After Raiders of the Lost Ark came out, Stephen Spielberg produced Poltergeist, and let Tobe Hoper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) "direct"* the film about a house that was built on a graveyard, and was haunted by ghosts that freaked out the family in it. There was something about Poltergeist that sticks with me to this day, I can close my eyes and SEE parts of it running in my mind. To this day, there hasn't been a movie about a haunted house that's left that impression on me.
This summer along comes Monster House, a new animated movie produced by Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis (Polar Express) that holds the potential of being so much more than it is, but is still satisfying in an odd way.
Monster House is about three teens that discover that their neighbor's house is really a living, breathing, scary monster that eats everything that lands on it's property. The kids try and convince the adults, then decide to go in and try to solve the mystery of the house. We follow their adventures, and (if you're 11 years old or YOUNGER) get thrilled along the way.
The movie is done in the same kind of motion capture technique that Robert Zemeckis used in Polar Express, only this time the computer generated people in the movie don't have that creepy "exhibits from the Hollywood wax museum come to life" feel to them. Director Gil Kenan brings a movie that had a great cast at his fingertips (Kathleen Turner, Steve Buscemi, Jason Lee to name a few), and gives us a movie that drags at the start, but picks up speed towards the end that made me think of GOONIES. The kids were happy at the end.
This is a PERFECT first horror movie for the younger set: scary enough to make them jump, yet not so scary they'll be sleeping in their parents bed for months after. At the screening I was at all the kids younger than 9 were shrieking in delight at every turn. There were 2 lines in the movie that were directly aimed at grownups and there was laughing from the parents that brought their kids.
But you know.. during the ENTIRE time I was in the theatre, I couldn't help but wonder how it would play out as a live action movie. Poltergeist came into my mind a lot as I reimagined Monster House as a live action popcorn thriller, where real people are being terrorized by a computer generated house. I saw a lot of potential that way.
However, that isn't the product on the screen. From what is on the screen, most parents will find the movie a grind to sit through, where children will find it a safe scary movie. harmless fun all around.
Monster House - C