It’s been a long time since a kid’s movie this dark has been unleashed on our unsuspecting youth. “ParaNorman,” a new stop-motion animated film from the producers of “Coraline,” harkens back to a time when Disney used to make creepy cartoons like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow;” before it was decided that kids shouldn’t be exposed to anything except talking animals and stories about the ecology.
Norman (voice of “Let Me In” star Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a twelve-year-old boy who can see dead people. And talk to them too. His unique gift, however, is unappreciated by his family, the townsfolk of Blithe Hollow and schoolmates, who call him AbNorman. He’s an outsider, with only one friend, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), an overweight boy who is also picked on at school. When an old tale about a witch who cursed the town’s forefathers to die a gruesome death and later rise from their graves comes true Norman is the only person who can save the town.
The first thing you’ll notice about “ParaNorman” is how great it looks. The 3D and scene composition gives it the look of beautiful, old View-Master slides. The stop motion work is lovingly hand made looking, giving the whole thing an organic film that slicker, computer generated movies simply don’t have.
The next thing you’ll notice is how dark the movie is. There are Edgar Allen Poe worthy moments—for example a teddy bear belches bugs and Norman grapples with a rigor-mortised body—and a gaggle of green-faced zombies and eerie atmospherics to burn. Imagine if Tim Burton and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine had a baby. Its name would be “ParaNorman.” Parents should be aware that the visuals might be nightmare-inducing for younger viewers.
Parents and kids who enjoy getting mildly creeped-out, however, will find lots to like here. A car ride with a zombie in the backseat is funny and lines like “Not believing in the afterlife is like not believing in astrology,” are more sophisticated than the writing in your average kid’s flick.
“ParaNorman” is a rare treat—a fun homage to horror and a children’s flick that adults can enjoy with or without the kids.