Monster House appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. An early Blu-ray, this one seemed less consistent than I’d expect.
Some concerns related to sharpness. For the most part, the flick seemed accurate and well-defined. However, wider shots occasionally appeared a bit soft. These issues weren’t major, but they didn’t create the expected level of rock-solid delineation I expect from CG animation.
At least no jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also created no concerns in this clean presentation.
With its late October setting, the film’s palette went with a warm, orange-dominated fall tone that tossed in some of the usual teal as well. The hues seemed fairly good, though they lacked great pep.
Blacks were also deep and dense, while shadows offered good definition. I liked the image overall but the iffy elements left it as a “B-“ that would benefit from modern-day coding.
At least the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Monster House worked better. With all the creepy activities at the titular abode, the mix got many opportunities to involve us in the material.
These varied from quietly spooky scenes all the way up to loud, brassy action sequences. The track took very good advantage of all five speakers to form a vivid, exciting soundfield.
Audio quality followed in the same vein. Speech was always natural and distinctive, and I thought music worked well. The score showed good dynamics and range at all times.
Effects showed similarly positive definition. Those elements were clean and concise, and they also boasted very solid low-end response. Across the board, this was a terrific mix.
This release includes both 2D and 3D versions of the film. The picture comments above reflected the 2D edition – how did the 3D compare?
In terms of visual quality, the two seemed virtually identical. If the 3D edition reflected any degradation in picture, I didn’t see it.
Which was good, because the 3D imagery added so much to the tale. From the opening shot of a floating leaf to all the wild “horror” antics, the movie came with a great deal of material that used the stereo setting nicely.
This meant some fun pop-out moments as well as a fine sense of depth. As much as I liked the film in its 2D presentation, the 3D edition became the best way to view it.
As we shift to extras, the disc comes with an audio commentary from director Gil Kenan and a smattering of others. Kenan presents a running, screen-specific piece into which the other notes are edited.
We hear from a mix of additional personnel, but the disc lacks any credits for them, so the other speakers just appear without attribution of any form.
Although that’s annoying, it doesn’t create a tremendous negative in this strong commentary. We learn how Kenan got the project and also learn about casting and performances, animation and the use of the performance capture photography, visual design and stylistic choices, influences and inspirations, score and editing, themes and story issues, and other filmmaking notes.
The track consistently throws out interesting material with very little fat along the way. The discussion digs into all aspects of the production with gusto as it fleshes out our understanding of the project and the production. This is an excellent track.
Inside Monster House consists of seven separate featurettes. These include “Imaginary Heroes” (3:38), “Beginner’s Luck” (2:35), “The Best of Friends” (2:50), “Lots of Dots” (2:38), “Black Box Theater” (4:23), “Making It Real” (6:13) and “Did You Hear That?” (3:04). I viewed these via the “Play All” option, so I treated them as one 24-minute, 40-second seven-part documentary.
Across the featurettes, we get the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. These feature Kenan, producers Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey, sculptor Leon Rijn, conceptual artist Chris Appelhans, technical animator DJ Hauck, production designer Ed Verreaux, motion capture supervisor Demian Gordon, visual effects supervisor Jay Redd, lead senior technical animator John J. Meehan, executive producers Jason Clark and Robert Zemeckis, sound designer Randy Thom, supervising sound editor Dennis Leonard, assistant sound designer William Files, and actors Spencer Locke, Kathleen Turner, Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Jon Heder, and Steve Buscemi.
The programs look at character design, casting, the relationship among the three young lead actors, performance capture methods and elements, animation processes, and sound design. Because the commentary covers so much territory, we don’t learn a tremendous amount of fresh material here.
That said, there’s more than enough good info to carry us, and the footage from the set helps compensate. I like the comments from the actors about the challenges of working in performance capture, and it’s great to see them on the virtual sets. These featurettes flesh out the production well.
Evolution of a Scene: Eliza Vs. Nebbercracker breaks down into two different areas, and first comes a two-minute, 57-second featurette. This presents notes from Kenan as he discusses the various steps required in this sort of animated flick. We see these elements as he gives us good details about how they’re used to create the movie.
“Evolution” also gives us some multi-angle material. We can view “Eliza” in six ways: story reel animatic, performance capture, layout stage, animation, final film, and a composite of the other five.
The two-minute, 50-second segment shows us the movie’s opening scene. I enjoy this kind of material and think that this feature gives us a good look at the different stages within the animation process.
For some stillframe materials, we go to The Art of Monster House. This splits into “Conceptual Art” (59 frames), “People” (67) and “Places and Things” (38). Plenty of good images show up here.
Although I have some misgivings about the movie’s style of animation, Monster House entertains enough to make up for those concerns. A good mix of action, comedy and horror, the film presents something different and fun. The Blu-ray gives us excellent audio and an informative set of extras but visuals become less consistent than I’d like. This is a nearly ideal Halloween flick for the family, so it earns my recommendation, and the 3D version adds spark and life to the presentation.
To rate this film, visit the original review of MONSTER HOUSE