A Condemned 'House'

Three kids face off against an evil dwelling in
Three kids face off against an evil dwelling in "Monster House." (Sony Pictures Imageworks)
Friday, July 21, 2006

"Monster House" : Who is it good for?

Way too scary for anyone younger than 10, but somehow too childish to appeal to tweens, "Monster House" falls into a middle even mushier -- albeit less hellacious -- than that of the titular house itself. The animated story of a boy who discovers that the house across the way is a monster with a voracious appetite for children just his age, "Monster House" is a grisly, often cynical piece of work whose joyless, aggressive spirit is made even less appealing by its soulless visual style.

Steve Buscemi provides the voice of Mr. Nebbercracker, a freakishly frightening elderly man (think one part Mr. Wilson, one part Boo Radley) who regularly confiscates any ball, bicycle or other errant toy that falls on his pristine lawn. When young DJ (Mitchel Musso) runs afoul of Nebbercracker, he realizes that it's the house, not its owner, who is the real neighborhood malefactor. On the eve of Halloween, DJ and two friends set out to solve the mystery.

What unfolds is by turns tiresome and terrifying, as the house comes to creepy life and its back story -- gothic to the point of grotesqueness -- is revealed. Despite its obvious nods to Robert Zemeckis and Tim Burton and some notable cameo appearances (Kathleen Turner, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder), "Monster House" is an eyesore.

-- Ann Hornaday

Monster House PG, 91 minutes Contains scary images and sequences, thematic elements, crude humor and brief profanity. Area theaters.

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