From the folks that brought you Coraline, comes something even more horrific, or perhaps I should say terrorific!
With the uncanny ability to commune with the departed, Norman is anything but normal. As a social pariah due to his quirky ability, Norman takes pleasure knowing that he isn’t alone, but when he discovers that only he can prevent an age old curse from rising once again, the intrepid little fellow reluctantly takes up the mantle that his deceased uncle left to him – thankfully, he isn’t alone even though his companions aren’t exactly friendly.
As a stop-motion animated film, ParaNorman sticks out from the humdrum of computer generated kiddy fare. What makes the film truly special though is how lovingly devoted studio Laika are to the medium, exhausting every trick that they can to make this unique horror film a highlight of the year and a triumph for animation as an art form. The detailing of the puppets, structures, and props is just overwhelmingly gorgeous to the point where one might question whether the modelers had OCD.
Visuals aside, the story ranges in tone from candy corn sweet to pantaloon-soiling scary but often settles for a middle-ground of clever horror with occasionally crude humour (read barfing) to offset what can be a tad serious at times. ParaNorman is unique in how it twists up the zombie sub-genre while remaining faithful, almost in tribute to the chills that the undead once brought.
In a year that has seen several animated horror themed films released, ParaNorman truly stands on its own as something special. While it’s understandable that Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie will receive comparison, this little horror in glorious colour outclasses it as a unique piece of storytelling with an excess of visual flair – there’s no recycling or remaking, just fresh meat for the chopping block. It’s just a pleasure to sit an watch something that exhibits the traits of a creation driven by love rather than money driven ambition.
While the age restriction is set at an acceptable 10 M, it should be noted that even though it is mostly light hearted, there are some genuinely scary parts, so be cautious if you plan on bringing someone who doesn’t deal well with that.
As expected, ParaNorman is also in the third dimension – don’t let this deter you though; the effects are well implemented as one would expect from an animated feature, but once again it really is hard to justify the price of the extra ticket for a film that works just as well without the gimmick.
The Bottom Line
ParaNorman might not be as charming as Coraline – the studios previous feature film – but it retains the passion for the art form and the creativity of the animation is really a sight to behold. The plot is anything but derivative and benefits from great character work and a visual scope that makes ParaNorman a movie that will definitely crawl under your skin – in a good way of course.