Monster House (film)

Monster House

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gil Kenan
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Dan Harmon
  • Rob Schrab
Music by Douglas Pipes
Cinematography Xavier Perez Grobet
Edited by
  • Fabienne Rawley
  • Adam P. Scott
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • July 21, 2006 (2006-07-21)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[2]
Box office $140.2 million[2]

Monster House is a 2006 American 3D computer-animated family[3] horror comedy film[4] directed by Gil Kenan, produced by ImageMovers and Amblin Entertainment, and distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film stars Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O'Hara, Kathleen Turner, and Fred Willard.

Executive produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, this is the first time since Back to the Future Part III that they have worked together. It is also the first time that Zemeckis and Spielberg both served as executive producers of a film. The film's characters are animated primarily utilizing performance capture, making it the second film to use the technology so extensively, following Zemeckis' The Polar Express.

Monster House received generally positive reviews from critics[5] and grossed over $140 million worldwide.[2] The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 79th Academy Awards, but lost to Happy Feet.


12 year old "DJ" Walters spies on his elderly neighbor Mr. Horace Nebbercracker, who confiscates any item landing in his yard. DJ's parents leave town for a dentist convention, leaving him in the care of Elizabeth "Zee". DJ's best friend Charles "Chowder" accidentally loses his basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn. DJ tries to recover it, but Nebbercracker rages at him, but suffers a heart attack, and is taken away by an ambulance. That night, DJ receives mysterious phone calls from the house with no one on the other end. Eavesdropping on Zee's boyfriend Bones, DJ hears him tell Zee about losing his kite on Nebbercracker's lawn when he was younger, and that Nebbercracker supposedly ate his wife. Later, Bones sees his kite in the doorway of Mr. Nebbercracker's house, but he is consumed by the house while retrieving it.

Later, DJ meets Chowder at a construction site and recruits him to investigate Nebbercracker's house. Once arriving, Chowder rings the doorbell, only to discover that the house is in fact alive, and it scares him and DJ away.

The next morning, a girl named Jenny Bennett is selling Halloween chocolates. DJ and Chowder see her going to the house and rush out to catch her before she is eaten. Jenny calls the police but they do not believe their story.

The trio seek advice from Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, supposedly an expert on the supernatural. They learn that the house is a rare monster created when a human soul merges with a man-made structure and that it can only be killed by destroying its heart. They predict that the heart must be the furnace. Chowder provides a cold medicine-filled dummy that should cause the house to sleep long enough for them to douse the furnace. However Police Officers Landers and Lester saw them and they thwart their plan and they are arrested when Landers finds the cold medicine stolen from Chowder's father's pharmacy inside the dummy. As Landers and Lester were about to leave with the kids they heard the house's sounds. When the officers go to examine the house, it eats them, including the trio placed in the car.

When the house falls asleep, the kids begin exploring. In the basement they find a collection of toys accumulated from Nebbercracker's lawn, as well as a door that opens to a shrine containing the body of Nebbercracker's wife Constance the Giantess, encased in cement, which fully convinces them that Nebbercracker had murdered his wife. The house realizes they are inside and attacks them. DJ, Chowder and Jenny force the house to vomit them outside by grabbing its uvula. Nebbercracker arrives home alive, revealing that Constance's spirit is within the house and that he did not kill her but instead had given her some of the happiest times in her life. As a young man, he met Constance at a circus freak show, and fell in love with her despite her obesity. After he helped her escape, they began building the house. One Halloween, as children tormented her due to her size, Constance tried chasing them away, but lost her balance and fell to her death into the unfinished basement, where she was covered in concrete. Nebbercracker had finished the house, knowing it was what she would have wanted but aware that Constance's spirit made the house come alive, he pretended to hate children so as to keep them away to protect them from being eaten.

DJ tells Nebbercracker it is time to let Constance go, but the house overhears this. Enraged, it breaks free from its foundation and chases the group to the construction site. Nebbercracker attempts to distract the house so he can throw a stick of dynamite at it, but the house notices and attacks him. Chowder destroys it with an excavator and DJ is given the dynamite. However, the house reassembles itself and disables the excavator. While Chowder distracts the house, DJ and Jenny climb to the top of a crane and DJ throws the dynamite into the chimney, causing the house to explode. The trio then see Nebbercracker dancing with Constance's ghost before she finally moves on to the afterlife. DJ apologizes to Nebbercracker for the loss of his house and wife, but Nebbercracker thanks the kids for freeing him and his wife from being trapped for 45 years. That night, children in their Halloween costumes are lined up at the site of the house, where DJ, Chowder and Jenny help return the toys to their owners. Jenny leaves with her mom, DJ's parents return, and DJ and Chowder go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, which they previously felt they were too old for.

In a post-credits scene, those who were eaten by the house now emerge from the basement.



Performance capture

The film was shot using performance capture, in which the actors performed the characters' movement while linked to sensors. This process was pioneered by Robert Zemeckis on his film The Polar Express, also produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks.[7]

Digital 3-D version

As with The Polar Express, a stereoscopic 3-D version of the film was created and had a limited special release in digital 3-D stereo along with the "flat" version. While The Polar Express was produced for the 3-D IMAX 70mm giant film format, Monster House was released in approximately 200 theaters equipped for new REAL D Cinema digital 3-D stereoscopic projection. The process was not based on film, but was purely digital. Since the original source material was "built" in virtual 3-D, it created a very rich stereoscopic environment. For the film's release, the studio nicknamed it Imageworks 3D.[8]


Monster House grossed $73,661,010 in the United States and Canada, and $66,513,996 overseas, for a worldwide total of $140,175,006.[2]

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. Based on 158 reviews collected by review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a 74% approval rating, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Monster House welcomes kids and adults alike into a household full of smart, monstrous fun."[5]

Ian Freer, writing for Empire, gave the film 4 out of 5 stars with the verdict, "A kind of Goonies for the Noughties, Monster House is a visually dazzling thrill ride that scales greater heights through its winning characters and poignantly etched emotions. A scary, sharp, funny movie, this is the best kids’ flick of the year so far."[9] Jane Boursaw of Common Sense Media also gave it 4 out of 5 stars and wrote, "This is one of those movies where all the planets align: a top-notch crew (director Gil Kenan; executive producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis), memorable voices that fit the characters perfectly; and a great story, ingenious backstory, and twisty-turny ending."[10] Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel wrote, "This Monster House is a real fun house. It's a 3-D animated kids' film built on classic gothic horror lines, a jokey, spooky Goonies for the new millennium." He also gave it 4 out of 5 stars.[11] Scott Bowles of USA Today observed, "The movie treats children with respect. Monster's pre-teens are sarcastic, think they're smarter than their parents and are going crazy over the opposite sex.[12] Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "It's engineered to scare your pants off, split your sides and squeeze your tear ducts into submission."[13] Michael Medved called it "ingenious" and "slick, clever [and] funny" while also cautioning parents about letting small children see it due to its scary and intense nature, adding that a "PG-13 rating" would have been more appropriate than its "PG rating."[14] A. O. Scott of the New York Times commented, "One of the spooky archetypes of childhood imagination — the dark, mysterious house across the street — is literally brought to life in “Monster House,” a marvelously creepy animated feature directed by Gil Kenan."[15]

Dissenting critics included Frank Lovece of Film Journal International, who praised director Gil Kenan as "a talent to watch" but berated the "internal logic [that] keeps changing.... DJ's parents are away, and the house doesn't turn monstrous in front of his teenage babysitter, Zee. But it does turn monstrous in front of her boyfriend, Bones. It doesn't turn monstrous in front of the town's two cops until, in another scene, it does."[16] Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "Alert "Harry Potter" fans will notice the script shamelessly lifts the prime personality traits of J.K. Rowling's three most important young characters for its lead trio: Tall, dark-haired, serious-minded DJ is Harry, semi-dufus Chowder is Ron and their new cohort, smarty-pants prep school redhead Jenny (Spencer Locke), is Hermione.... [I]t is a theme-park ride, with shocks and jolts provided with reliable regularity. Across 90 minutes, however, the experience is desensitizing and dispiriting and far too insistent."[17]

In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated this film for its Top 10 Animation Films list.[18]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Award[19] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Annie Award[20] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Gil Kenan Nominated
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Maggie Gyllenhaal Nominated
Sam Lerner Nominated
Spencer Locke Nominated
Writing in an Animated Feature Production Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab & Pamela Pettler Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[21] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Saturn Award[22] Best Animated Film Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Mitchel Musso Nominated
Best Score Douglas Pipes Nominated

Video game

A video game based on the film, titled Monster House, was released by THQ on July 18, 2006 for PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS.[23] Players can choose one of the three main characters from the film (voiced by the same actors), and explore new sections of the house, battling creatures with water blasters and other unique weapons.[23]


  1. "Monster House". British Board of Film Classification. June 16, 2006. Retrieved October 28, 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Monster House". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  3. De Semlyen, Phil (September 24, 2010). "10 Horror Movies For Kids (Big And Small)". Empire. Retrieved August 29, 2015. But then this is a kids’ horror...
  4. Daly, Steve (July 26, 2006). "A chat with Monster House director Gil Kenan". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 29, 2015. I can’t imagine a better natural setting for a horror film than adolescence.
  5. 1 2 Monster House at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. "Monster House". iTunes. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  7. "The Animation of Monster House". Lost in the Plot. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  8. For more info on the 3D technology used for Sony ImageWorks Monster House, visit:
  9. "Review by Ian Freer (Empire)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  10. "Review by Jane Boursaw (Common sense Media)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  11. "Review by Roger Moore (Orlando Sentinel)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  12. "Review by Scott Bowles (USA Today)". July 20, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  13. "Review by Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle)". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  14. Michael Medved: Movie Minute
  15. "Review by A. O. Scott (New York Times)". The New York Times. July 21, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  16. Monster House
  17. McCarthy, Todd (4 July 2006). "Monster House". Variety. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  18. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  19. "The 79th Academy Awards (2007) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  20. "34th Annual Annie Nominations and Awards Recipients". Annie Awards. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  21. Ball, Ryan (December 14, 2006). "Golden Globes Favor Cars, Happy Feet, Monster House". Animation Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  22. Weinberg, Scott (February 21, 2007). "Celebrate the Genre Goodness with the Saturn Awards". Moviefone. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
  23. 1 2 THQ (July 18, 2003). "Save the Neighborhood in the New Monster House(TM) Video Game From THQ, Based on the Anticipated Summer Blockbuster Film From Columbia Pictures" (Press release). PR Newswire. Archived from the original on September 13, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2015.

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