J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, September 10, 2012

House of Monsters: Oscar-Qualified and Ready to Haunt the Festival Circuit


You’d think monsters would be anti-social, but strangely enough, they can often be found sharing haunted digs.  This leads to a bit of friction between the Mummy and the Frankensteins.  Alas, the former pharaoh gets the worst of it in Dawn Brown’s stop-motion animated short House of Monsters, which just completed an Oscar qualifying run at the Laemmle and should now have plenty of festival action ahead of it.

One of the drawbacks of being undead is dry itchiness of desiccated skin.  Fortunately, there is a mad scientist in the house to prescribe something for the Mummy.  Once quite the catch, he would like to put the moves on Frankenstein’s Bride.  Despite an assist from Dracula, things turn out rather badly for him.  No worries.  Classic monsters never die, they just come back for revenge later.

Brown, a frequent animator and special effects artist on Tim Burton films, is something of a one-man band on House, serving as writer, director, animator, and producer.  Animation enthusiasts should be duly impressed by the quality and rich detail of Brown’s work here.  It is easy to see why she has been in such demand.  In fact, one might suspect her contributions have been the best part of many big budget films she has worked on.  While House is a complete, self-contained (but admittedly brief) story, it could easily serve as a pilot or constituent episode of a longer monster project in the future.

Also an artist for Vampirella comic books, Brown clearly understands and shares the enduring affection for these characters. Indeed, you can never go wrong with the iconic undead scampering about an old dark house.  While never too macabre for children, the real audience will probably be nostalgic adults who read Famous Monsters of Filmland as pre-teens and never outgrew their love of the classic Universal monster movies.  (The opening title even evokes Ackerman’s famous fan magazine’s type treatment.)

At just over seven minutes, most fans will be left wanting more, which is probably the idea.  Recommended for animations connoisseurs and famous creature lovers, House of Monsters should be coming to a festival near you soon and deserves a serious look come awards season.

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