THE ANIMATORS who gave us the memorably creepy "Coraline" are back with "ParaNorman" - more mainstream, but still on the macabre side.
Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a boy who sees dead people - the ghosts of his haunted New England town are as visible to him as the living, and in fact his conversations with the dead (including his grandmother) tend to be productive.
The living (including his father Jeff Garlin) are freaked out and threatened by Norman's behavior - he's bullied at a school, though he does make one friend (Tucker Albrizzi) who accepts Norman's paranormal abilities, especially as they allow him to reconnect with his dead dog.
Ostracized Norman, because of his unique powers, becomes the key player in a drama centered around a town curse - a girl branded as a witch and condemned to death centuries ago is set to return to unleash a zombie horde on the town, unless Norman can undo the curse, thereby saving the very people who make his life so difficult.
"ParaNorman" finds a way to make this night of the living dead play essentially as a comedy (Norman hooks up with dopey teens voiced by Casey Affleck and Anna Kendrick), but parents should know the movie gets fairly scary when little Norman finally confronts the vengeful, angry spirit at the center of the curse.
The movie is exhibited in 3-D, a format that will add to the intensity of the experience, so be careful about taking younger children.
Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or firstname.lastname@example.org. read his blog, "Keep It Real," at philly.com/keepitreal.