By contrast Monster House positively revels in its spookiness, with the gorgeously gothic house as its main character. There’s nothing cartoony about the way the house eats things, growling and grimacing, with its tongue-carpet lashing out viciously, and younger audiences are likely to find the spectacle quite unnerving. But that’s the whole point. Kids like to be scared and, more importantly, they like to be scared of something they have personal experience with. Every neighbourhood in creation has a scary old house, and every kid has felt the dread of passing it by.
It also helps that the movie takes a kid’s-eye-view of the world and never patronises its subjects. Our pre-pubescent heroes are treated like little adults which is really what they are (or at least what they feel they are). The dialogue is also a lot more natural and true to life than the ironic winking and nudging of most animated features. This does mean that the movie has fewer laughs, but the ones it does generate are a lot deeper than the snickering that something like Madagsacar can drum up.
As far as looks go, Monster House can’t really hold a candle to the beautiful worlds wrought by the bigger boys like Pixar or Dreamworks. It does have a nice cinematic feel though, with camera movements that flow through space like a live action film. This feel undoubtedly comes from the fact that the film is actually not a true animated film, but rather a combination of motion capture (where actors are filmed using special techniques and their movements turned into animations) and standard computer animation.
This same technique was used for ImageMovers’ first animated feature, The Polar Express. Thankfully they have improved their methods, and the human characters in Monster House are far more lifelike and far less creepy and wooden than in Express. They’re still a little stilted at times, but they knock the socks off humans in other computer animated films, most of whom are caricatures.
In the end though, it’s the movie’s sense of fun that really carries it along. All the technical mumbo jumbo means nothing if you you’ve seen the story a hundred times. Whatever its faults, Monster House keeps you guessing right until the end. After all the movie was executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, two of modern Hollywood’s greatest popular filmmakers. And if they can’t spot a great story, then no one can.
- Alistair Fairweather
Does the world need another big animation studio? Watching Monster House, the madcap and mischievous debut feature by Sony Pictures Animation, the answer is a big fat "yes".
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