Monster! [1999]

The spooky shadows and eerie creaking of a rickety old house are brought to life via lush CGI in Monster House. A young boy named DJ has suspicions about the house across the street and the cranky old man (voiced by Steve Buscemi, Fargo) who lives there. When the old man has a heart attack and is carried away by an ambulance, DJ thinks the danger is over. Unfortunately, as he, his friend Chowder, and a candy-selling prep-school girl named Jenny discover, the house itself has plans--plans that include eating all the kids who'll be trick-or-treating that Halloween night. Monster House begins with some deliciously creepy scenes that will send chills down children's spines (and may be too intense for younger viewers); animated movies rarely make such effective use of what isn't being shown. The animation is vivid and detailed (though CGI still has a ways to go in capturing the full range of human facial expressions). But like most horror movies, the anticipation of horror is much more exciting than the horror itself; as the secrets of Monster House are revealed, the movie's thrills unravel. The noisy explosions at the end aren't half as much fun as the slow twitches of a few blades of grass in the movie's elegant beginning. --Bret Fetzer

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