Monster House Gil Kenan

Every kid’s seen one on their street, slowly walked by it and wondered what lurks inside. The haunted house is a timeless concept, especially from a child’s perspective, and first time director Gil Kenan takes the idea to exhilarating and novel heights with Monster House. In a picture perfect American small town, a nasty looking house sits and waits for passer-bys to make the wrong move. But D.J. (Mitchel Musso), from across the street, is onto the house and divulges knowledge of its unholy presence to friend Chowder and newcomer Jenny. As expected, when the trio attempt to raise the awareness of the adult population, eyes roll and the kids are left to fend for themselves, which involves taking on the police, a self-absorbed babysitter and the crotchety old Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi), who lives inside the Monster House. Kenan’s film establishes a familiar setting with all sorts of whimsy that ends in one rollercoaster ride of unexpected delights (including an extraordinary cast that features Jason Lee, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, Nick Cannon and Kathleen Turner as the house). Leave it to producers Spielberg and Zemeckis to revive an age-old concept with flying colours but as the extras prove, the imagination lies with the boyish Kenan, who is responsible for injecting the film with youthful exuberance. A featurette goes behind the scenes to bring light to the film’s production. Much like The Polar Express, Monster House’s animation was designed using "performance capture,” an interesting technique that involves placing dots all over the actors’ bodies to capture the performance on top of just a voiceover. The cast express their delight/distaste for the get-ups, which include the tedious placement of the dots, as well as the less than flattering tight wetsuits. A look at the black box theatre style of acting, which includes working with open space instead of a set, helps enlighten as to just how difficult it was to portray all of the different roles, working with skeleton props made out of wire while imagining your surroundings. Plus: featurettes, commentary, photo galleries.