The 3rd Dimension
Tuesday, 21 December 2010 12:53

Monster House (Blu-ray 3D)

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Monster House
2006 (2010) - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

We've all known that cranky old neighbor who screams "Get off my lawn!" at you. But what if he actually a reason for doing so? Mr. Nebbercracker has mysteriously amassed a dragon's horde of tricycles, basketballs and kites beneath his house over the last 40 years, and it's up to intrepid young DJ (whose parents are away for the weekend), and a self-absorbed teenage babysitter, to crack the mystery of how and why.

Monster House was one of the first Blu-rays out the gate back in the fall of 2006. Providing a detailed, creepy and nuanced image, the title quickly rose to favor as a demonstration disc for enthusiasts. Now, Sony has made it one of their first Blu-ray 3D titles, and for good reason. The 3D experience here is one of the best I've seen thus far. The film's opening sequence is stunning, following a falling leaf through the neighborhood without the 3D illusion failing even once. Even the most pedestrian of moments - like characters getting into a car - exhibit an excellent perception of depth and creation of 3D space in the environment. Pop-out "eye poking" moments are fairly restrained - a welcome relief to be sure. What few there are are fully appropriate to the story. The image quality does lose half a point for some minor instances of ghosting. The title card starts to make your eyes cross a bit, and occasionally the background plane gets a bit flat and flickery. However, none of this prevents Monster House from being the kind of 3D experience that enthusiasts crave.

The sonic experience here is as big a winner as the visuals. Replacing the space-hungry PCM track is a new DTS-HD Master Audio encode that's every bit as impressive as the original, with plenty of zip, bang and zoom. Surround speakers never go silent in this film. When they're not tossing a whirlwind of creepy sounds around, wind, birds and other environmental sounds constantly populate your rears to assist the illusion of space.

Making the trip once more from the previous DVD and 2D Blu-ray are a familiar batch of standard-definition extras. From Imaginary Heroes' lessons in character design, Beginner's Luck's casting, and Lots of Dots/Black Box Theater's performance capture, you've seen it all before. The best piece, Evolution of a Scene: Eliza vs. Nebbercracker, breaks down the entire creative process from storyboards to the finished product. Three still galleries, 3D previews of Open Season and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and new BD-Live functionality complete the package. Speaking of package, the best part about Monster House 3D is the snazzy box. Sony is using clear BD keep cases with transparent inserts, and then putting a booklet inside that carries the background of the image. This is actually very effective in achieving a sense of depth to the cover artwork, and really helps the 3D versions stand apart from 2D on store shelves.

By the way, those looking to future-proof their collections should take comfort in the fact that this disc will play back in both 2D and 3D modes, ensuring compatibility across all Blu-ray disc players.

Back in the 1980s, kids' movies tended to be more "family" fare, in that while they were made about kids and to appeal to kids without talking down to them, adults could watch and enjoy them too. The Goonies is a good example. It's celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and is still beloved by people of all ages. Monster House is the closest I've felt to that kind of experience in a long time. Sony's Blu-ray 3D experience is top drawer, and I can't help but give this disc my highest recommendation.

- Jeff Kleist

[Editor's Note: This review can also be found in our regular Review Database here.]

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