Last year, I made a list of every horror movie I wanted to watch to celebrate Halloween in October, and I watched approximately one of them (Unfriended, which by the way was pretty good).
This year, I’m going to make good on that promise I made last year, and I’m going to watch as many as I can this month. All of them are ones I’ve never seen before, but today I watched a movie with my students that’s one of my favorites, so it ended up being a great starter for the season.
It’s no secret that my favorite movie of all time is Coraline. I feel like I drop that into conversation once a month somehow, but I don’t talk enough about the other great Laika productions, and with Kubo and the Two Strings coming out, it’s more perfect than ever. Also, my students love Coraline (and Corpse Bride, too).
I saw Paranorman for the first time on accident. I started watching it on Netflix, not knowing it was from the same company as Coraline, and even though it starts quite slow, the way it builds up is fantastic.
For starters, it’s gorgeous. That’s to be expected, because it’s claymation, and I love that style. I don’t know how they do it, especially since the directors have very little to their name (one has only done Paranorman, and the other has done just a handful of others that are less spectacular), but it’s beautiful. The scene that blew me away was when we’re first dropped into Norman’s world and see it through his eyes, the camera going from third-person spectral cameraman to following Norman from behind then spinning around, zooming in on Norman’s face, and then panning back around as we enter his world. It’s probably the most jaw-dropping moment of the film for me, at least when it comes to visuals. That or the way the scene literally burns away when Norman has a vision.
Plus, it’s legitimately scary. I jumped out of my seat more than once, especially in the first half of the movie. The jump few scares never seem disingenuous though, because in a lot of cases they turn into gags. It reminds me of Shaun of the Dead in that way, because it’s legitimately a horror-comedy that scares just as well as it makes you laugh. I laughed harder than my students in a lot of cases, to be honest.
I love the twist, when the zombies are thrust into that scare of modern day life, and very quickly the tables turn on them. It’s pretty hilarious how fast it happens, and I think you immediately sympathize with them (that’s hard to do in a horror movie, sympathize with anyone to be honest). But I sympathized hard with them, and yeah, they were terrible to the little girl, but you could see how they’d realized their errors and that it’s wrong to act out of fear. I love showing this movie, especially nowadays when too many people are reacting out of fear because they don’t understand something, whether it’s in Britain or the USA or anywhere really.
If there’s any misstep in the movie, it’s the resolution. I am almost never a fan of big action-packed resolutions, and I found the actual plot (not the visuals at all, because wow) of the ending to be really lacking. Still, that’s not why I love this movie. Honestly, though short, one of the things I love most is the relationship between Neil and Norman. It’s really touching, and my favorite scene is when they’re hanging out in Neil’s backyard with his dead dog. Everything there is so touching, and I found them both to be incredibly lovely, relatable characters with a whole lot of charm.
Paranorman is, I think, a film that isn’t talked about enough. It’s got a solid core, fantastic visuals, and I’m telling you now, the way they’re heading, Laika is going to be taking the place of Disney and Studio Ghibli.
Happy Halloween 👻