Do you like scary movies?
It’s time to “be afraid, be very afraid,” as SpoilerFreeReviews is dropping 13 spooky movies for fans to enjoy this PSL season. We will post our most frightful Halloween favorites over the next 13 spooky nights. So join us around the fire as we tell our 13 creepy Halloween favorites.
Once again, stepping in to spread the gospel of Laika and how they’re the most ridiculously underrated storytellers in modern-day cinema. While CORALINE put them on the map, their follow-up PARANORMAN solidified this. It’s a travesty to think that in a year where this and WRECK-IT RALPH were nominated for Best Animated Feature, the insipid BRAVE from Pixar took home the award.
But I digress. Much like its predecessor, the film is beautifully crafted in every frame, going as far as to introduce ambitious visual effects in the way certain characters, such as Agatha, move and act. But even without the animation, the story and characters are so incredibly strong, and the script is such that you instantly fall in love with your heroes and villains.
PARANORMAN tells the story of Norman Babcock, an 11-year-old with the ability to see and communicate with the dead. This naturally alienates him from everyone around him, from his family to the kids at school (everyone except a fellow bullying victim, Neil, who wants to befriend him). Unfortunately, Norman’s town Blythe Hollow becomes the victim to the vengeful spirit of a witch, who raises zombies from the grave and terrorizes the deeply superstitious town with her abilities. And due to his gifts, Norman is the only one who can stop it.
What sets PARANORMAN apart from most other animated films is how brutally honest and heartfully sincere it is about life and its challenges; particularly the nature of human beings and the effects of bullying. In a movie about zombies, witches, and ghosts, the most terrifying thing is humanity and the idea that misunderstanding, miscommunication, and fear are more destructive than witchcraft and necromancy. But coupled with that darkness, the film presents the idea of light as well. Not all people are bad. Not all witches are evil. And even if you have done something bad, there’s always a chance to set things right and become better.
The best sorts of movies are the ones that make you smile and break your heart, and I can honestly tell you, it’s impossible for me to watch this movie without shedding tears. The struggles faced by Norman and Agatha for being different or misunderstood or ignored by their peers and the toll it has on both of them is absolutely heart-wrenching. But even more admirable and touching is how Norman, as a protagonist, winds up nobly rising above all of the bullying and hatred thrown his way, and does something shocking; he tries to understand another human being.
That said, it’s also a ton of fun! With clever humor, and brilliant homages to 50s and 60s zombie movies. The creators love old horror films and by proxy so do their protagonists. It makes things a complete blast to look and point out different Easter eggs for the horror crowd, while also remembering this is a pretty safe movie for your kids.
In some ways, this is not only a movie that folks should watch for Halloween. It’s a movie that couldn’t be more relevant today. It takes down societal bullying, mob mentality, fear, and ignorance and builds up the importance of empathy and acceptance. The world is broken. People are broken. But if we do better to understand one another, things can be fixed. And that’s what PARANORMAN is truly about.
A beautiful, somber, powerful, simple story with terrific characters, effects, and even a couple of splashes of humor, this is one of the most underrated, criminally underseen animated films of the past decade. My biggest hope for the one thing you take away from this review is that if you haven’t seen this movie, go out and give it a chance. I promise it won’t disappoint you.
PARANORMAN is streaming on The Roku Channel