Norman is no ordinary boy; he constantly sees ghosts and talks to them all the time. This alienates him from his family and his local community, making him an ideal target for the school bullies. However, when his uncle dies, he is suddenly given the responsibility of stopping the witch’s curse that has haunted the town for 300 years (unbeknownst to the townspeople). Not knowing what to do, Norman is faced with a band of zombies who seem hell-bent on destroying the town and eating everyone’s brains. Can Norman work out how to stop the curse before it’s too late?

ParaNorman (2012) – Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Is ParaNorman appropriate for kids

Rating: PG

Running Length: 92 mins

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Casey Affleck

Genre: Horror, Animated

 

REVIEW

ParaNorman’ can be best described as a horror movie for kids. Directors Butler and Fell have lovingly created a film based on all the elements of classic horror movies and bringing the genre to a younger audience in the process. Obviously having a finger on the pulse of what kids enjoy in a horror movie, ‘ParaNorman’ successfully blends plenty of scares and supernatural goings on with very believable characters and situations which many children will be able to relate to. Norman is a very likeable boy who develops nicely as the story unfolds, as do the rest of the characters.

ParaNorman’ is definitely not a film for children with a nervous disposition. It pulls no punches with the scares, includes the concept of brain eating zombies, and the finale where Norman confronts the witch is particularly intense with very little light relief. It is great, however, for kids who enjoy being frightened in a safe way and for parents to be assured that the movie will not go too far. This film is a great introduction to a genre which is usually only reserved for older audiences, other recent examples of children’s horror include ‘Coraline’ and ‘Monster House’ and the majority of them have been warmly welcomed by all ages. ‘ParaNorman’ doesn’t exactly bring anything new to the table but it is a fun, well-paced horror film that the whole family can enjoy.

IS ‘PARANORMAN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The movie opens with a woman in a building; she steps on a brain and runs. She opens a door and a large zombie stands in front of her, blocking her exit. She is terrified and slams the door shut, however the zombie’s arms burst through the door and grab at her. She screams and runs away but the zombie gets into the house. At this point it is made clear that this is a movie due to the bad production, e.g. the woman pushes a boom mic out of the way as she continues to act. The zombie stands in front of the woman and its teeth lunge at the screen. The camera then cuts to Norman watching the movie with his Grandma who asks what is happening, Norman replies ‘He’s eating her head’.  Norman then walks out of the room where the rest of his family are. He is asked what he is watching and he says ‘sex and violence’; this reply barely gets a response as his parents seem to be used to this.

Norman has lots of horror paraphernalia in his bedroom, there are several posters on his wall, one of which has a zombie holding a brain near its open mouth and says ‘Brain Eater’. There is also a colourful nightlight which is in the shape of a zombie head which has most of its brain showing.

When Norman gets to school, all of the children leave the playground and Norman is left alone. He turns around and suddenly sees the large figure of a man at the school gate and, after blinking a couple of times, the man has disappeared. The sharp sting of music that accompanies this moment makes this part quite scary and could be quite disturbing for young children. When in the school, most of the other children either avoid Norman or bully him. The word ‘Freak’ is written in graffiti on his locker and another boy, Alvin, taunts him by squashing a fly and asking him whether he can now talk to it. Norman responds with vague irritation but does not seem overly upset by this.

When practising for the school play, the drama teacher explains the witch’s curse to the children. She tells them that a woman was accused of being a witch and hanged (which she acts out by holding her neck with one hand and holding her other hand gripped in the air to signify a rope). The witch cursed her accusers to ‘die a horrible death’ and their souls were ‘doomed to an eternity of damnation’. Norman then looks around and his surroundings melt away and the other kids in the play turn into the ‘cursed’. He is a little scared by this but is more confused about what he saw.

Later in the movie, when the play is being performed in front of an audience, Norman sees an owl above him which flies passed him. As part of the play, the children are chanting ‘kill the witch’, their chanting gets slower as Norman realises that his surrounding are again melting away from him. He is suddenly in a wooded area where he is pursued by the witch’s accusers. As he runs, he is grabbed by the branches of a tree and a creepy face appears in the trunk which says ‘The dead are coming’.

One scene shows Norman locked in a toilet cubicle at school (to have some time to himself). The lid starts jumping and suddenly opens where his uncle’s face takes up the entire bowl. His uncle is friendly to him but is also forceful and domineering. The toilet paper falls away from the roll and turns into grabbing hands and figures of scary people which approach Norman menacingly. This scene ends quite abruptly; Norman is unharmed and not afraid of what has happened.

The final third of the movie is quite intense and, if a child has struggled up until now, the rest of the movie is likely to be too much for them. The witch appears as a scary face in the clouds which looks menacingly over the town and cackles in a threatening manner. Zombies burst out of the ground and relentlessly chase Norman and his friends. The townspeople, who form a mob, may also be quite disturbing as they are determined to destroy the zombies. They grab torches and pitchforks and chase the zombies who are afraid and huddle together. The people in the mob say things like ‘kill them in the head’ and ‘let’s rip ‘em apart’. When Norman confronts the witch at the end, she is very aggressive towards him and attacks him; at one point he is thrown against the trunk of a tree over and over. This scene lasts around 10 minutes and there is no comedy relief, however the end of the scene does lighten to some extent.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

ParaNorman’ is a movie which delights in scaring its audience; even adults are bound to have the odd jump here and there. Kids who enjoy a good fright will love it. We feel that kids aged 7 and over should be ok to watch this movie, however we do recommend caution for children who are sensitive and easily scared and would advise adult supervision in case any reassurance is required.

  • Violence:  2/5 (the school bullies are a little aggressive towards Norman. The mob use very aggressive language towards the zombies and attack them)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5
  • Fear Factor: 4/5 (brain eating zombies, aggressive witches and spooky ghosts throughout)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (Norman’s friend Neil is shown watching the TV and it is revealed that he is watching his mum’s aerobics video and freezing it at specific points, the screen is then shown with the instructor bending over and her behind takes up almost the entire screen. One character complains that he wants to visit an adult video store which is across the street. A billboard has a picture of a sexy witch in a low-cut dress and there is a close up of monetary notes between her breasts)              
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (someone hides behind a statue and tries to get Norman’s attention by saying ‘psst’ at him. His friend then says ‘Norman, that statue just pissed at us’. In another scene, Norman is asked to promise to do something. The character demands that he ‘swear’ and, misunderstanding him, Norman asks him if he means ‘the f word?’)
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (The script describes how a young woman was hung as the townsfolk thought she was a witch)  
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of the dangers of mob mentality, how fear can affect ordinary people and turn them into monsters, understanding the differences in each other and taking responsibility when it is thrust upon you.
  • One male character reveals that he has a boyfriend, this may raise some questions from curious children!

Words by Laura Record

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