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PARANORMAN

(PG) This marvelous, family horror flick is the writing-directing debut of Corpse Bride/Coraline storyboard artist Chris Butler, whose time apprenticing under Tim Burton and Henry Selick was well-spent. For my genre-tainted money, it bests Pixar’s Brave as the year’s best animated feature. I was smitten from its Grindhouse opening well through the closing credits scored to The White Stripes’s “Little Ghost.” This hip, stop-motion animated feature pulls no punches like 80s kiddie adventure and horror movies like Goonies and Something Wicked This Way Comes; the tale of a sweet, 11-year-old, oddball named Norman (v. Cody Smit-McPhee, The Road) is a perfect first scary movie for the son or daughter of a diehard horror fan. Norman’s battle to stop a 300-year-old witch from destroying his town (which climaxes in the bravest act I’ve witnessed in recent animation) is filled with real scares (of the PG variety), smart nods to slasher classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th, atypical character design (Norman’s features are more than a tad asymmetrical) and suffers from a trailer that unfortunately undersells that it’s an honest-to-god horror flick that should frighten and delight kids of all ages.

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