Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 12: Paranorman (2012)
The best children’s Halloween movies offer a place for kids to experience more grown-up content through a fantasy story. The stop-motion animation studio Laika specialized in creating complex films for children that are beautiful, well told, and tackle difficult concepts in a unique way. Paranorman, the story of a little boy who can speak to the dead, examines some very dark subject matter with the group’s trademark delicate touch.
Norman (Kody Smit-McPhee) can see and speak with ghosts, and unfortunately, everyone knows about it but no one believes him. His father Perry (Jeff Garlin) is fed up and refuses to accept Norman for who he is, and his older sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) thinks he’s crazy for talking to their dead grandmother in the living room. He begins to have strange visions of the world ending, and a long-lost uncle comes to call, telling Norman that he must save their small town from a terrible doom. Hundreds of years previously, a cruel group of village elders condemned to death another outcast who could do strange things, and she cursed them for it. Now they must walk the earth as zombies, and it is up to Norman to save them and his town from this fate worse than death.
Paranorman is very conscious of the messages it is conveying, but in the best way possible. It subverts the typical zombie story by having the creatures themselves hurt no one. Instead, it is the mob-crazed adults that end up presenting the most danger to Norman and his ragtag bunch of cohorts. While the supernatural suffuses the story, the pain caused in the film is due to others’ refusal to accept people for who they are, whether out of fear or malice. It flows through different tones without batting an eye; it is deadly serious one moment and cracking a fart joke the next without the change feeling abrupt. And all of this depth and complexity is hidden beneath a fun and spooky kid’s movie.
The film has a powerful message on the value of accepting yourself and others, and it’s willingness to honestly portray social rejection and how painful it can be validates the difficulties that kids themselves go through. It shows the supposed monsters of the film, the zombies, as people who have realized the hurt they caused and are hoping to be forgiven. Most importantly it confronts the danger that comes from holding onto the hate caused by mistreatment at the hands of others, and how it can prevent you from moving on as well. Whether or not you have children in your life, Paranorman deserves a spot on your Halloween watch list this year.