and attempted to chase off the children with an axe; when Nebbercracker attempted to stop her, she accidentally tripped and fell to her death in the unfinished basement of the house, in the process inadvertently activating a cement mixer that buried her body. Nebbercracker finished the house like she would've wanted, and when it became obvious that Constance's vengeful spirit had possessed the house, he began driving away visitors to protect them.

D.J. convinces Nebbercracker to let Constance go, enraging the house. It breaks free from its foundation and chases after the group. Nebbercracker realizes the trouble Constance has caused and attempts to destroy the house with some dynamite, and it attempts to kill him. Chowder intervenes using an excavator from the adjacent construction site and Nebbercracker gives D.J. the dynamite. After luring the house into the site, D.J. ascends the nearby crane and, with Jenny's help, manages to throw the dynamite into the house's chimney, destroying it and releasing Constance's spirit, who shares a final moment with Nebbercracker before finally ascending to the afterlife as Nebbercracker thanks the kids for freeing him from being trapped without Constance for 45 years. That night, the children Nebbercracker drove away line up at the former site of the house, where the group returns everything confiscated by Nebbercracker. D.J. and Chowder go trick-or-treating, which they initially felt they were too old for.

During the credits, those who were eaten by the house emerge from the basement. Bones finds that Zee is now dating Skull, Officer Landers and Officer Lister leave to "investigate" some of the trick-or-treating candy, and a dog urinates on a nearby jack-o'-lantern enough to extinguish its flame.

Cast

Monster House co-stars Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke and Mitchel Musso at the 34th Annie Awards.
Monster House co-stars Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke and Mitchel Musso at the 34th Annie Awards.

Production

The film was initially set up at DreamWorks Animation, based on a pitch by newcomer Gil Kenan.[4] Having just finished film school recently, Kenan had been having several meetings with film producers for a while, but he hadn't found any success, with a screenplay based on the Pac-Man video game series going unproduced. After Kenan received Dan Harmon's and Rob Schrab's Monster House screenplay for ImageMovers, Kenan had a meeting with the head of story Bennett Schneir, where he was able to pitch his vision for the film. Schneir worked for Robert Zemeckis as the head of development at ImageMovers, and Kenan had a meeting with Zemeckis quickly thereafter, apparently due to the filmmakers wanting to get a director for the project as fast as they could. Upon impressing Zemeckis with his pitch, Kenan then had a meeting with Steven Spielberg, meeting during which he pitched the film to Spielberg in a presentation with some sketches and drawings he had drawn before meeting Zemeckis.[5] By 2004, the studio put the film in turnaround, to which Sony Pictures picked up the project and began production on August 23 of that year.[4]

The original screenplay of Monster House was, in Kenan's words, "absolutely brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny". Due to his experience as a storyteller, Kenan decided to preserve all the characters and the tone from Harmon's and Schrab's story, but added the idea that the titular house was possessed by a soul, leading to the creation of Constance Nebbercracker and the house's backstory. To help him revise the script and introduce Constance and Horace Nebbercracker into the plot, Kenan brought Pamela Pettler after reading her script for Corpse Bride (2005). They worked on the script at her house, and to meet the established deadline, they finished a draft quickly and sent it to Amy Pascal at Columbia Pictures. As work in the screenplay was underway, in a few months of preparation, Kenan had assembled a team of storyboard artists led by Simeon Wilkins in Studio City, Los Angeles to put up rudimentary boards with scratch dialogue and temporal score, with Khang Lee and Chris Appelhans collaborating on paintings for the film.[5]

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 Zemeckis for his film The Polar Express (2004).[6] Zemeckis was in the process of starting filming The Polar Express when he met Kenan, who visited the set to see how that film was filmed and discussed with Kenan how they would exactly shoot Monster House, deciding that they prioritize the story before the filming technology, though Kenan always felt that the story should use animation to create a world with a living house, as he opined that making the house a viable threat and character would better work in an animated setting.[5] A stereoscopic 3D version of the film was created and had a limited release in digital 3D stereo alongside the 2D 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.[7]

The casting for Monster House was a laborious process, especially for the lead trio, who were portrayed by Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner and Spencer Locke. Kenan agreed with head of animation Troy Saliba that actors should be needed to portray the roles in a believable way. Many of the film's artists interpreted the roles on set and enhanced the lead actors through good old-fashioned posed animation that drove the exaggerations of their performances to make them feel subtle and real.[5]

Ed Verreaux served as the production designer of Monster House. To design the neighbourhood where the story takes place, Verreaux realized that the film's setting needed to resemble that of 1980s films, like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). During his discussions with Harmon and Schrab, Kenan was told that the film's setting was inspired by that of Wisconsin, Minneapolis. Verreaux and Kenan went together in a scouting to design the film's locations, which involved a visit to Universal Studios' backlot, during which they were granted access to the suburban street of The 'Burbs (1989), the neighborhood of the show Desperate Housewives and the house of Psycho (1960).[5]

Monster House was the first animated feature film using the Arnold rendering software (co-developed at Sony Pictures Imageworks), and the first feature film entirely rendered with unbiased, brute-force path tracing.[8][9]

Years after the movie came out, Harmon received a letter from an upset 7-year-old who was displeased with the film. Harmon wrote back that he did not finish the script when the studio took it and hired other writers to change it. He further denounced it by stating that Kenan was a hack and called Spielberg a moron.[10]

Reception

Critical response

Review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 75% approval rating, based on 162 reviews with an average rating of 6.83/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Monster House welcoms [sic] kids and adults alike into a household full of smart, monstrous fun."[11] On Metacritic the film has a score of 68 out of 100 based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

Roger Ebert gave the film his highest ranking of four stars calling it "one of the most original and exciting animated movies I've seen in a long time" and compared it to the work of Tim Burton.[14] 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."[15] 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."[16] 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."[17] 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".[18] 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."[19] 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."[20] 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."[21]

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."[22] 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."[23]

Box office

Monster House opened theatrically on July 21, 2006, alongside Clerks II, Lady in the Water and My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and grossed $22.2 million in its opening weekend, ranking number two at the North American box office behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The film ended its theatrical run on October 22, 2006, having grossed $73.7 million in North America and $68.2 million overseas for a worldwide total of $141.9 million against a production budget of $75 million.[2]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Award[24] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Annie Award[25] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Gil Kenan Nominated
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Maggie Gyllenhaal Nominated
Sam Lerner Nominated
Spencer Locke Nominated
Writing in an Animated Feature Production Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[26] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Saturn Award[27] Best Animated Film Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Mitchel Musso Nominated
Best Score Douglas Pipes Nominated

In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Animation Films list.[28]

Video game

Main article: Monster House (video game)

A video game based on the film was released by THQ on July 18, 2006 for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS.[29]

References

  1. ^ "Monster House". British Board of Film Classification. June 16, 2006. Retrieved October 28, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Monster House". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  3. ^ McCarthy, Todd (July 4, 2006). "Review: 'Monster House'". Variety. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Ryan Ball (July 20, 2004). "Sony Moves into DreamWorks' Monster House". Animation Magazine. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Awalt, Steven (September 27, 2021). "Into the 'Monster House'". Amblin Entertainment. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  6. ^ "The Animation of Monster House". Lost in the Plot. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  7. ^ For more info on the 3D technology used for Sony ImageWorks Monster House, visit: www.reald.com
  8. ^ "about". www.arnoldrenderer.com. Autodesk.
  9. ^ Eric Haines (July 20, 2010). "Marcos and Arnold". Ray Tracing News.
  10. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (March 29, 2010). "'Community' Creator Writes to Child, Disses Spielberg and Wins Our Hearts". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2021.
  11. ^ Monster House at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Monster House - Metacritic
  13. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  14. ^ "Monster House (2006) - Roger Ebert Review". Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  15. ^ "Review by Ian Freer (Empire)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  16. ^ "Review by Jane Boursaw (Common sense Media)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  17. ^ "Review by Roger Moore (Orlando Sentinel)". Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  18. ^ "Review by Scott Bowles (USA Today)". July 20, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  19. ^ "Review by Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  20. ^ Michael Medved: Movie Minute Archived 2008-03-11 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Review by A. O. Scott (New York Times)". The New York Times. August 28, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  22. ^ Monster House
  23. ^ McCarthy, Todd (4 August 2006). "Monster House". Variety. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  24. ^ "The 79th Academy Awards (2007) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  25. ^ "34th Annual Annie Nominations and Awards Recipients". Annie Awards. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  26. ^ Ball, Ryan (December 14, 2006). "Golden Globes Favor Cars, Happy Feet, Monster House". Animation Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  27. ^ Weinberg, Scott (February 21, 2007). "Celebrate the Genre Goodness with the Saturn Awards". Moviefone. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  28. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  29. ^ 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.