Review: Monster House
4 / 5 Stars
Douglas Pipes makes an impressive mainstream Hollywood debut with his playful, rousing and energetic score for the animated Monster House. The story centers on three youngsters who discover that a neighborhood mansion is actually a hungry monster that will gobble up anything that winds up on its property. This fun and creative premise has clearly given Pipes ample room for his imagination, as the inventiveness of his score makes for a highly enjoyable listening experience.
The album begins with "Opening/Titles", which transitions from fanciful piano and woodwind, to mischievous strings, then finally to operatic brass, all in 61 seconds. This opening track encapsulates the approach Pipes employs for the album as a whole; namely, his decision to narrate an assortment of moods using a wide range of instrumentation within tightly constructed compositions. Many of the tracks are no longer than two minutes, but it\'s the composer\'s ability to pack in so much musical variety so efficiently, coupled with the album\'s overall lighthearted tone and well-balanced track sequence, that makes Monster House such a satisfying listen apart from the film.
The interplay between woodwind and strings in the light "Parents Drive Off" and foreboding "The Chimney" are excellent examples of the album\'s clever arrangements. Layered underscore provides effective tension and mystery in tracks like "Go To Your Room" and "Elegy", which serve as natural complements to the frenetic string rhythms and bursts of majestic brass scattered throughout cues such as "Ding Dong/House Comes Alive!" and "Cop Car Gets Eaten". The album really cuts loose later on with some good old-fashioned, bombastic action music in "Chowder to the Rescue", "House Chase", and "The Battle". The lively passage heard in the first track has a slightly more extended encore in "End Titles", before piano and strings in "The Dance" bring the album to a nuanced close.
Pipes makes good use of a few brief thematic statements that aren\'t developed enough to stand on their own, but rather blend in with the rest of the musical activity and may only become recognizable after several listens. However, in no way does this detract from the enjoyment of listening to this high-quality score. It\'s certainly an auspicious Hollywood start for any composer if the bold intensity of Jerry Goldsmith, the witty rhythms of Danny Elfman, and the breezy energy of Alan Silvestri all come to mind within the same album, which they all do here. The score for Monster House is undoubtedly a surprise 2006 highlight, and gives fans of film music more than enough reason to look forward to the skilled Pipes\' future projects.