Monster House is a Halloween movie for kids that bleeds the nostalgia of the Amblin era.
That’s because it IS an Amblin movie! Gil Kenan’s directorial debut (he followed with City of Ember and the Poltergeist remake) does naturally what other films that are trying to ape the “feeling” (we’re looking at you Super 8) of the 80’s Amblin era seen in E.T. and The Goonies and just does it. It’s seemingly effortless and that’s why it works.
Monster House is a kids movie that respects kids. Our three pre-teened protagonists are sarcastic, odd, self-conscious, completely oblivious, and of course think they’re smarter than their parents. DJ feels the pressure of puberty and the opposite sex calling. He’s embarrassed to be a kid anymore. His best friend Chowder (one of the better sidekick names of all-time) is the completely oblivious one mentioned above. He runs around wearing a red cape, something I think he does even when it’s not Halloween, and is stoked for trick ‘r treating. The third in the group is Jenny. She’s the girl so obviously she keeps these two goofballs from dying on several occasions.
DJ is constantly observing his mean old neighbor Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) on the other side of the street. In their perfectly suburban neighborhood his house is the dark and spooky one.
It also destroys tricycles, basketballs, and kites of children that trespass on his lawn.
I won’t go into too much detail about the rest because the surprises in Monster House are worth discovering on your own. This is a great transition movie for the younger Halloween obsessed moviephiles. And it’s scary! There’s a scene where the shadow of a hand in the night light of DJ’s room looks as if it’s about to snatch him out of bed before vanishing. I couldn’t believe it was happening! My shock was met with a huge grin. Monster House nailed it. It had complete control over its tone.
What else could I say? Not only does the film respect its characters, but it respects its audience. We aren’t force fed anything. The writers, including Community creator Dan Harmon, trust that we’re smart. This helps with that naturalistic feeling of nostalgia. Monster House is an adolescent coming of age story that also delivers a message of acceptance and understanding like ParaNorman. These two movies are unique in that they both are kids movies, but carry multiple themes for people of all ages.
Now a decade old, it’s safe to say that this one is a new classic. Don’t miss out on this Halloween gem that belongs amongst the other must-see picks on our 31 Days of Halloween list here.