Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Days of Halloween Redux: ParaNorman

2012, Chris Butler, Sam Fell -- cinema

This is one of those animations that comes out of nowhere.  It is not by any of the bigger name computer animation companies nor is it based on any already existing for-kids properties.  And while it was not release near the end of October, it is close enough in genre to be considered for the second annual watching of Halloween related movies.  Oh did I mention it, I am doing that again.  This year, we are being a bit more lenient and not labeling it '31 Days of Horror', just 'Halloween'.  Will it include more?  Probably.  Will it include torture porn?  Not likely, but again some will blur the line of what we label as such.  Will it include comedy?  Probably more, thus beginning with this fun animation about a kid who really lives each day like it is Halloween.

Norman can see ghosts and everybody knows it.  They don't much like him for it.  he is the weird kid, but I have to say, he doesn't help the matter by being addicted to horror pop culture.  He has zombies all over the place, loves classic monster movies and his room is plastered with horror movie posters.  The seeing-ghosts concept almost seems to be a by-product of his obsessions.  Luckily, his ghosts are not i see dead people scary sort but more the arguing with his dead grandmother sort.  There lurks some dark family secret and, by the way, did we mention that this movie takes place in a quaint little town that celebrates the witch it once hung?  Ugly green skinned ladies with brooms and pointed hats make up most of the town's personality.

Norman's trouble is that this is all connected to his family secret -- that many in his family could see the dead and with that "gift" came the responsibility of dealing with the ghost of the hanged witch.  If she wasn't take care of, she would stir up green smokey trouble for the entire town.  Oh, and would cause the dead to rise as zombies.  His weird estranged uncle tries to convince Norman of the impending doom because he knows he is not long for this world and even after he passes on, he knows Norman can see him well enough to be convinced.  Thus Norman's fate is determined.

The rest of the movie is all about zombies running around being terrorized by the townsfolk while Norman tries to figure out how to settle down the ghost of the witch, once and for all time.  His family heritage of annually reading her a good night tale seems futile to Norman.  He wants it done for good.  Thus he finds out more about what happened to the witch, the regretful circumstances and how to finally settle her to a long night's rest.  And yes, I said the zombies are terrorized by the townsfolk.  They are in fact the folk who hung the witch and are cursed by her.  They really just need Norman's help but rednecks with shotguns who saw The Walking Dead isn't helping the matter.

This was a charming movie but surprisingly, with not as many laugh out loud guffaws as I hoped for.  It seemed like it was based on existing property, as many details were left to us to fill in, but it isn't.  So that only left sloppy editing.  The animation is stupendous, done in a fun quirky manner, bulging bellies and weird angles.  But it doesn't take advantage of more of what it advertized it self to be.  Norman loves zombies and monsters, but why is he afraid of the real thing?  His obsession and his ability to see real ghosts should allow him less fear than your average bear.  But no, he is just as afraid as the rest of the kids in movies like these.  That is, until he gets wrapped up in it.  Then the adventure rolls along as expected.  I was just expecting... more?