Remember when you were a kid, and there was that mean, grumpy old guy who always yelled at you for running across his lawn? Or perhaps, in your neighborhood, you had one of those spooky houses -- the kind that always seemed, somehow, to be looking at you; the kind of house that you and your friends would cross the street to avoid walking near. In Monster House, the fantasically animated flick by fresh-out-of-film-school director Gil Kenan, those elements are combined to great effect: Old Man Nebbercracker (Steve Buscemi) lives in the spookiest house in the neighborhood, a haunted house in the midst of suburban bliss, and he hates kids and their toys. If your ball lands on Old Man Nebbercracker's pristine yard, just forget about it, kid. Ride your shiny little trike across his grass? He'll take that trike and leave you crying on the sidewalk like the whiney little girl you are.
All of Nebbercracker's iniquitous deeds are not going unnoticed, however. On the case is DJ (Mitchel Musso, who pre-teen girls will know from his role as Oliver in Disney's Hannah Montana), a 12-year-old kid who lives across the street from Nebbercracker's House of Horrors. DJ spies on Nebbercracker through his telescope, making careful notes of his elderly neighbor's activities. When the story opens, it's the day before Halloween, and DJs best friend Chowder (Sam Lerner) is trying to convince him they aren't too old to trick-or-treat this year. After all, it's free candy, and you're never too old for that. Meanwhile, DJs parents take off for an overnight trip, leaving him in the hands of his hipper-than-thou teenage babysitter, Zee (Maggie Gyllenhaal).