Just the opening scene is enough to make anyone who grew up on horror movies burst with excitement. It begins with a movie within the movie: the saturated reel, the bass of eminent doom, a blood-curdling scream, and "BRAINSSS!" Our hero Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) sits in front of his TV taking pleasure in watching scary movies, a hobby he enjoys alone. However, he is never really alone. Norman can see the dead, making him an outcast by his fellow students and even his family. His superficial sister, Courtney (Anna Kendrick), always seems to be doing damage control to hide her brother’s eccentricities whenever he’s not evading being picked on by the school bully, Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Just when he settles for being alone and keeping out of the way of everyone he seems to bother, his uncle (John Goodman) entrusts him with a task: To stop the witch's curse from consuming the town. Meanwhile, the town, believing the curse to be a colorful bit of local myth, embraced only for the tourist revenue it brings in, builds a celebration around what may very well destroy them. Already the outcast, Norman is forced to make a decision that will only make him appear even crazier to the people in his life. Along the way, Norman's family, new friend, and old enemy join the quest, many without even realizing what they're up against.
ParaNorman is a fantastic kid’s adventure reminiscent of movies like The Goonies mixed with John Carpenter flicks. It has the underdog who teams up with the bully, the endearing best friend sidekick, and the older teen siblings (the lovestruck girl and the lantern-jawed jock – horror movie staples) who band together to face down an apparent zombie attack! And in the process, they bond over these terrifying experiences that they wouldn’t have bonded over otherwise, adding a dash of John Hughes into its beautifully spliced genre-bending DNA.
Watch the latest trailer here:
Created with stop-motion animation puppets by LAIKA (Coraline), the terrifying obstacles the heroes face to stop the witch’s curse is creepy fun for the eyes and really makes good use of the 3D enhancement, with gory bits flying out at you. There’s also a ton of homages to classic films that will surely be appreciated by all horror fanatics. The zombie grave yard scene had a very Raimi feel to it. Keep an eye out for the Mondo inspired posters on Norman’s wall and his awesome alarm clock. No doubt many will want real-life versions of the clever movie world only items found throughout this film.
LAIKA has brought to the screens another stop-motion gem that is not only beautifully animated with all these wonderful details, but it brings us a unique story with real heart about how strangeness should not be feared, but understood. This movie is for anyone who has ever felt different and shows that the very thing that made you weird can sometimes be what helps make a difference in the end.
ParaNorman hits theaters August 17th
Check this out if you like: Coraline, Vincent, The Goonies, Fright Night, The Breakfast Club, Evil Dead.
(*Editors Note: If you’re fascinated by how the puppets they use in the film were created, stick around after the credits for a quick peek.)