Monster House (film)

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Monster House
Monster House poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gil Kenan
Produced by Jack Rapke
Steve Starkey
Screenplay by Dan Harmon
Rob Schrab
Pamela Pettler
Story by Dan Harmon
Rob Schrab
Starring Steve Buscemi
Nick Cannon
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Kevin James
Jason Lee
Catherine O'Hara
Kathleen Turner
Fred Willard
Music by Douglas Pipes
Cinematography Paul C. Babin
Edited by Fabienne Rawley
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 computer-animated fantasy comedy film 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[3] 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.


Twelve-year-old DJ Walters spies on his elderly neighbor Mr. Nebbercracker, who confiscates any item landing in his yard. DJ's parents leave town for the weekend, leaving him in the care of Elizabeth "Zee". DJ's best friend Charles "Chowder" loses his basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn. DJ is caught by Nebbercracker while recovering it, who rages at him before apparently suffering a heart attack and being taken away by an ambulance. That night, DJ receives phone calls from Nebbercracker's house with no one on the other end. DJ eavesdrops on Zee's boyfriend Bones, who tells 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 and the kite are consumed by the house as he is retrieving it.

The next morning, Jenny Bennett is selling Halloween chocolates. DJ and Chowder see her going to Nebbercracker's house, and they rush out to catch her before she is eaten by the house. Jenny calls the police, but police officers Landers and Lester do not believe their story.

The trio seek advice from Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, who is claimed to be an expert on the supernatural. They learn that the house is a "Domus Mactabilis" (Latin for "deadly home"); a rare monster created when a human soul merges with a man-made structure. The only way to kill the house is to destroy its heart. They conclude that the heart must be the furnace, as DJ realizes that the chimney has been smoking since Nebbercracker died. Chowder provides a cold medicine-filled dummy that should cause the house to sleep long enough for them to douse the furnace. Landers and Lester thwart their plan and they are arrested when Landers finds the cold medicine stolen from Chowder's father's pharmacy inside the dummy. The cops place the trio in their car while they examine the house. The house eats Landers, Lester and the car. DJ, Chowder and Jenny escape the car but are trapped in the house.

The house falls asleep and they begin exploring. They fall into the basement, finding a collection of toys accumulated from Nebbercracker's lawn, as well as a cage door that opens to a shrine containing the body of Nebbercracker's wife Constance the Giantess, encased in cement. 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. As a young man, Nebbercracker met Constance, who was an unwilling member of a circus freak show and hated children, and fell in love with her despite her obesity. After helping her escape, they began building the house. One Halloween, as children tormented her due to her size, Constance tried chasing them away with an axe, but lost her footing and fell to her death in the basement with the cement burying her body. Nebbercracker finished the house after Constance's death, knowing it was what she would have wanted. Aware that Constance's spirit made the house come alive, Nebbercracker tried keeping people away by pretending to hate children.

DJ tells Nebbercracker it is time to let Constance go, but the house overhears this. Enraged, the house breaks free from its foundation and chases the group to a construction site. Nebbercracker attempts to distract the house so he can throw a dynamite in, but the house notices and attempts to eat him. Chowder fights the house off with an excavator, causing it to fall into a pit. DJ is given the dynamite, and he and Jenny climb to the top of a crane while Chowder distracts the house. DJ throws the dynamite into the chimney, destroying the house. The trio see Nebbercracker with Constance's ghost before she fades away. DJ apologizes to Nebbercracker for the loss of his house and wife, but Nebbercracker thanks DJ and the kids for freeing him and Constance from being trapped for 45 years. That night, children in their Halloween costumes are lined up at the site of Nebbercracker's house, where DJ, Chowder and Jenny help him return the toys to their owners. Jenny's parents pick her up and DJ and Chowder go trick-or-treating, which they previously felt they were too old for.

Those who were eaten by the house emerge from the basement. Bones finds Zee is now dating Skull and Landers and Lester leave to "inspect" some of the trick-or-treating candy.


  • Mitchel Musso as DJ Walters, a 12-year-old boy,[4] who is known for spying on Nebbercracker through a telescope. He is treated like a baby and is often thought to be crazy.
  • Sam Lerner as Charles "Chowder", a 12-year-old boy, who is DJ's best friend. He has a habit of acting slightly strange and immature.
  • Spencer Locke as Jenny Bennett, an intelligent 11-year-old girl who attends an elite all-girls school called Westbook Prep. DJ and Chowder both have crushes on her, but she only returns DJ's affections.
  • Steve Buscemi as Horace Nebbercracker, a former US Army "demolition squad" expert who lives across the street from DJ. He is known for stealing anything that lands on his lawn. It is later revealed that he was Constance's husband.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elizabeth "Zee", DJ's punk babysitter. She is rude and, like his parents, treats DJ in a sarcastic manner.
  • Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard as Mr. and Mrs. Walters, DJ's overprotective parents who treat their son in babyish ways.
  • Jason Lee as Bones, Zee's former boyfriend. He takes great pleasure in torturing DJ and Chowder.
  • Jon Heder as Reginald "Skull" Skulinski, a videogame-crazed comic geek and expert on the supernatural who once played an arcade game for 4 days straight on one quarter, a gallon of chocolate milk, and an adult diaper. He becomes Zee's boyfriend at the end of the movie.
  • Kevin James as Officer Landers, a police officer and Officer Lester's partner. Landers is an experienced cop with an easygoing, sarcastic, and joking personality.
  • Nick Cannon as Officer Lester, a police officer who is Officer Landers' partner. Lester is a rookie on his first week.
  • Kathleen Turner as Constance, a 675 pound woman who was featured in a circus' freak show in the early 1960s. Nebbercracker, having fallen in love with her, freed and married her. People (especially children) constantly ridiculed Constance because of her size, driving her to the point of fits of anger which eventually led to her death and her spirit to be trapped within the house, causing it to come alive.


Performance capture[edit]

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.[5]


Monster House
Film score by Douglas Pipes
Released July 18, 2006
Genre Score
Length 49:05
Label Varèse Sarabande
Track listing:[6]
No. Title Length
1. "Opening/Titles"   1:01
2. "Eliza's Song"   0:48
3. "Awesome Kite/Bones Tossed Out/Construction"   3:42
4. "Through the Telescope"   0:39
5. "Parents Drive Off"   1:19
6. "Go to Your Room"   0:41
7. "Jenny walks up/Jenny's Close Call"   1:40
8. "Elegy"   1:36
9. "Ding Dong/House Comes Alive!"   2:38
10. "Cops Emerge"   1:32
11. "The Chimney"   0:38
12. "The Plan / Dummy Feed"   3:13
13. "Cop Car Gets Eaten"   0:54
14. "Trapped/Constance's Tomb/Escape"   7:37
15. "Cops Get Eaten"   1:15
16. "The Flashback"   3:34
17. "Chowder to the Rescue"   1:18
18. "Nebbercracker Returns"   2:05
19. "House Chase"   3:36
20. "The Battle"   5:13
21. "45 Years / Tricycle"   1:32
22. "We're Back!"   0:49
23. "End Titles"   1:03
24. "The Dance"   0:42
Total length:

Digital 3-D version[edit]

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.[7]


Monster House grossed $73,661,010 in the United States and Canada, and $66,513,996 overseas for a worldwide collection 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."[3]

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."[8] 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."[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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."[12] 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."[13] 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 this marvelously creepy animated feature."[14]

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."[15] 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."[16]

The American Film Institute nominated Monster House for its Top 10 Animated Films list.[17]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Award[18] Best Animated Feature Nominated
Annie Award[19] 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[20] Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Saturn Award[21] Best Animated Film Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Mitchel Musso Nominated
Best Score Douglas Pipes Nominated

Video game[edit]


  1. ^ "Monster House". British Board of Film Classification. June 16, 2006. Retrieved October 28, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Monster House". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Monster House at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ "Monster House". iTunes. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ "The Animation of Monster House". Lost in the Plot. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  6. ^ "Monster House (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". iTunes. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  7. ^ For more info on the 3D technology used for Sony ImageWorks Monster House, visit:
  8. ^ "Review by Ian Freer (Empire)". Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Review by Jane Boursaw (Common sense Media)". Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Review by Roger Moore (Orlando Sentinel)". Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Review by Scott Bowles (USA Today)". July 20, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Review by Amy Biancolli (Houston Chronicle)". Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  13. ^ Michael Medved: Movie Minute
  14. ^ "Review by A. O. Scott (New York Times)". The New York Times. July 21, 2006. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  15. ^ Monster House
  16. ^ McCarthy, Todd (4 July 2006). "Monster House". Variety. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  17. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  18. ^ "The 79th Academy Awards (2007) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 2, 2012. 
  19. ^ "34th Annual Annie Nominations and Awards Recipients". Annie Awards. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  20. ^ Ball, Ryan (December 14, 2006). "Golden Globes Favor Cars, Happy Feet, Monster House". Animation Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  21. ^ Weinberg, Scott (February 21, 2007). "Celebrate the Genre Goodness with the Saturn Awards". Moviefone. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  • Columbia Pictures press release titled "Monster House: July 21, 2006" (offline)

External links[edit]