An entire generation of children may grow up to be zombie-obsessed, black-clad emo kids as a result of watching ‘ParaNorman’, the spooky second stop-motion animation from Laika, the American studio that gave us 2009’s ‘Coraline’. This gem is just as beautifully hand-crafted, but it’s definitely not one for scaredy-kids (or possibly even timid parents). Take the opening scene. Eleven-year-old Norman watches a video nasty, in which a busty B-movie blonde, fleeing a pack of zombies, skewers a juicy-fresh prawn-coloured human brain with her stiletto heel. Squelch.
At school, Norman is nicknamed Ab-Norman. Pale, interesting, with electro-shock hair (and voiced by the current go-to kid for creepiness, Kodi Smit-McPhee of ‘Let Me In’ fame), he’s a training-crush for Robert Pattinson. Oh, and he can see ghosts. That doesn’t go down too well with Norman’s dad, who fears his son’s fascination with all things undead is a gateway hobby to ‘limp-wristed hippy stuff’.
The plot, as terrifically sophisticated as it is – involving a New England Puritan witchhunt and a centuries-old hex – does drag a bit. No matter, there are plenty of bogey-green yammering zombies on the rampage. And Laika’s dazzling visual vocabularly really does give Pixar a run for its money. The detail, down to the zombies’ tombstone teeth (well, dentistry wasn’t up to much in the seventeenth century) is breathtaking, and there are some brilliant gags – like when Norman struggles to wrench a book of spells from the rigor-mortis-stiff hands of a corpse. Ghoulish? Yes. Funny? You bet.