Spongey’s Fright Fest #2: Monster House

Hello, Spongey here. Welcome back to Spongey’s Fright Fest!

It’s time to do another movie on this thing. This time it’s an actual movie that people know about. Or not. Barely anyone ever talks about this movie, and that’s a shame.

It’s a little animated film that 2006 that got good reviews, and made it’s money back. So why is it mostly forgotten despite plenty of air time on Cartoon Network and recently The Hub?

I’m not sure but perhaps I can figure it out as I review it.

This, is Monster House

Since this is an animated review, I might as well use the Ani-Mmat style for this one.

STORY:

12 Year old DJ waters has never liked his creepy neighbor Mr Nebercracker. But one day he kind of accidentally dies at his hands. He feel incredibly bad for this, but he has no time to worry when he suspects that Nebercracker’s house might be a ravenous monster. So now it’s up to DJ, his friend Chowder, and his new friend Jenny to stop the evil house.

So the story here is pretty simple for most of it. It’s mostly the kids figuring out that the house is a weird monster and also trying to convince the cops that the monster house is real. Once the cops are eaten (SPOILERS) it moves to the kids just trying to stop the house and stuff.

But it mostly works, since this is meant to be a more simple movie. It doesn’t need an unpredictable, complex story. It’s not filled with the usual cliches found in kid’s movies. No romance (sort of), no liar revealed and no other crap like that. It has a couple horror cliches but that’s part of the charm.

The first half still has it’s interesting moments, like how DJ feels guilty for supposedly killing Nebbercracker. Yeah, DJ ended up his lawn for the 1000th time by accident, and Nebbercracker comes out to bitch at him. He picks him, and yells at him. Then in the middle of it, he has a heart attack.

The ambulance drags him off later and he is assumed dead. RATED PG. Yeah, this was a weird but cool dark thing to have in the first 10 minutes. It’s effective and I certainly feel bad for the kid since he thinks he killed a guy.

There a couple other story bits involving DJ’s babysitter too but I’ll save that for the character section. Minor things like that keep it from being completely empty. For the first half, the humor and some of the “scary” elements keep it afloat and keep me invested.

Then in the 3rd act or so, some surprisingly sweet, complex-ish things are revealed. I won’t spoil it but it involves the identity of the house and also Nebbercracker. When we find out the Monster House’s backstory and all that jazz, it’s really cool.

It’s sort of sweet and kind of surprising in a movie like this. The backstory is even a bit dark which of course fits the earlier scene. It’s a very interesting twist that adds some sweet-ness to the thing.

The entire 3rd act is great due to this twist. It went from a good movie to a…quite good movie. But even before that, it’s good. It’s scary fun when they are simply exploring the house and stuff.

That kind of thing keeps it afloat. The humor works, leading to plenty of funny moments with the character. But it never goes overboard and it dies down a little bit by the 2nd half. Most of it comes from Chowder and these two cop characters. I’ll discuss them later, but I found them amusing.

This film has 3 writers. One went to work on Community, one went to CREATE Community, and the other helped write Corpse Bride . So “scary” animated films is sort of in her blood I guess.

It’s not a very complex or tight story. But it’s never boring has few cliches and the 3rd act is dark, sweet, and very interesting. I wish perhaps it had a tighter script so I could love the story more but due it’s constraints, the grade will be tad low in spite of my praise.

But still, this is a decent story that serves the film well.

ANIMATION:

This movie was made by Image Movers, which means it’s Motion capture. If you want my opinion on motion capture, you’re in luck. I think it’s alright. Not the best, not the worst. I haven’t seen a bad motion capture movie except for Mars needs moms. And that film was bad because of the script, not the creepy humans.

Motion capture had been criticized for making the character look soulless or creepy. I usually don’t see that, not even in Mars needs moms. They can look creepy but my issue with it is that it can make the characters look like something out of a Playstation 2 game.

Though it’s not a huge problem for me, even in MNM. I think only Tin-tin pulled it off perfectly, but we’ll get to that one some other time. Anyway, the motion capture in this movie is…okay.

Sadly, it’s never as acceptable as Polar Express or as amazing as Tin-Tin. It’s just okay. Again, my issue is that the characters look like something from a video game for the most part. That’s where the creepy-ness comes from.

It’s not a huge hindrance, but it stops me from appreciating the animation more. Some people like Nebbercracker and this chick who comes in during the 3rd act  look alright,, as do the cops. But the rest are hit and miss.

Sometimes they look decent enough, sometimes they look creepy. This mostly applies to DJ, his babysitter and her boyfriend. They look creepy constantly, at least early on. By the end, I got used to them and they started to look passable.

Chowder and Jenny are sort of the same, but to a less extent. I wish they just used normal CG animation cuz using Motion Capture was kind of pointless. Most of the motion capture PERFORMANCES are good, especially from Nebbercracker but I’ll get to that next.

The rest of the animation is good though. The house looks awesome and the best scenes are when it gets to do stuff. Here the animation is very solid and it’s pretty decent. Which is why I think it should have used normal animation as when it does, it’s good.

As a whole, the animation is alright. The motion capture is hit or miss, but the normal animation is decent and it was rarely an eyesore at least. It could have been better, but I’ve seen worse.

CHARACTERS:

First off, our hero DJ, voiced by Mitchell Musso. For whatever reason, I didn’t recognize Mr Musso even though his voice is usually noticeable. I don’t know if my ears suck or he’s doing something different then in Phineas and Ferb. Anyway, he’s a normal 12 year old kid who ends up kind of killing his neighbor.

He’s pretty just a normal kid and that’s it. However, he has some interesting bits like when he feels guilty of killing Nebbercracker. This adds some depth that I felt was interesting. He also has an interesting thing with his babysitter I’ll get to in a bit. That ends up being cool too.

Otherwise, he’s alright. He’s not incredibly interesting but he is likable and I will willing to spend 90 minutes with him .Some may find him too boring, but he was alright. Musso’s voice work is also good since I couldn’t recognize him.

Then there’s Chowder, voiced by some unknown. He’s not a car-bear thing, but DJ’s chubby friend. He’s fat, stupid and weird. That’s pretty much it. He’s occasionally funny, mostly when he interact with DJ and Jenny. Though he’s usually just kind of there.

He’s not the worst fat sidekick ever, as he can actually be funny and likable at points. But he doesn’t have interesting bits like DJ, so he stands out as…not the best. Also, he’s kind of a dick.

You didn’t murder him…when it’s by accident, it’s called Manslaughter”

Your friend just killed a guy. Show a little sympathy!

But that’s really an isolated incident. He gets more likable by the end. Overall, he was serviceable enough.

There’s also Jenny, voiced by Spencer Locke (Ned’s declassified school survival guide, big time rush,). She attends an elite all girls school and she shows up DJ’s doorstep to peddle chocolates for a fundraiser or something. She gets tangled up in this stuff, and also the two boys are crushes on her. Spoilers, she ends up with DJ.

She’s pretty cool. She’s the type of character you expect her to be, but she is pretty funny and her interactions with the boys get some solid laughs. Again, there isn’t a lot to her but her uptight sort of attitude makes her a bit more amusing than the others.

This is a solid trio I could sit with. Now for the rest.

There’s Elizabeth/Zee, voiced by Maggie Gyllenhaal. DJ’s parents are out for the weekend so the 12 year old needs a babysitter even though he looks plenty responsible. She’s the punk type which means she’s not a fan DJ and she’s all snarky and stuff. She’s pretty enjoyable, and gets some of the funnier moments.

As the movie starts, it’s mostly her and DJ not liking each other, but as the movie goes on we see that she does care for him, in a weird way. Not to say a lot cuz my memory is fuzzing, but it ends up being a tad bit sweet. It adds more to her character, and it helped make DJ more interesting to me.

Then there is Bones, voiced by Jason Lee. He is Zee’s boyfriend. He’s the asshole boyfriend, but I didn’t mind it for two reasons. 1. He’s not a big focus. 2. He gets eaten by the Monster House. He’s a dick to DJ and surprisingly, Zee dumps him early on. She notices he’s a dick and just dumps his ass. Awesome!

He’s alright, though I mostly like how they play with the asshole boyfriend cliché. It makes Zee more awesome. Also, he’s clearly seen drinking beer many times and he’s obviously drunk in the scene where he gets eaten.

You know-for kids!

There’s also Reginald, voiced by Jon Heder (yes, Napoleon Dynamite himself). He’s some video game nerd the kids visit to ask for for advice about the Monster House. He tells that the house may be possessed by nebbercracker. So he’s here to provide that and he vanishes. But his um…odd nature, makes him amusing.

We also briefly see DJ’s parents, voiced by Catherine o Hara and Fred Willard. They don’t do anything except be bad parents. Next!

Then we have the cops, Landers and Lester, voiced by Kevin James and Nick cannon. I’m not the biggest Kevin James fan in the world, but this may be his best performance He’s hilarious as the competent cop (Yes, a fat cop who is competent. This movie about a monster house is so unrealistic!). He provides plenty of laughs and he was a nice surprise for me.

Nick Cannon can be a tad annoying as the black rookie cop but he has funny bits with the other guy so they were both good. They play more into the plot than I say and they are cool. Also, they are 2nd ones to get eaten by the house, so for once, the black guy doesn’t die first!

And last, but not least is Mr Nebbercracker, voiced by Steve Buscemi. He’s the cranky guy who doesn’t want kids on his lawn. And he is mostly that for the first half, but there are hints of some depth that show has a reason for hating kids. I even kind felt bad for him when he died.

But near the end, we find out his backstory and then he becomes surprisingly likable. We see why he was the way he was and he it’s really interesting. It’s a great twist for reasons already explained and it makesNnebbercracker the most complex and interesting character.

Steve is the standout among the cast. He can be surprisingly scary when he wants to be and I almost forget this was him. He’s usually a lot more comedic but this is a more serious role for ihm. He can be his usual self at times, and that’s great too. But I like how scary (and later sweet) he can be. Very nice.

And that’s it. There’s another but that’s a spoiler. I will say she was really cool though. So the characters in this movie are a decent bunch. Only like two are all that complex but they are all (mostly) likable, with funny performances by the actors.

Perhaps the leads could have needed more depth, but as a whole these were some memorable and enjoyable characters.

Final Thoughts:

This is was a very enjoyable movie. The story is simple but fun and even surprising, the animation is passable though creepy, and characters are likable even if they aren’t complex. It seems like every element has something really good in there even though it seems weak.

It’s a fun PG kid’s horror film in a way. It’s not as actual scary as Coraline or ParaNorman but it’s just as good at getting kid’s into horror. It’s not exactly scary but it has a good spooky mood and some minor things that may make it a little awkward for younger kids.

It’s simply some spooky fun. It got nominated for an Oscar for Best animated Film, which makes it’s forgotten status a bit more surprising. Maybe it’s because it’s not as memorable as others, but it needs to be seen more.

I’m not sure why it got me more than most casual viewers. But I think I know why. Let’s see, we got a simple horror story with a semi-odd concept, 12 year old characters who aren’t complex, it’s not scary but it’s fun and has at least a few hidden complexities..

This is Goosebumps.

That’s why I Like it. It resembles a big budget Gooosebumps book with it’s style. Only it’s scarier and the complexities are better written. But still it has the same goal and it achieves just as well. I guess that kind of stuff attracts me.

So maybe that kind of thing doesn’t appeal to people. But this got good reviews, so whatever. If you are thrown off by the  animation…okay, but it’s not THAT bad, And if you look past some parts, you will find a spooky, fun, kid’s film.

STORY: B

ANIMATION: B

CHARACTERS; B

OVERALL: B+

Yeah, this was an odd one as I’d give it a B+ as a whole, but each element is only a B as it’s not good enough for a +. Yet as a whole it is a B+. Whatever.

So check this movie out. See ya next time for a another spooky review.

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About Spongey444

I'm 20 and I'm a slightly below average man who can barely spell. I mostly spend my time watching TV and movies, hence why i ended doing a blog all about those things. I tend to have weird tastes, but I like think I'm just fair on things.
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