An estate agent's nightmare comes to life in Monster House, a spooky new addition to the congested computer-generated cartoon market which plays like The Amityville Horror for kids. They'd have to be robust, though, to handle the often scary intensity of this suburban fantasy, which pits three young friends against a menacing residence haunted by the ghost of a long-deceased tenant. The result is entertaining and fast-paced, even if its only idea is pretty much derelict by the end.
Using the same motion-capture gimmick behind The Polar Express and King Kong's big ape, first-time director Gil Kenan has fun creating the kind of all-American 'burb Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis subverted in the likes of Poltergeist and Back to the Future. And he's assisted by sharply characterised turns from Maggie Gyllenhaal's Goth-chick babysitter and Steve Buscemi as the grumpy neighbour whose lawn you stray onto at your peril.
"A LACK OF ORIGINALITY TO THE PROTAGONISTS"
With a carpet for a tongue, splintered floorboards for teeth and a hungry gullet where its stairwell should be, the eponymous abode is a suitably unsettling creation - until it pulls itself off its foundations and starts rampaging about, at which point it becomes a poor relation of Howl's Moving Castle. There's a similar lack of originality about the juvenile protagonists, whose respective characteristics - timid, brainy, and oaf - make them Harry, Hermione, and Ron in everything but name. But while it might not bring the house down, there's enough here to suggest this Monster won't be moving out of cinemas any time soon.