DJ has always been suspicious of the spooky house across the street. The old man who lives there always confiscates any toy that lands on his front yard but when he is rushed to hospital, DJ, his friend, Chowder and Girl Scout, Jenny, discover that the house itself has a malicious mind of its own. On Halloween night they must work together to stop the house from eating all the trick and treaters due to knock on its door.
Monster House (2006) – Director: Gil Kenan
Running Length: 91 mins
Starring: Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Steve Buscemi
Genre: Animated, Horror, Fantasy
Executive Producers Robert Zemeckis (‘Polar Express’) and Steven Spielberg (‘Gremlins’) work together for the first time since ‘Back To The Future Part III’ for ‘Monster House’. ‘Monster House’ showcases a dark, uncompromising story and strong plot concept; it is clear that Zemeckis and Spielberg have firmly put their own stamps on this movie which could probably be best described as a horror film for kids. For adults, a haunted house theme will not be a new concept; however ‘Monster House’ manages to keep the ideas fresh and interesting for both the older and younger members of the audience.
The character of DJ is particularly interesting with his loving but busy parents and mean babysitter, all of whom barely give him the slightest bit of attention, let alone believe his story of the living house that wants to eat passers-by. Desperate to be seen as more mature, DJ feels a great deal of frustration with his childish friend, Chowder, but his warmth and protection of him make DJ a sympathetic and likeable character that anyone can relate to. Another believable aspect of ‘Monster House’ is that it certainly focuses on a child’s point of view where all the adults and authority figures are unwilling to listen and are dismissive of the danger that only the child characters can see.
While the ending could have been somewhat shorter, ‘Monster House’ is a great film that will both entertain and capture the imaginations of any child who enjoys a good scare.
IS ‘MONSTER HOUSE’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
‘Monster House’ is a movie which definitely has kids in mind for its audience. However its plotline of a malicious possessed house does warrant a few cautionary notes regarding content. The beginning of the movie sees a happy little girl riding a tricycle along the street. She comes across the house and is forced to stop on its front yard. At this point, Mr Nebbercracker (the owner of the living house) is introduced as he runs at the girl. He rants and raves, shouting ‘Do you want to be eaten alive?’
When Chowder loses his beloved basketball on Mr Nebbercracker’s lawn, DJ decides to get it before he gets caught. However, the old man catches him and lifts DJ up while he shouts at him. He then clutches his heart and collapses on top of DJ. This could be quite scary as the shot is from DJ’s point of view; he sees the lifeless Nebbercracker falling onto him; his glazed eyes landing directly in front of the screen. Nebbercracker is then seen being taken away by an ambulance and there are several references throughout the rest of the movie of the old man being dead and that DJ has ‘murdered’ him.
When DJ is asleep, the shadow of the house seems to seep through DJ’s window. It grows on his carpet and becomes more like a skull with is glowing windows and door. A shadowy hand appears from it and grabs DJ who then wakes up (showing that this was a dream). The phone then rings and it is soon made clear that it is the house that is calling him. The accompanying noises and score make this a particularly frightening moment and although it isn’t sustained, it is probably the scariest part of the film so if your child is ok with this, they should be ok with the rest of the movie.
When the house comes to life, its external features of angry eyes, sharp wooden teeth and a lunging tongue are bound to keep kids on the edge of their seats. The inside of the house isn’t as bad, however the suspense is ramped up, the kids find something terrible in the cellar and are then attacked by the house. While the internal setting of the house is not as scary as other parts of the film, younger children may need some reassurance as the suspense is sustained and there are a few jumpy moments.
The finale of the movie is extremely sustained and frightening. The house pulls away from its foundations and chases the characters down the street, attempting to kill them. It is clearly very angry and relentlessly attacks them. The sustained element of this does not really get any worse as the action continues so if your child is ok with the first few minutes then they are likely to be fine to watch until the end. You may wish to sit with them the first time they see this particular scene to ensure you are happy with their reactions to the content.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
While not necessarily being the best kids movie of recent years, ‘Monster House’ is fun to watch and keeps the scares coming enough to be gripping but not so much as to terrify its younger viewers. Due to the inherent nature of a movie about a possessed house, it is likely to be too frightening for children under the age of 8, however we would recommend that you watch this movie with your child for the first time to ensure that they are comfortable with it. The scene (chapter number 5 on the DVD) with the shadow of the house seeping through the window is the one most likely to cause nightmares so if you feel that your child may struggle with this scene, we would advise that you either watch it beforehand or ensure you are with your child so as to be available to reassure them if necessary.
- Violence: 2/5 (the house is very violent towards anyone who approaches it and snatches adults, kids and dogs)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (it is quite upsetting when the story of the house is revealed and a necessary decision that a character has to make towards the end is sad)
- Fear Factor: 3/5
- Sexual Content: 1/5 (DJ’s dad says that he used to spy on twin girls when he was younger and there is an innocent rivalry between DJ and Chowder for Jenny’s affections. Chowder at one point says ‘she touched my butt’. The teenage babysitter invites her boyfriend round, DJ hears them talking and the boyfriend calls her a prude when she rebuffs his advances. There is nothing explicit in the dialogue and children are unlikely to understand the meaning of this)
- Bad Language: 2/5 (some mild cursing and blasphemy)
- Dialogue: 2/5 (as well as what has previously been mentioned, when they are inside the house, they stimulate its gag reflex and make it sick. Jenny uses the term ‘uvula’ for this and Chowder thinks it is therefore a ‘girl house’; you therefore may get inquisitive young minds asking what this means)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of courage, doing the right thing, facing your fears, childhood and growing up.
Words by Laura Record
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