Sunday, February 25, 2007

Monster House has something for all ages, so much so that it can be seen as being about different things depending on the age of the viewer. (BEWARE: Spoilers ahead.) For the growing-ups, there are the three protagonists (two boys and a girl, in classic Hollywood fashion). Their coming-of-age adventure happens in the absence of anyone past puberty; the parents are gone for all of the action, and the teenage babysitter disappears right when things get going. For the grown-ups, there's a fairly conspicuous theme about real estate, which fits nicely with the gluttonous housing development of the past eight years. Connecting the adult and adolescent themes are the ideas of change and constance (or Constance, a character who appears late in the movie). The movie opens with a shot of a yellow leaf falling from a tree, a symbol of natural change. In the background is another symbol of change, man-made this time, a large construction crane.


The leaf floats to the ground and follows a little girl riding her tricycle along a sidewalk. She gets stuck in Mr. Nebbercracker's lawn. The old man emerges from the house and (in the movie's first line of dialogue) screams "Get off my lawn!" Then he confiscates her tricycle. This, it seems, is a man in love with what he owns.

Later, the male protagonists DJ and Chowder lose a basketball on Nebbercracker's lawn, and we get this startling shot exposing the underbelly of the property (the ball is center and the boys are to left).



The view of the pipeworks below ground sets up something that the house does later, so it's not gratuitous. Nebbercracker comes out of the house again and, after shouting at DJ, has a heart attack and apparantly dies. That night DJ becomes convinced that Nebbercracker is seeking revenge from beyond the grave. He calls Chower and arranges to meet him at the nearby housing development where we saw the crane in the opening shot. The sign outside the development cheekily boasts "Mayville Luxury Towers ... Coming Soon ... We've Drained the Lake!"



The kids decide on a scheme to destroy the house, which they now believe is possessed by the soul of Nebbercracker, but they're stopped by the local police, who "arrest" the kids. "We're supercops," says the rookie, feeling emboldened by the arrest. The old-timer responds, his head down: "Yeah, that's why I live in a condo."



In a sense the dual aspect of the movie (it's one thing for kids and another for adults) derives from a play on the word possession. For kids, it's a scary and funny coming-of-age movie about a house that's possessed by the soul of a human being. For adults, it's a tale about being controlled by your possessions. However you watch it, it's a damn fine film.

1 comment:

wendy said...

a fine post especially so early in the AM, mister. if you don't get rich being a writer you might have a back up in being a critic. :)