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'ParaNorman,' more kid-friendly scare fare

This film image released by Focus Features shows

This film image released by Focus Features shows characters, from left, Grandma Babcock, voiced by Elaine Stritch, Sandra Babcock, voiced by Leslie Mann, Perry Babcock, voiced by Jeff Garlin, Norman, voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Courtney, voiced by Anna Kendrick, in the 3D stop-motion film, "ParaNorman." Credit: AP

Could the current craze for vampires, monsters and the overall horror genre get any bigger? Here's your answer: It's now infiltrating children's movies.

This fall, three new movies (and one old one) will flood the market with animated vampires, zombies and ghouls. In these movies, the heroes aren't casting spells or waving wands, they're communing with ghosts, reviving dead animals and fleeing from torch-bearing mobs.

All of which might be a good way for kids to join a pop-cultural trend -- but do they want to? Kids have always loved a scary story (R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" books are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year), but the sensory immersion of a scary movie may be another matter. Recent dark-hued animations like "Coraline" and "9" didn't fare well at the box office, possibly because the cartoon crowd still prefers bright-colored franchises like "Ice Age" and "Madagascar."

How will this new batch of spooky kids' movies perform? Here's a list of what's creeping into theaters:

 

PARANORMAN (Aug. 17)

In this stop-motion film, young Norman Babcock (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a misfit whose ability to speak with the dead comes in handy when his town is overrun by zombies. Could be the first children's movie to pay tribute to the slasher flicks "Halloween" (Norman's cellphone plays the theme song) and "Friday the 13th."

 

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (Sept. 28)

Count Dracula (the voice of Adam Sandler) is the owner of a quiet hotel where persecuted monsters can relax -- until a young human backpacker (Andy Samberg) shows up. Characters include the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), Quasimodo (Jon Lovitz) and Dracula's 118-year-old daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez).

 

FRANKENWEENIE (Oct. 5)

Tim Burton turns his 1985 short into a feature-length film (also stop-motion) about a boy who jolts his dead dog back to life. It's a black-and-white homage to the 1931 Boris Karloff classic, "Frankenstein," with characters named Victor, Shelly and Edgar "E" Gore.

 

MONSTERS, INC. (Dec. 19)

It's clearly a good time for a 3-D re-release of this Disney-Pixar favorite from 2001, in which the booming city of Monstropolis is powered by the screams of human children. John Goodman is the voice of furry monster James Sullivan, who becomes rather fond of a little girl named Boo (Mary Gibbs).

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