ParaNorman Understands Its Appeal And Thrives
ParaNorman is a scrappy little film and an excellent example of how you can lean into genre fandom and come out with something amazing. It’s clearly made by horror aficionados. There are references, in-jokes, and a real understanding of the appeal of zombies.
And, like Coraline before it, it’s genuinely disturbing in places. I’d seen ParaNorman before, but I had forgotten just how grotesque the zombie designs are. Their gaping maws are artful in their nastiness, while not being too scary for children. That’s not an easy balance to hit, but it makes for classics when movies do stick the landing.
Kid’s Horror Needs To Be Spooky But Not Graphic
What also makes it classic is its storytelling. It shines. The initial minutes are both morbid and funny—and it just gets better from there. Norman is instantly endearing and relatable for anyone with a nerdy background. Laika seems to understand intrinsically how to present both competent and realistic children.
But it’s later where the plot becomes brilliant. I will not spoil the twists, but it’s foreshadowed, paid off well, and impactful. While remaining mostly kid friendly, ParaNorman touches on bullying, death, and prejudice with respect and an aching sense of realness.
ParaNorman Tackles Some Dark Bold Story Ideas
And then there’s the animation. Laika’s stop-motion even in 2012 was amazing and fluid. The true standout is later scenes with the witch. Though utilizing some CGI, it’s dynamic and scary and does things with the camera most movies—animation or not—wouldn’t even try. I have no idea how they created certain scenes, but animation as a medium is better for it.
It may be overstating or hyperbolic, but ParaNorman and its cousin Coraline and distant relative Nightmare Before Christmas are pitch-perfect Halloween family movies. If any child shows an interest in authors like Stephen King or wants to watch something like The Babadook, ParaNorman is a great place for them to start.
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