This has to be the most fucked-up “kids’ movie” I’ve ever seen in my life. I was expecting some adorably lame-humoured, good-natured Scooby Doo-esque romp (except without that little shit Scrappy), but instead I got a movie that was not only unafraid of showing a dead body, but had no qualms having it leer over a terrified child’s POV shot as the life drained from its stop-motion eyes. And then, to follow it up with this exchange:
“I’m a murderer!”
“No; when it’s an accident, it’s called ‘manslaughter’.”
Wow. So much insanely dark humour.
So, this “delightful” stop-motion animated horror comedy is about a kid called DJ, his friend Chowder (I’m wondering if this is set around New England) and some conniving girl scout cookie kid who notice some strange goings-on in DJ’s now-deceased neighbour’s house. In short, it’s alive, it’s eating people (really), and it’s so much more terrifying-looking than should be in a kids’ movie.
There’s a bit of a slow build-up, and the latter half of the second act takes place in the surreal, creepy, dingy, and downright frightening bowels of said house. Given that we’ve seen an old man die so hideously, so realistically and so gruesomely (do we need multiple close-ups of the dead body? Oh, the grounds/weeds/vines are clinging to him and not letting him leave? Oh, OK), and that anything goes in a surreal, reality-warped haunted house, we genuinely have no idea what’s going to happen next, because this movie threw the rule book out the window a while back.
But it’s the film’s third act that’s a mix of terror, amazing visuals, and a sort of plot-twist tinged with surprisingly bittersweet, tragic elements and game-changing tones. Even after that curve ball’s been thrown, the movie goes one step further and basically ignores any horror, family film and family-adventure-related trope that’s out there. Even the camera angles view like cinematic, real-world editing, particularly with the slick animation style, and the score provides just the right amount of unsettling atmosphere. And all this time I thought I was going to be falling asleep during a “kids are home alone and decide to explore a kooky, ghost-ridden mansion”.