If there was one thing you didn’t know was missing at the multiplex, its horror for the whole family. Quite possibly even more so I bet you never would have thought it was zombie movies either. But have no fear, stop-motion animation studio Laika is here to save you. Harkening to the spirit of Monster House, directors Sam Fell (The Tale of Despereaux and the underrated Flushed Away) and Chris Butler (who wrote the film) also know all too well what it is like to be a kid obsessed with all things horror. Something I too know all too well having watched HBO’s Tales From the Crypt when it debuted in 1989 when I was merely nine years old. With only two previous feature films under their belts (production work on Corpse Bride and their first solo release Coraline), they’re out to prove that horror can be fun for everyone with their latest venture, ParaNorman.
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives in the town of Blithe Hollow which is about to celebrate its 300th anniversary. Norman spends his free time watching horror movies with his grandmother’s (voiced by Elaine Stritch) ghost. Yep, that’s right, much to his parents’ (Sandra and Perry, voiced by Ben Garlin and Leslie Mann) dismay, Norman sees dead people. Including, but not limited to, human and animals alike. Norman’s Uncle Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman) is the only one who understands Norman’s lot in life and sets out to let him know that a witch’s curse is about to unleash the undead upon Blithe Hollow and Norman is the only one who can stop it. Not without a little help from his new friend Neil (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), his sister Courtney (voiced by Anna Kendrick), who spends her time pining over jock Mitch (Casey Affleck), and even school bully Alvin (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
Brains squish, Halloween ringtones blare, hockey masks are donned, and even The Walking Dead gets name dropped. There’s even an opening movie-within-the-movie that looks like something Quentin Tarantino could have dreamed up. Aside from Monster House and Coraline, this just may be the most fun kids could have at a horror movie since Monster Squad. With jaw-dropping stop-motion animation, Laika and directors Fell and Butler are having the time of their lives. Some of it borders on maybe being a little too much for the youngest viewers, but I blame modern society on that. Growing up with the likes of Gremlins, Poltergeist, Piranha, and my all-time favorite film Jaws, on an endless loop, this would undoubtedly have been another favorite. Being 32 years of age now, without children of my own just yet, I still can’t wait to add ParaNorman to my Blu-ray collection. And not just for personal repeat viewings but so that someday my own children will have their own modern classic that I’ll be more than happy to share with them.
Photo courtesy Focus Features