I See Dead People: ParaNorman

Yeah I know, outdated Sixth Sense reference is really outdated and come on Z, don’t you have anything more current you can use? Yes, I possibly do, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to. So there. Hah. Anyway, I got stuff chucked at me by the editor going “Z! Name a kid’s thing that’s really cool.” I took this to mean that she wanted to me to do this issue’s GUST style review, so I put my thinking cap on, and wandered over to the DVD shelf to see what I could review. It’s the month of February, the month of love, so obviously I wanted something to keep in touch with this light-hearted and loving month. So my movie choice was ParaNorman.

ParaNorman poster

ParaNorman is about an eleven year old boy called Norman who is an outcast in the small town he lives in because he can see and speak to the dead..This makes him a prime target for bullying, and makes him just seem outright weird to everyone around. His parents worry for him, and his sister is a little bit irritated with it all. However, when the night of 300 anniversary of the witch’s curse comes around, it’s up to Norman to save the town from the zombies that come, and to try to calm the witch, and end the curse for good.

Now, this is a stop-motion animation, created by Laika – the people who made the rather excellent Coraline movie – and it really seems to continue in their trend of pushing that PG rating for all they can get for it. At heart, this movie is a love letter to the zombie genre, opening with a brilliantly animated spoof of those corny zombie b-movies with terrible acting, tiny budgets, but made with all the best of intentions. Norman, our lead, is introduced to us by showing him as a lover of these types of movies, a fan of zombies, and ghosts, and all things dead and paranormal. It seems to be how he deals on a daily basis with his gift of talking to the dead. Well, at least his Grandma’s on his side… oh wait, she’s dead too.

Yeah… one of the most striking things about this movie is the depiction of school level bullying. It’s overwhelming accurate, so I guess I should trigger warn for it. It is … if you are in the unfortunate position of having been bullied, you will find it depressingly familiar. Norman seems apathetic to it, a sad if subtle way of showing us just how used to this treatment he is. The only time he ever actually seems hurt by it is when it appears to him as though his father is scared of him. And this where we really get the lesson of the movie, when his mother assures him that it’s not that Norman’s dad is scared of him, it’s that he’s scared for him. The world can be a cruel place to people who are different, or who can do things that others can’t understand.

This message, as far as messages go, is actually pretty decently handled. After all, it’s not as if we can’t understand why people would be scared of an ability to talk to the dead. It’s the same as why people used to be scared of witches. Which brings us back to that interesting little plot point about the witch’s curse, and the dead coming back to life as their decaying corpses make their way through town, looking for Norman. You see, these zombies, they were once scared of someone they couldn’t understand, and I’ll let that hover tantalisingly in front of you there as I assure you that the ‘twist’ for this movie is really done well, feeling rather like a sucker punch to the stomach when you become aware.

So, considering the subject matter, is ParaNorman a scary movie? It certainly stretches that PG rating for all its worth, and has some of the darkest images I’ve seen for a PG movie. I don’t think I’d necessarily call it scary, but at the same time, it’s not something I’d let a little kid watch on their own. For an adult though? It’s a fun watch from start to finish, with beautiful animation, moments of genuine emotion, and a protagonist who is likeable and relateable despite most of us not having his gift. Probably. Definitely one to check out

Z McAspurren (wonders how Frankenweenie will measure up…)

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