So smooth is the stop-motion artistry in ParaNorman it’s often hard to believe that what you’re seeing are not computer graphics but solid objects, manipulated by hand.
But seeing is believing. Especially when it comes to ghosts, as our morbidly gifted hero knows only too well.
The ability to talk to his dear departed granny and anyone else of the deceased persuasion makes Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, on speaking terms with the undead once more after Let Me In) an annoyance at home and a terminal misfit at school.
The only person who knows Norman is telling the truth is his mangy Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman), the local recluse. What nobody knew was that Prenderghast has been protecting the town for years from an ancient curse cast by its most celebrated citizen: the Blithe Hollow witch.
Regrettably, as the witch rises to wreak her ultimate revenge on the 300th anniversary of her hanging, Prendergast will no longer be able to do the job.
The town’s founding fathers would be turning in their graves... had they not already emerged from the ground as rotting zombies. And now they’re on the move and hungry for brains (though supplies are short amongst the townsfolk).
So it’s up to Norman – with unlikely back-up from his teen queen sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), tubby nerd Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) and Neil’s meathead brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) - to save their neighbours from a fate worse than death.
Like Coraline, this is a shade darker than most animated monster flicks. But British co-directors Sam Fell and Chris Butler will please a broad crowd, striking a consistent balance between morbid slapstick and fabulously droll wit.
And without getting geeky about it, they have great fun with their influences from the more obvious trappings of The Sixth Sense and George A Romero to the angry mobs of Frankenstein and the malevolent forests of The Evil Dead.
You could be forgiven for wondering why Norman doesn’t call on his dead friends to help out. In fact he doesn’t appear to see them at all from the halfway mark. But while the film gives up the ghost on that one, there are enough grimly amusing animations and distractions to keep everyone's spirits up.