Australian Council on Children and the Media

Monster House

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Scary scenes. Viol. Theme.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Monster House
  • a review of Monster House completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 September 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to very scary scenes and violence
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance may be needed for younger viewers in this age group and for children who may be particularly sensitive to its scary scenes.
Children over the age of 13 Okay to see this movie with or without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Monster House
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild scary scenes, Mild themes
Length 90 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Mr Nebbercracker (voiced by Steve Buscemi) lives in a spooky old house in the middle of the street. Whenever a child walks, rides, throws a ball, in fact does anything on his lawn he comes out and yells and screams and is generally nasty to the child.

DJ (Mitchel Musso) lives across the road from this house and has been keeping a record of all the toys that Mr Nebbercracker takes. On this particular weekend his parents are away and he is being looked after by a babysitter Zee (Maggie Gyllenhhal). He and his friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) are playing basketball and Chowder loses the ball on Mr Nebbercracker’s lawn. When DJ plucks up the courage to get it, Mr Nebbercracker comes out and yells at him and picks him up. At this point Mr Nebbercracker collapses and DJ thinks he has killed the old man.

DJ then finds that The House seems to be trying to attack him. He calls Chowder who initially doesn’t believe him but ends up staying with DJ after experiencing the house’s aggression first hand. They work together to keep an eye on The House but are eventually distracted by a pretty girl called Jenny (Spencer Locke) who is selling sweets for her school. When she heads up the path to try and sell some sweets to The House, the boys go to save her. She also experiences an attack by The House so bands together with the boys to defeat The House and save the neighbourhood.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death and violence

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Mr Nebbercracker grabs a tricycle and yells and breaks it. The owner, a little girl, runs away screaming with fright.
  • Mr Nebbercracker yells at DJ, picks him up and shakes him.
  • The babysitter, Liz and her boyfriend Bones (Jason Lee), are aggressive towards DJ; they don’t believe what he is saying and Bones pushes him around.
  • The House tries to eat both Chowder and Jenny.
  • Several people are eaten by The House including Bones, a dog and the policemen
  • While the children are in the police car, they are picked up by one of the tree trunks (which are like giant hands) and thrown into The House. It looks like they will either be crushed or eaten.
  • The children end up in the basement of The House and find a skeleton. The House then tries to attack them.
  • The House gets up using two trees as legs and chases the children and Mr Nebbercracker and attacks them

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children under the age of five will be very scared by most of the violent scenes listed above. Parents are reminded that young children are not reassured when ‘things work out okay in the end’, rather the visual images of the nasty old man and the scary house can stay with them. The humour is also not readily understood by young children. In addition to the violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The House wakes up after Nebbercracker is taken away.
  • The image of The House is very scary, as the floorboards look like nasty teeth and its whole appearance is menacing.
  • While DJ is asleep in his room, a shadow of The House comes into his bedroom and a big shadowy hand appears.
  • DJ is phoned by The House.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group will also likely be scared by the above-mentioned scenes.

Older children in this age group could be also be concerned that DJ’s parents are away, and that the babysitter is neither caring nor supportive but rather has a tendency to bully DJ.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

There are no other scenes in this movie that would upset children of this age, but some of the scenes described above are quite graphic and could be scary for some children at the younger end of this age group.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children over the age of thirteen will probably enjoy this movie.

Product placement

None

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Chowder and DJ fight over Jenny
  • DJ talks about the fact that he has hormones due to puberty
  • When Jenny is describing the anatomical part of the gag reflex, a word that sounds something like ‘avula’, Chowder turns to her and says ‘so it’s a girl house’.
  • Chowder tells DJ that Jenny ‘grabbed his butt’
  • Jenny gives DJ a kiss.

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Use of substances

One instance in which Bones and Z are drinking. By the time that Bones leaves the house he is slightly drunk.

Coarse language

Very little, although the word ‘butt’ is used a few times.

In a nutshell

The main message of Monster House is that it is best not to take things on face value but to find out the real reason behind someone’s actions. Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • teamwork
  • compassion
  • listening to others
  • finishing a task that you have taken on rather than running from it.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children how destructive it can to be hold onto negative emotions, and that in the end, it is not material things that matter but the relationships you have with others.

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