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Things Only Adults Notice In Monster House

2006's Monster House follows DJ, a 12-year-old who religiously spies on his cranky neighbor, an elderly man named Mr. Nebbercracker. The old man is well-known for terrorizing the neighborhood's children over the years. DJ suspects that there is something nefarious behind Nebbercracker and his creepy house, and his gut feelings are confirmed when the house comes alive and attempts to eat his friend, Chowder. Now aware that Nebbercracker's house is sentient and sinister, Chowder and DJ, along with their new friend Jenny, are determined to uncover the mystery behind the monstrous house and protect their neighborhood's residents.

Though Monster House is a children's film, it has plenty of content for viewers of all ages to enjoy. Not only is the imagery of the film relatively dark (and even a bit unsettling at times), there are also quite a few lines of dialogue and visual references that are likely to fly over most children's heads. Some content even verges on innuendo, and seems to be explicitly aimed at older audiences. We're here to take a look at all the creepy, funny, and outright freaky details only adults notice in Monster House.

DJ's dad seems to have a number of issues

Though he only appears for a couple minutes of screen time, one of the most off-kilter characters in Monster House is Mr. Walters, DJ's father. Right off the bat, he comes off as emotionally stunted. As he's leaving for a trip with his wife, he doesn't want to tell his son he loves him, claiming DJ "knows I love him!" like a petulant kid. He also refuses his wife's request to blow his son a kiss as they drive off. 

Mr. Walter's issues go further than just having trouble showing tenderness and affection toward his only child. After Mrs. Walters admonishes DJ for spying on their elderly neighbor, Mr. Walters tries to relate to his son, admitting to doing a bit of spying himself at DJ's age. However, his intentions were far less noble: Mr. Walters spied on "the lovely Jensen twins." As his wife walks up to this clumsy attempt at a bonding moment, he tries to save himself by saying, "Neither of which was as lovely as your beautiful mother."

Finally, Mr. Walters is completely unfazed when he backs into Chowder in the driveway. He remarks to his wife, "You would be so happy if [DJ] was under this car." It's pretty fair to say Mr. Walters is probably not the best influence on his child, and, as adults will notice, kind of a messed up person in general.

It's implied that Chowder's mom is cheating on his dad

Though neither of Chowder's parents appear on screen, there is one joke about them in the movie that likely flies over most kids' heads. When DJ asks Chowder where his parents are before asking to meet up in "the Danger Zone," Chowder responds that his dad is working at the pharmacy. While this seems like relatively uninteresting information on the surface, Chowder goes on to drop an attention-grabbing tidbit: His mom is at the movies with her personal trainer.

Though the activities mentioned don't explicitly point to anything scandalous going on in Chowder's house, the implicit meaning couldn't be more apparent to adults watching Monster House. From what Chowder says, his mother seems to have gone way beyond fitness with her personal trainer, into the romantically-coded realm of the movies. And from the sounds of it, the two are clandestinely meeting while her husband is tied up at work. The relationship may be entirely platonic, but most fitness trainers don't usually provide nighttime sweat sessions at the cinema.

The Mayville landscape transformation doesn't make sense

There's not a lot of background information given on the town of Mayville until Mr. Nebbercracker's flashback takes place. As the scene reveals, after Nebbercracker and Constance got hitched, Nebbercracker showed her the land plot where the two could build the house they intended to spend the rest of their lives within. However, the landscape in Nebbercracker's flashback looks incredibly different from the Mayville shown in the film's opening shot.

In his flashback, which takes place 45 years before the film's opening shot, Mayville is a virtually barren wasteland. The only bits of foliage shown are a few modest tree sprouts in the lot's front yard and a few bushes next to the property. Yet there are full-grown deciduous trees in the film's opening shot that stretch to the horizon. Somehow the cracked, depleted soil changed its composition dramatically over the course of only 45 years. It seems as though the amount of water in the area also hugely increased since Mr. Nebbercracker started work on his house: Not only is there enough rainfall to support a veritable forest, but there is even a lake nearby that has to be drained to make way for the Mayville Luxury Towers. Suffice it to say, these transformations are scientific impossibilities of the most absurd sort.

There are a number of Stephen King references

Stephen King and horror go hand-in-hand. As Monster House borrows heavily from frightful fare of the '80s, a mighty decade for the prolific author, a few references to the King of Horror feel especially right at home. It all starts at the beginning of the film, with a shot of a little girl riding her tricycle onto Mr. Nebbercracker's lawn. This pays homage to the iconic scene in Stanley Kubrick's adaption of The Shining, when Danny Torrance rides his big wheel tricycle through the halls of the Overlook Hotel.

Yet another reference comes when the children fall into the house's basement. After getting scared by Jenny, Chowder sees a toy monkey with clapping cymbals and squirts it, thinking that the house is trying to get him. The monkey is a callback to King's short story "The Monkey," published in a 1985 collection of other short stories by the author, entitled The Skeleton Crew. The story features a similar monkey doll who brings misfortune and disaster upon whosoever possesses it.

The biggest reference to King's work may just be the house itself. The concept of a house animated by a malevolent force that eats people is included in King's Dark Tower book series. An image of the house in question is featured on the cover of the first edition of Waste Lands, the third installment of the series.

There is foreshadowing throughout the film that the house is Nebbercracker's wife

Moments foreshadowing Constance's dark fate are scattered throughout Monster House. The first and most overt comes after Mr. Nebbercracker catches DJ on his lawn trying to retrieve Chowder's new basketball. Right before he collapses onto DJ, Mr. Nebbercracker yells, "Why can't you just stay away from ... " It is apparent that he was about to finish his sentence by referring to his house as "her," but is interrupted by a medical emergency that prompts him to collapse.

The next instance of foreshadowing takes place as DJ goes to sleep. In his nightmare, the shadow of the house creeps into DJ's bedroom, and the hand of a heavyset woman extends upward to reach for him as he wakes up. Later, as he glances across the street at the supposedly empty house, he sees the silhouette of similarly stout woman in an upstairs window, which quickly vanishes. Though neither of these instances are obvious enough to give the reveal away to the little ones, they do provide a fun tidbit for them to find on subsequent viewings — though adults probably notice them the first time.

The Donnie Darko reference

As DJ, Jenny, and Chowder make their decoy dummy to feed to the house, they decide to use a pair of sweatpants, some old shoes, a vacuum cleaner, a broom, a letterman jacket, and the monster mask Chowder was wearing earlier in the film. While the dummy wouldn't fool anyone into thinking it was a trick-or-treater coming to their door, what with the broom acting as arms and its figure squatting on a vacuum, it seems to do the trick of fooling the house.

The components gathered up for this stunt seem innocuous. But eagle-eyed viewers of a certain age may notice that the dummy bears a striking resemblance to a background character in the 2001 cult horror film Donnie Darko. The indie classic follows Donald "Donnie" Darko as a series of strange events and visions culminate in alternate timelines, time travel, and the end of the world. After Donnie's sister Elizabeth gets the news that she's gotten into Harvard, she and Donnie decide to throw a Halloween party in celebration while their parents are away. As the scene of the party is starting, one party-goer can be seen walking into the Darko house wearing a letterman jacket and a mask that are almost identical to the dummy's duds in Monster House.

No one seems to notice the rampaging house in the neighborhood

DJ finally convinces Mr. Nebbercracker that it's time to let go of his attachment to his wife-possessed house — but Constance doesn't take this development in stride. To add insult to injury, this all takes place on Halloween, the anniversary of her death. Feeling betrayed and hurt, Constance takes control of the trees in the front yard and lifts up the whole house, making it mobile. Unmoored from her foundations, Constance is tired of letting her prey come to her, and goes after her husband and the kids who've turned him against her. As the kids and Mr. Nebbercracker run to the Mayville Luxury Towers' construction site, the house gives chase, lumbering through the neighborhood. Nothing slows the house down.

Yet something is amiss about this sequence, in which the house trudges through the neighborhood, roaring with fury. Before Constance uses the trees as impromptu legs, children and their parents are seen, trick-or-treating all across town. Yet not a single one of them is shown during the chase scene. There are no screams, no people running indoors, no one gaping in awe at a mobile haunted house. We can accept that there are no police, since the house ate the town's only two officers, but the total lack of public reaction to the giant wooden horror is a bit jarring.

Two side characters have an unlikely history together

Typically, animated movies for children aren't celebrated for their expansive lore and world-building. However, all of the little nods and details in Monster House come together to build a surprisingly rich story set in a complex world. For example, there is a surprising link between two side characters that may not be apparent to those watching the movie for the first time — and definitely not to kids in the audience.

When DJ's babysitter Zee invites her boyfriend Bones over to his house, she introduces him by saying, "He's in a band." As soon as DJ's parents are gone, Zee takes off her cardigan to reveal a shirt that says "Skull x Bones." Once DJ goes to his room, she pops a cassette into the stereo labeled "Skull x Bones Live! At The Smell." Sharp-eyed viewers will realize that Skull is Reginald Skulinski, the pizza delivery guy who gives the kids the lowdown on Nebbercracker's house.

Given how much Bones seems to revel in terrorizing DJ, his bandmate seems an odd choice. Reginald Skulinski is worshipped by DJ and Chowder as a minor god of video games. They reverently recall he once played on a single quarter for four days straight, surviving on chocolate milk and wearing an adult diaper. Opposites attract, we suppose, even when it comes to bandmates.

There are multiple references to drug and alcohol use in the film

Despite Monster House having a PG rating, the film contains a fair amount of substance use. Bones throws a label-less bottle at the house, which makes it clear that he was drinking beer before crossing the street. The ante is upped when the kids get the idea to use a dummy filled with cough medicine to make the house fall asleep and execute their plan. Unfortunately, they're interrupted by the police. As one officer accosts the kids, another goes to inspect their creation. After knocking the "head" off their dummy, the officer takes a bottle of cough syrup and tastes it. He then checks to make sure no one is looking before taking a deep swig from the bottle. As adult viewers will know, cough syrup is often abused as a recreational drug, sometimes in tandem with other substances.

The most subtle reference to drug use comes during the scene immediately before the kids' dummy plan is foiled by the police. While DJ, Jenny, and Chowder are drawing up their plans, a quick close-up of the markers they use shows what brand DJ's parents keep handy: "Sir Sniff-A-Lot." This is a sly reference to inhalant abuse, often called "huffing," involving everyday items like cleaning supplies, paint, and, allegedly, sometimes strong-scented markers. 

The Thou Art Dead arcade game seems to be a reference to the Castlevania series

After the police refuse to believe the kids about the monster house, DJ and his friends decide to bring in the big guns. The children head over to a local arcade and seek out the wisdom of Skull, a video game whiz who is engaged in an intense session of playing an arcade game entitled Thou Art Dead. Upon closer inspection, gamers might just notice something familiar about the gothic side-scroller.

Thou Art Dead features an axe-wielding hero fighting monsters in classic 8-bit style. Immediately, this title bears a striking resemblance to Konami's Castlevania series. The original Castlevania game was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987, and has the player take on the role of a skilled vampire hunter making his way through Dracula's castle. The player utilizes various weapons, such as a whip, daggers, bombs, holy water, and axes such as the one seen in Thou Art Dead. While later games feature varied styles of gameplay and differing narratives, the foundation of the Castlevania series remains easily recognizable. 

While Thou Art Dead only appears in the movie for a brief scene, it did become playable in the Monster House video games. The game was also playable on the now defunct Monster House website. Playing the game dispels any doubts about the game's similarities to Castlevania, as the gameplay matches that of the renowned video game classic exactly.

DJ's spying operation is more detailed than just a few Polaroids and his telescope

The film's opening scene shows what has become a regular occurrence in Mayville: A child, or one of their possessions, touches Mr. Nebbercracker's lawn, only for the old man to run out of his front door, throw a fit, and confiscate said item while berating the child. Tragically, the object that Nebbercracker takes is either destroyed or disappears into his house, never to see the light of day again. This ritual has been observed for years by DJ, who is shown taking Polaroid pictures through a telescope in his bedroom. However, DJ's spying operation goes deeper than snapshots — he takes meticulous notes on his elderly neighbor's movements. DJ's detailed notepad is briefly glimpsed, where he documents every one of Mr. Nebbercracker's outbursts.

In his notes, he lists the date of each event and what was taken from whoever stepped on Nebbercracker's property. It's implied that he maintains a ledger of these confiscated items, leading him to conclude that Mr. Nebbercracker has taken 49 baseballs to date. Additionally, regarding a particular baseball incident, DJ records his neighbor's reaction time as being 24 seconds. While DJ's spying habit is framed as a bit odd, taking a closer look at his dedication to keeping tabs on his neighbor through adult eyes is quite troubling. Please, DJ: Get a healthier hobby.

Chowder mixes up his anatomy

As is implied by the film's title, the monster house is, in fact, a living being. As such, it is filled with organs analogous to those of the human body. For instance, the house has a functioning heart secured within its furnace. Another commonality is the chandelier hanging within the entryway, which serves as the uvula, or, as Jenny's refers to it, "nature's emergency exit."

While Jenny and DJ find the monster house's human-like anatomy fascinating, Chowder doesn't fully grasp the spectacle within. When discussing the functionality of the chandelier-uvula, Chowder has a sudden realization. The confused boy muses, "Oh, so it's a girl house." It seems that Chowder has mixed up the uvula, the fleshy projection dangling at the back of the human throat, with a private part of the female anatomy. When Jenny attempts to assure him that everyone has a uvula, Chowder asserts, "Not me," still not understanding the mix-up. Hopefully, Mayville's schools have decent health classes that will eventually set Chowder straight.