Rugged Reviews

Halloween Animated Trifecta – Coraline, ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania

by Ouroboros on October 30, 2015

You might be used to various lists and tops for Halloween-worthy movies, but I do things a bit differently. So instead of movies I’ll tell you about some great animated features that you could pop in during this Halloween season to get into the creepy atmosphere of this spooky harvest festival. My Halloween Animated Trifecta is made up of Coraline, ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania.

Coraline

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Starting off with the more “serious” of the three titles that I’ll be talking about. Not necessarily because it’s devoid of laughs, it isn’t, just that the overall message, atmosphere and conclusion are heavy. This is an animated movie that talks about some of the facets of real life and human interaction.

Whilst the proceedings of the movie are in turn, charming and funny, and then scary and unnerving, this should not detract from the actual subject matter of the movie.

Even though on the face of it, we have a very brave heroine as our protagonist, who explores a weird parallel world, harboring a very dark, and rather disturbing, secret, that’s not exactly what the movie’s about.

It’s about parents being so absorbed by their work that they forget to actually live, and properly take care of their daughter. And I don’t mean that they neglect her or don’t feed her, I’m talking more about the nurturing that is required to develop children into fully grown, well-adjusted human beings. You know, actual parenting.

Coraline’s parents are like in a daze of work and other problems, that makes them blind to the simple fact that their child only needs a little bit of their attention. And when parents, in general, don’t do that, that’s when children start to escape, and hide themselves within their imaginations, and that’s…that’s where all the deepest and darkest of monsters reside.

I have to hand it both to Neil Gaiman, for writing the novel that the film is based on, as well as Henry Selick – of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame – who wrote the script and directed the movie, for managing to very seamlessly intertwine that very important message with a rather disturbing, yet kid-friendly, adventure.

Coraline’s adventure takes front stage, but that theme of parental ignorance is always in the background. It is always the originating factor behind Coraline pushing further, and more often into the alternate universe, despite the warning of various characters around her.

The choice of stop-motion animation is spot on for this story since it infuses the world with a realism that helps to contrast with the weird things happening. It should be noted that the production team pioneered the use of 3D printing technologies to create everything we see on-screen, and whenever it comes to practical effects related to animation, I am completely in awe of what humans with skill and time can do.

ParaNorman

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Dialing it down just a tiny notch in terms of spooky, but not necessarily in terms of messaging, ParaNorman is quite possibly the more complex entry on this list, in terms of meta-referencing a plethora of horror tropes, in a bunch of ways.

ParaNorman is yet another stop-motion entry on this list – you can see I really like practical effects in my animation, but in general as well – which takes some pointers from Coraline since it also used 3D printing to create everything on-screen. The difference is that in ParaNorman they used color 3D printers, whilst in Coraline it was black and white printing, which was then painted.

ParaNorman is the story of the “weirdo” at school, the kid that sets him or herself apart from the masses by being different. In this case, Norman can see and talk to ghosts. In a more broad interpretation, he represents every geek, nerd or kid with a non-mainstream passion, and as such, suffers through the subsequent ostracizing which those kids go through in real life.

The story manages to offer some twists and turns. and also throws in some nice. quasi-historical references. in terms of witches and their very unpleasant history in America. And it does do a great job at playing with the audience’s expectations of both characters and events.

It’s a very solid story, in which the children aren’t exempt from getting hurt. Nothing permanent or major, but there is always a sense that they aren’t safe just because they’re kids, or teenagers, and this is a movie aimed, theoretically at least, at children. So that’s a great plus in my book.

I say theoretically, because the movie is extremely parent-friendly, in terms of both story structure, writing and most importantly, GREAT classic horror movie references. There is little to no chance that the kids will get ANY of the many classic horror movie references that ParaNorman is littered with, and that only makes the watch that much more fun for us older folk.

Hotel Transylvania

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This one is for those of you interested in pure fun without much of a message behind it. Sure, there’s some guano relating to not judging people by their exterior and not limiting your child’s development, but it’s more about a crap-load of classic movie monster related jokes.

Surprising enough, this is also one Adam Sandler movie that does not make you want to pull your inner ears out and wear them around your neck whilst looking into the blade emitter of a lightsaber before turning it on.

The general idea is that Count Dracula is the owner of a monster-only resort – the eponymous Hotel Transylvania – which he built in order for him and his classic monster friends to have as a sanctuary. A place where they can be free to be themselves, without fears of humans and their pesky torches and pitchforks.

The fun is supplied in spades by placing the monsters in very real-life situations, such as quarrelling with their spouses, making them have spouses to start with, or having a whole “litter” of kids to somehow deal with. There’s also a small sort-of-romantic sub-plot going on, with Dracula’s daughter’s relationship with an airhead of an American tourist, who somehow manages to find the almost Hogwarts-level hidden Hotel Transylvania, but that, thankfully, is not the focus. The focus is easily the weird, quirky adventures of Dracula and his monster pals.

It’s a great, fun and entertaining watch, for kids and adults alike.

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