(out of 5)
It’s so nice to know there are still politically incorrect people out there who are looking to scare the bejeesus out of children. In fact, this one has more than its share of dark moments that would make it quite unsuitable for the very young, unless of course you want them to grow up respectful and obedient. Realistic computer animation brings to life a suburban neighbourhood where a pre-teen boy spends much of his time gazing at the mean old man across the street from his house through his telescope. The old coot in question is a cantankerous gentleman (voiced by Steve Buscemi) who confiscates property whenever a child’s stray ball or tricycle ends up on his lawn; he has even been known to make a body or two go missing. When our hero causes the old spur to have a heart attack during a tirade to keep him and his friends away from his house, the kid feel guilty for having committed murder despite how cruel his neighbour was. He pairs up with his goofy best friend and a brainy girl selling Hallowe’en candy to investigate the possibility that it is the house itself that is the monster, not its inhabitant, a quest that ends up seeing them trapped inside a house that is fully alive with ghoulish delights! While the follow-through doesn’t deliver everything that the deliciously involving opening promises, it’s still a breath of fresh air for an animated film; it goes in for the usual cliches of horror films (like the oversexed babysitter), but it doesn’t present life in any squeaky clean tidy way that you’d normally get from a Pixar movie. In fact, the best thing about the animation here is how unconcerned it is with being attractive. The voice cast also includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nick Cannon, Kevin James, and, most surprisingly, Kathleen Turner.
Columbia Pictures Corporation, Relativity Media, ImageMovers, Amblin Entertainment, Sony Pictures Animation
Directed by Gil Kenan
Cinematography by Xavier Grobet
Music by Douglas Pipes
Production Design by Ed Verreaux
Costume Design by Ruth Myers