Dreamworks was in full swing back in 2006, cranking out hit after computer animated hit, and this seasonal treat can still give you a good old fashioned kind of scare, and cannot be beat when it comes to great family horror films. This modern classic sits right up there with the Scary Godmother series for great Halloween holiday fun, and even has a retro setting most parents will enjoy and will identify with.
So, here it is, circa early 1980s, in a town that could be anywhere from Maine to Washington state, with crisp red, orange, and golden trees dotting the landscape. The focus of this story is one young teen, DJ (Mitchel Musso), and his obsession with the mysterious house across the street. This old place belongs to what appears to be a crotchety old man named Mr. Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi). This man goes crazy whenever anyone messes with his lawn or comes near his home. From the most innocent little kid on a tricycle to drunken teenagers, no one is immune to his wrath. DJ has been investigating the pattern, and wants to know more about what is happening with that old house across the street. His parents are leaving town for the weekend of Halloween, and now he has his chance to find out more.
Mom (Catherine O’Hara) and Dad (Fred Williard) are in the dental supply business, and are heading off for a convention. Just as they about to leave, DJ’s best friend, Chowder (Sam Lerner) shows up, showing off his brand new basketball. DJ tells Chowder about his suspicions and Chowder tries to get him out his tirade by making DJ shoot some hoops. The boys play for a few minutes, and soon the ball bounces right over into Nebbercracker’s yard. Chowder is upset, because to a 12 year-old kid in 1983, $28 for a new basketball was quite a lot of money. He makes DJ go after the ball, and right on cue, old Nebbercracker comes out in a rage, and freaks when DJ accidentally divots his yard by tripping on the front walkway. Nebbercracker goes ballistic about life and death and how being on this property could kill DJ, and then he keels over from some kind of seizure.
Later on, the babysitter, Elizabeth, or Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as she prefers to be called, shows up, and it’s like the young woman has a dual personality. She’s all pink and fluffy to the parentals, but when she can cut loose, she becomes a heavy metal mama, and takes over the house with loud music created by a local band called Skull & Bones. DJ goes up to his room, and crashes in a fit. We see the shadow of the house across the street, and it seems to want to reach out to attack DJ. The phone rings, which wakes DJ up, but there is no answer on the other end. DJ does a *69 to find out where the call came from, but hears only a ringing in the distance from Nebbercracker’s empty house. When Zee comes to check on him, and finds him to be up way too late, he tries to tell her about the phone call. Zee has invited her boyfriend, “Bones” (Jason Lee) over, and it clear that they have been drinking. Bones messes with DJ’s mind a bit, then the two leave. DJ calls Chowder, and the boys soon spend the night spying on the house, looking for signs of life or undeath.
The next day is Halloween, and a smart redhead, Jenny (Spencer Locke) of about DJ’s age is selling candy to raise funds for her school. The boys see her in the telescope, and they are soon spying on what boys should be spying on at this time. That us until Jenny heads to Nebbercracker’s house. The boys rush out to stop her, and then the front walk breaks from the ground, and tries to push the girl towards the door. The boys rescue her, and this begins one of the scariest Halloweens they will ever have, and one of the better Halloween movies out there. Make sure to have the kids watch this one after trick or treats, because everyone will have a great time with it.
I give this film a Musing review of