Even for a 12-year old, D.J. Walters has a particularly overactive imagination. He is convinced that his haggard and crabby neighbor Horace Nebbercracker, who terrorizes all the neighborhood kids, is responsible for Mrs. Nebbercracker's mysterious disappearance. Any toy that touches Nebbercracker's property, promptly disappears, swallowed up by the cavernous house in which Horace lives. D.J. has seen it with his own eyes! But no one believes him, not even his best friend, Chowder. What everyone does not know is D.J. is not imagining things. Everything he's seen is absolutely true and it's about to get much worse than anything D.J could have imagined.
The spooky shadows and eerie creaking of a rickety old house are brought to life via lush CGI in Monster House. A young boy named DJ has suspicions about the house across the street and the cranky old man (voiced by Steve Buscemi, Fargo) who lives there. When the old man has a heart attack and is carried away by an ambulance, DJ thinks the danger is over. Unfortunately, as he, his friend Chowder, and a candy-selling prep-school girl named Jenny discover, the house itself has plans--plans that include eating all the kids who'll be trick-or-treating that Halloween night. Monster House begins with some deliciously creepy scenes that will send chills down children's spines (and may be too intense for younger viewers); animated movies rarely make such effective use of what isn't being shown. The animation is vivid and detailed (though CGI still has a ways to go in capturing the full range of human facial expressions). But like most horror movies, the anticipation of horror is much more exciting than the horror itself; as the secrets of Monster House are revealed, the movie's thrills unravel. The noisy explosions at the end aren't half as much fun as the slow twitches of a few blades of grass in the movie's elegant beginning. --Bret Fetzer