Wasn’t Monster House awesome? In case you’re having a hard time answering that question, the answer is YES, Monster House is awesome. It was able to take a silly, kid-oriented plot, but make it spooky enough for a great Halloween movie for people of all ages, especially those of us who love horror movies. I guess that when I saw the trailer for ParaNorman, I had expected it to be kind of the same thing, since it was obviously a kids movie that had pretty funny jokes in the trailer but also some Halloween themes to it. BOY, WAS I WRONG! Well, not entirely wrong, but kind of wrong. I’ll get to that in a moment. Unfortunately, this movie reminded me exactly why I try to avoid watching trailers for anything or ever getting excited, because if you enter a movie with certain expectations or standards, even if the movie is better than those expectations, your perception of it skews that reaction a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed ParaNorman, but even though it hasn’t even been a week since I’ve seen it, I want to go back! WE HAVE TO GO BACK! (pretend I just shouted that like Matthew Fox wearing a funny beard).
How very Shaun of the Dead of you, ParaNorman!
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is just your regular, average ten year old who can see and talk to ghosts. He gets made fun of by his family and people at school, but he tries not to let it bother him. The only people who don’t tease him are Neal (voiced by Tucker Albrizzi), who is also kind of an 10 year old awkward kid, and Norman’s uncle Mr. Prenderghast (voiced by John Goodman), who also shares his gift of talking to ghosts. They all live in a town called “Blithe Hollow”, which was made a tourist destination for killing a witch 300 years earlier. Norman’s having strange visions of the trial of this witch, and Mr. Prenderghast tells Norman that it’s up to him to stop the witch’s curse. Norman tries to ignore him, but his trouble ignoring him when Mr. Prenderghast dies and comes back to Norman to explain the severity of the situation. Norman finally accepts what he must do, but even after following Mr. Prenderghasts’s instructions, it doesn’t stop the zombified remains of the judges who killed the witch from rising up from the grave. These zombies head towards the town and while the townspeople try to maim/destroy/kill these zombies, Norman tries to figure out what he can do to stop the witch from ruining everything. Without the help of books, but instead with the help of his visions, Norman learns that the witch who was killed was just a little, lonely girl who was wrongfully accused, and the book that Mr. Prenderghast read every year was just a bedtime story that made the little girl sleep for the whole year. The zombie judges? They weren’t trying to hurt anyone, as they just wanted the curse to end as well. Through his dead people talking to skills, Norman is able to find the little girl and let her know that what those adults did was terrible, but if every year she is trying to torture the town, she’s just as big of a bully as the people who killed her. When she realizes this, the curse ends, and the entire town has a new respect for Norman and his abilities, and everyone lives scarily ever after.
Right before this, Norman’s cell phone rand and it was the Halloween theme, then Neal is outside wearing a Jason Voorhees mask? SOMETHING ISN’T ADDING UP.
Does that sound funny at all? PROBABLY NOT. Before making this movie, writer/director Chris Butler worked on Corpse Bride and Coraline, neither of which I really dig, but both of which seem to have a cult following. Obviously this guy has a taste for the macabre and horrific, which might explain why he has described this movie as “John Carpenter meets John Hughes”. In fact, I’m not sure I could come up with a better description myself, but what kind of an asshole would I be to try and summarize a movie more accurately than the person who wrote and directed it? I was glad to hear that quote from Butler, as there were times in the movie where the soundtrack really emulated that John Carpenter/Goblin style of synth/keyboards from the 70’s and 80’s. There was also one scene where Norman reached under his bed and one of the board games was called “Hand of Fate”, and seeing as I caught that one reference, I’m sure there were dozens other that I didn’t get. Good job, Mr. Butler, good job indeed.
It’s funny, I looked at this image and thought it looked like things were posed just for this photo, then remembered what the filmmaking process consisted of, and remembered that’s EXACTLY what’s happening. Me a dumb dumb.
I mentioned having a preconceived notion about this movie before going in, and in addition to thinking that it would be a comedy, I also heard about how one character was gay and there were tons of stupid religious people all cranky about it. The whole movie, I kept waiting for Neal to say he loved Norman, except then I was confused when Neal was freeze-framing scenes of women doing aerobics on TV. I won’t spoil the actual reveal, because it’s pretty obvious in retrospect, but I thought it was a good decision to make for that character. I was a little nervous that a character was made gay only for the sake of making a progressive point, but even if it was just to make a point, good for fucking them. I’m sure there are other “kids” movies that have had gay characters in them that didn’t specifically address their sexuality, so even if the only reason that bit of dialogue was included in the movie so that kids would ask what that character was talking about, it’s about time. I don’t have any kids, so I don’t know what is or isn’t appropriate for them, but I think the reason this movie really succeeds is that it’s not a kids movie, it’s just A movie that is animated and happened to get a PG rating. In fact, I think they got off pretty well with a PG rating, because if some of those scenes were a little more intense, I wouldn’t have been surprised to get it bumped up to a PG-13. Oh yeah! I also just remembered that one of the characters said “pissed”! Now these kids are cursing?! Gay people, cursing, witches…go back to Massachusetts, hippies!
Wolfman Moon Scale