Monster House (2006)
October 9, 2015 12:49 PM - Subscribe

Three teens discover that their neighbor's house is really a living, breathing, scary monster.

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) noted the technology in the film in his 2006 review:
"Usually praising a movie about its new technology makes about as much sense as praising a movie for its old technology. Within a year or two, all technology becomes old technology, and the reasons that a movie is good or bad have a lot to do with how the technology is used and little to do with the technology itself. But this 'motion-capture' process, first seen in 'The Polar Express,' constitutes a creative breakthrough as well as a technological one.

"Animated films always had the advantage of being able to go anywhere and show anything, to defy the laws of physics and follow the imagination as far as it could go. But they never had the ability to show the human face. There was never any point to a close-up in an animated film — there was never really anything to see. But with the motion-capture process, real actors give their performances with computer sensors attached to their face and body, and that recorded information becomes the template for the computer animation. If an actor is bug-eyed, the character will look bug-eyed. Moreover, if the actor is thinking or is full of doubt, the technology will be able to render subtle qualities of pensiveness or doubt in the animation."
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: "'Monster House' is unpretentious, smartly written (by Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler) and a lot of fun."

Not everyone was a fan - Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: "...'Monster House' is a grisly, often cynical piece of work whose joyless, aggressive spirit is made even less appealing by its soulless visual style."

Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis are among the producers.

Monster House Trailer

"This is why nobody will sit next to us at lunch."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (4 comments total)
This was one of those movies I kind of wrote off when it first came out, then later watched it on cable and thought, "Whoa, this is good!" This is important, because it takes a good film to rise above Zemeckis' preference for motion capture for animation. It's a burden to finish The Polar Express and Beowulf definitely suffers. For some reason, it didn't happen in this film. It had a good balance of being a smart movie that related the experience of kids, something more akin to Goonies than to a lot of other animated fare at the time.
posted by Atreides at 1:47 PM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

The characters don't have that "dead eye" mo-cap look. Steve Buscemi's old man seems particularly vivid and alive. Buscemi "over-acted" on purpose, so his character's emotions come through and he looks like a character who was actually animated instead of a Zemeckis-esque mo-cap zombie.

Watching the making-of stuff, it became pretty obvious why Zemeckis and other filmmakers were so enamored with the technology. The actors could act out a scene, and once they got a good take the director could basically zoom around the virtual set and capture the action from any angle he wanted, with the option to change the lighting and all kinds of other stuff. The level of control was amazing and unprecedented. But it came at the cost of characters who looked undead. The fad seems to have burned out, and I think this is the only one of the mo-cap movies from that era that still holds up. Partly that's because the characters just look better than they did in the other mo-cap movies, but this is also just a really fun movie with characters you care about.

Here's a super fun clip for fans of the film: the filmmakers work out the big action climax scene with cardboard props and action figures.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:51 PM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Dan Harmon's letter to a child scared by Monster House is well worth the read:
I will tell you a secret that sounds so silly, you might not believe it, but this is true: I never finished writing Monster House before my bosses turned it into a movie. And then different writers, people I don’t even know, changed the story in lots of ways, and the movie that you saw was not the story I wanted to tell you.

I think a good story, even if it is sad or scary while you’re watching it, should always make you a little less scared after you’ve seen it. Because even a scary story, if it’s a good scary story, takes us into strange, dark places that don’t make sense at first, and helps us see that they do make sense, and are therefore not so scary.

And that didn’t happen in Monster House. The kids go inside the house, and everything’s scary in there, but nothing starts making more sense. I don’t know about you, but when I go inside a giant scary monster, I expect to be rewarded for my bravery. There should always be something inside a monster that helps you understand it, and makes you less scared of it, and able to make the monster go away. Not just a bunch of stuff that makes you more confused and scared.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:03 PM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's a nice story, but I sure disagree with Harmon's take on the film. I'm curious about what happened inside the house, in his draft. In the finished film, it seemed pretty clear that the old man's wife had been a very sad, wounded woman, she'd died in the house and her ghost had possessed the place. There's nothing really confusing there. The kids are rewarded for their bravery, in that they help the ghost move on, they help the old guy accept his loss, they rid the neighborhood of the monster house, they make a new friend out of the old man, they (inadvertently) rescue the people who had been eaten by the house and everybody gets their old toys and stuff back. It's a happy ending for everybody!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:43 PM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older The Blacklist: Marvin Gerard...   |  Movie: The Lost Honor of Katha... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments