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Category:    Home > Reviews > Computer Animation > Horror > Comedy > Children > Monster House (Blu-ray)

Monster House (Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Feature: B-

 

 

There is a sub-cycle of Horror/Comedy meant to appeal to younger audiences, seen in books and only occasionally on film, video and TV.  Robert Zemeckis’ Monster House (2006) is his second feature to be released in REAL D's digital 3D format and in the motion capture technology already familiar to those who have seen Zemeckis’ The Polar Express (reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site) since its 2004 release.  To repeat, it is motion capture technology on real people and except for artists who add backgrounds and objects later, it is like a digital version of rotoscoping where their bodies are captured by placing digital signifiers which are then run by the computer to get the final result you see on screen.

 

That film was scarier than the G rating would have let parents know, but this time, we have a PG rating as three children named DJ (Mitchel Musso), Chowder (Sam Lerner), and Jenny (Spencer Locke) find out that they live across the street from an empty house that is alive and even eats all trespassers!  Their babysitter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) does not believe them, and we know the police are not, so that leaves them alone with the evil truth.

 

Of course, this is meant to be fun and includes the kind of mall-safe gags we have been getting form Zemeckis and co-producer Steven Spielberg since the 1980s, but it is also a slight improvement over Polar Express as a semi-animated work and general storyline.  With that said, it too is still worth a look, around Halloween or otherwise.  Unfortunately, it does not go anywhere new in its 91 minutes; the computer animation is still limited and memory-challenged.  Steve Buscemi, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard and Kathleen Turner also supply voices.

 

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image is still a bit on the soft side because of the all-digital system used, but does not have the “misty Christmas” style so off-setting from Polar Express.  Color is still somewhat limited by the digital palette and detail is still mixed.  Still, the motion sensor tracking system that puts dozens of patches on each figure to track movement makes for a unique visual result and it will be interesting to see the further changes that happen with this system as more features are produced.  They first two have been moderate hits theatrically that have done well on video, so their will be more.

 

The PCM 16bit/48kHz 5.1 mix is better than the Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes with the usual tricky sounds and solid sound envelopment typical of Zemeckis’ live-action work.  Being a 25GB Blu-ray, there is no room for DTS HD or Dolby True HD tracks, but this was good enough that I could imagine there is more sound here to be heard.  Douglas Pipes score is a throwback to 1980s silly/dippy music with its exaggerated Horror-as-humor moments.  The use of bass is pretty good too.

 

Extras include an art stills gallery in three sections covering the initial designs, feature length audio commentary by several of the filmmakers involved, seven featurettes and an Evolution Of A Scene focusing on a human vs. house scene made to typify what the feature delivers best.  That is not a bad set of extras considering the limited space on this Blu-ray disc, but it does not affect the performance in playback of the main feature.  Since it is stylized like its predecessor, the makers have some leeway.  Overall, this is a good disc.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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