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Norman is a lonely 11 year old horror-obsessed boy with a special gift: he can see and talk to ghosts. Naturally, being different makes him a target for bullies at school. It also causes problems at home. His dad wishes Norman was just a regular weird kid who is bad at team sports! Norman’s not the only weirdo in town, though, because he has an uncle who has the same gift.

Fortuitously, the same day Norman finally finds a living friend in another outcast kid named Neil, his uncle brings him the urgent message that he needs to use his psychic ability to save the town from the angry ghost of an executed witch. Will the town finally learn to accept Norman as the special kid he is? Or will he be the target of an angry and frightened mob as well?

The funniest, or perhaps most ironic, thing to me is that all the people in Norman’s town are weird. Blithe Hollow is clearly based on Salem, with its history of witch trials and its economy based on branding everything with the word “witch.” The school play even re-enacts the ghostly antagonist’s trial. I suppose what makes Norman so scary to his detractors is that he has knowledge that the other townspeople don’t have. Hating people who have a gift? That train is never late. But Norman gains some unusual allies in his quest to stop the curse of the murdered witch. And the character of Neil, the fat kid who just accepts that bullying happens and goes on with his life, and who also practically forces Norman to accept his offer of friendship, really rings true with my memories of being a kid.

Get out your umbrellas, because I’m about to gush. This was the most fun I’ve had at the movie theater in years, and definitely the best kids’ movie I’ve seen since my son joined me on this planet in 2004. Paranorman combines the message we as a species need to be taught over and over again, that it’s okay to be different, with a love letter to horror fans. While watching this I realized for the first time how horror fandom is a sort of haven for misfits. Duh, right? This movie is scary, gross, hilarious, and even a little touching. Go see it!

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