Paranorman Review

Movie: Paranorman
By: Maniac E
Date: August 16, 2012

It's all fun and games until someone raises the dead.

Focus Features has only had two animated films up to this point; the beautifully crafted, but story-lacking 9, and of course the gorgeous and creepy Coraline. Now, this studio's third animated film gives us both a funny and creepy story about a town under siege by zombies and an ancient witch's curse. Which begs the question can a horror film designed for children actually do what a horror film is meant to do and scare the crap out of them?! Well, judging by PARANORMAN, the kiddie horror-comedy from LAIKA (the studio behind 2009's sublime CORALINE), the answer is…possibly!

The story:

Hedgehog-haired Norman (voiced by Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee) loves to watch zombie flicks with a bowl of popcorn at his feet and the ghost of his dead grandmother (Elaine Stritch) asking for plot updates while she sits knitting on the couch. His parents aren't fans of Norman's undead obsessions, both real and cinematic. Same goes for his vapid, social-media maniac older sister Courtney (voiced by Anna Kendrick), who rates him slightly above pond scum, and the school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who delights in torturing him. But Norman's passions dovetail with his surroundings, considering they live in Blithe Hollow, the site of a famous witch trial 300 years before that didn't end so well for the witch. 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.


But this is horror done right, with suspense and surprise rather than gore and viscera. And speaking of surprises, "ParaNorman" effectively works in a moral about how fear causes us to lash out at others, putting the witch's tormentors in the same boat with Alvin and the trigger-happy townsfolk. It doesn't bludgeon you with its anti-bullying sentiment, but the point is made all the same With nods to everything from Ghostbusters to Scooby Doo, ParaNorman is a visual delight that tells its story while avoiding the slick, machine-milled look of so many animated offerings today. A scene in the school bathroom where a ghost grows restless is a delight, although the climactic endgame drags on and suffers from too much moralizing that doesn't mesh with the quick-lipped fun that's gone before.


Now this movie is in 3D and the 3D does it works but in the end it keeps feeling smudged on. Everyone knows I ain't a big 3D enthusiast and with this movie it isn't a lot different from others. It does what it needs to do the terrifying obstacles the heroes face to stop the witch's curse is creepy fun for the eyes and the 3D enhancement of course makes sure you will see 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.


The whole look and feel of the movie is amazing in a none gory way, I am suprised that I liked the movie as much as I did. The jokes are funny even for adults and it is a real family movie, one to enjoy with all. 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.



Image quality

ParaNorman springs to life with a flawless 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation that showcases the film's grim, ghoulish wonders beautifully. Breaking from convention, Butler and Fell shot all 400,000 stop-frames of the movie using sixty Canon EOS 5D Mark II SLR cameras, and the resulting high definition image is as crisp and refined as any animation fan could hope for.


5.1 surround track doesn't quite wake the dead but it'll give 'em a good shake. The LFE channel scares up supernatural storms, apocalyptic chaos, chilling moans and groans, and deep, hair-raising thooms without incident, and the rear speakers match it all crash for smash. Winds howl from every direction. Zombies shamble up behind unsuspecting viewers. Ghostly wails echo across the soundfield.


The disc that we could review didn't had any extras on it but the retail version will have extras once we have a retail version we will adjust this score


Paranorman should be in the collection of anyone who is into animation. The disc pure enjoyment on your HD set and the movie it self is a great timeless classic already! LAIKA did it again!







Chris Butler, Sam Fell






Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse