Monster House [Blu-Ray]
Director : Gil Kenan
Screenplay : Dan Harmon & Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler (story by Dan Harmon & Rob Schrab)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2006
Monster House, a CG-animated horror comedy, has the kind of freaky-fun imagery that goes directly to the heart of your inner child. Kids see monsters everywhere--in knotty trees, in shadows, in wads of clothes under the bed--and first-time director Gil Kenan plays with this tendency by taking the idea of a haunted house to the next level and making the house itself the monster.
A decaying, ramshackle monstrosity surrounded by quaint suburban blandness, the “monster house” of the title anthropomorphizes into a two-story beastie with a hideous, wicked grin filled with teeth made of broken two-by-fours. It’s a wicked villain that is also wickedly funny. You have to have a love of the bizarre and the freaky to truly appreciate the way it makes the mundane evil.
Monster House is told from the point of view of kids, but in a way that is smart and refreshingly blunt. The hero is D.J. (Mitchel Musso), a skinny, big-eared kid whose voice is starting to crack. His best friend is Chowder (Sam Lerner), a lumpy, dork of a kid who is like a mixture of Chunk and Mouth from The Goonies (1985), the kind of cracker-jack ’80s kid flick that Monster House clearly wants to emulate. D.J. is convinced that the creepy house across the street is harboring true evil, something his parents (Catherine O’Hara and Fred Willard) blissfully pooh-pooh the way all clueless adults do in kid-centric fantasy stories.
The house is occupied by a crotchedy, borderline toothless old coot named Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), who seems to relish confiscating anything that enters his yard, whether it be a little girl’s tricycle or a basketball that ends up looking suspiciously like Wilson the volleyball, a nod to executive producer Robert Zemeckis’s Cast Away (2000). To defeat the house, D.J. and Chowder team with Jenny (Spencer Locke), a smarty-pants prep school student to whom they both shamelessly pander, just one of the movie’s many jokes about the unrelentingly onset of puberty (in this sense, Monster House is the best movie in years to make active and meaningful connections between horror and sexuality).
The film’s other executive producer is Steven Spielberg, who is clearly moving back into the mold he filled in the 1980s producing smart, edgy mainstream movies that were united primarily in the way they gleefully put suburban kids in imminent danger. From the child abducted by malicious ghosts in Poltergeist (1982), to the teens struggling to save their picturesque small town from rampaging green beasties in Gremlins (1984), to the aforementioned Goonies and their dodging of various booby traps and pitfalls in search of pirate treasure, these films played like mainstream candy, but always had a dark, sometimes sinister edge. Monster House is very much in that vein, early on giving us a literal first-person view of a character dying right in our faces.
The computer-generated images, which use the same motion-capture technology utilized in Zemeckis’s The Polar Express (2004), but without the über-creepy attempt to replicate photo-realism, look fantastic, and the movie has a fun sense of humor laced with a genuine respect for the uncanny. Yet, Monster House doesn’t turn out to be quite as good as it promises largely because it gives in to de facto summer-thriller roller-coaster tedium in its third act. The house gets to sprout arms (actually leafless trees) and go rampaging through the neighborhood, but it’s done with a sense of such ho-hum expectation (well, this is what you wanted, isn’t it?) that it threatens to drain all the fun out of the movie.
|Monster House Blu-Ray 3D|
|This disc includes both a 2D and a 3D version of the film, the latter of which is viewable only with 3D-enabled playback devices.|
|Subtitles||English, French, Portuguese, Spanish|
|Release Date||September 14, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Monster House was released on Blu-Ray several years ago, but this new disc not only includes a 3D version of the film (which I was unable to view due to my not having the required playback equipment), but also a new AVC/MPEG-4 encode that improves on the original disc (given that there are two versions of the film on a single disc, it has obviously been upgraded to a dual-layered BD-50, as well). Due to its motion-capture origins, the overall look of Monster House is somewhat different from other CG-animated films, with a slightly more waxy, stop-motion look that befits its creepy-fun subject matter. The new direct-digital port looks excellent throughout, with great detail, beautiful colors, and great inky blacks and fine nuance in even the darkest shadows (quite crucial given how much of the film, especially its climax, takes place at night). The DTS-HD Master Audio surround soundtrack is an immersive, robust 5.1-channel mix, with crisp dialogue, ample use of the surround channels, and plenty of aggressive low end at the right moments to give the house an added level of monstrousness.|
|All of the supplementary material from the previous Blu-Ray is repackaged here with no additions. There is a lively, informative audio commentary, the only drawback being the fact that no one is ever identified by name, so we have no idea who is speaking at any given moment. Also included are seven individual behind-the-scenes featurettes that together comprise a half-hour documentary entitled “Inside Monster House.” While relatively short, each of the featurettes packs in a great deal of information, talking-head interviews, and behind the scenes footage to give you a real sense of how the filmmakers put the film together, especially their use of motion-capture. “Evolution of a Scene: Eliza vs. Nebbercracker” is a 20-minute in-depth featurette that allows us to see in detail how a single scene in the film was assembled from the storyboard stage, to preliminary CG animation, to the final product. Lastly, the “Art of Monster House” is divided into three categories--“People,” “Places,” and “Things”--and includes more than 200 images ranging from conceptual art to finished stills.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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