“There’s nothing wrong with being afraid, Norman. So long as you don’t let it change who you are.”
Norman is just like any other typical young boy. His parents don’t understand him, his older sister thinks he’s a loser, and school is the last place he wants to be. The only difference is, most of the people Norman converses with aren’t his age. They aren’t alive, either. Most of the people in town frown upon Norman’s ways, and simply conclude that he’s insane. However, one boy named Neil believes in Norman’s spiritual connection, and seeks companionship with the young loner. Although reluctant at first, Norman agrees to this newfound friendship, and soon finds that the only thing worse than being taunted is to deny any love you receive.
Norman lives in Blithe Hollow, where every October brings the reminiscence of the witches that the town scorned and killed in the past. This is obviously a tragic tale, but one could hardly tell by the town’s enthusiasm that seeps into every advertisement, even into the children’s school play. The children reenact the story, in which the town’s local judge and witnesses condemn the so-called “witch” to death. However, before they can hang her, the witch casts out a curse upon those who hurt her, to turn them into zombies after death. Soon, through his special gift, Norman finds that the past is coming back to haunt him-literally. The town’s local nut, a.k.a. Norman’s uncle, warns Norman that the time has come for him to use his gift to save the world. Apparently, every year, one person must go to the witch’s grave and read from a special book to prevent the curse from occurring. But what happens if the book isn’t read in time? Can Norman save the day from the living dead? And, after the way he’s been treated, should he?
When you love things of the macabre, it’s easy to feel ostracized. People always ask when you’re going to change, or when you’re going to grow up. What they’re really asking is when you’re going to become more like them, i.e. more “normal”. But what is normal? And why should we limit ourselves to acting a certain way because it is deemed more acceptable? It’s great when a film like ParaNorman can make you feel like abnormal is the new normal.
I went into ParaNorman with very low expectations. I thought that the animation would be terrific, but the story would be lacking. I was wrong. Not only did I leave the theater smiling, but I felt happier than when I went in. ParaNorman carries an accepting air, that only wishes to love and be loved. Some may think this movie isn’t for them because of its dark tone, but this is not the case. Although it is somewhat morbid, the film is relatable for anyone who’s willing to give it a chance. This is because everyone has felt isolated at one point or another. The truth is, feeling alone isn’t rare. It’s normal. How we handle our loneliness is what makes us who we are. The key to happiness isn’t trying to surround yourself with people, but rather, to look inward, and embrace who you are.
Although this movie is for anyone (even adults), genre fans will appreciate the subtle references to classic horror films. Besides the Romero homages, one of the songs that plays throughout the film is clearly a nod to The Return of the Living Dead. There’s also a Halloween ringtone that plays, and even a Friday the 13th hockey mask. Fans of scary movies will be in horror nirvana and feel like a youngster, all at the same time. The entire film contains a very 1970s/1980s vibe, which only makes sense, because so many classic horror flicks were released during those years.
If all of these reasons just aren’t enough to sway you to to drag your feet and moan your way to the theater, then perhaps the animation will. This movie contains some of the best stop-motion animation that has ever existed in film. It’s the first stop-motion movie to use a 3D printer to make replacement faces for its puppets. And besides that, it’s simply a laugh-out-loud movie.