US (dir. Henry Selick)
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Dawn French, Ian McShane, Jennifer Saunders, John Hodgman, Keith David, Teri Hatcher
Synopsis: A young girl walks through a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. On the surface, this parallel reality is eerily similar to her real life – only much better. But when her adventure turns dangerous, and her counterfeit parents (including Other Mother) try to keep her forever, Coraline must count on her resourcefulness, determination, and bravery to get back home – and save her family.
Review: “Coraline” is a wonderful animated children’s movie that has just the same charm as “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. The claymation is superbly done and the story is enchanting and (at some parts) quite frightening. Henry Selick proves that, once again, he can craft an instant classic out of some clay and a load of patience. While some may scoff and refuse to consider this a movie falling into the realm of horror, I would disagree. “Coraline” truly is a remakable achievement in terms of animation and children’s films in general, but it also functions as a dark, semi-gothic horror movie adapted from a story that was in itself quite gothic to begin with.
Coraline is the typical borderline bratty kid (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who is relocated to a creepy mansion when her parents (gardening book writers) find new jobs. She befriends a spunky local (Whybie) and his semi-feral black cat, who gives her a doll that bears a striking resemblance to her. The doll (and the prescence of a small door in the mansion) lead her into an alternate universe where her world is essentially the opposite of what it truly is. Her “Other Mother” is an attentive, over-loving cook who showers Coraline with gifts and her “Other Father” is a fun companion whose garden is filled with enchanted flowers. It is in this world that Coraline loses herself night after night as she spends more and more time in the perfect, other world which is seemingly catered to her every desire (even the spunky local, Whybie, loses his annoyingness when his voice is silenced). Of course, the perfect world is only a cover for a soul hungry witch who preys on unhappy children (naturally). What follows is a series of events where Coraline must free her real parents, free some ghost kids, and of course outsmart the witch and return home before her eyes are replaced with buttons. It’s a nice dark twist, and some of the best parts of the movie revolve around Coraline seeing the perfect world turn into a dark world.
Do you ever get that feeling like your skin is crawling? There are a few parts in this movie where my skin felt like it was literally crawling off. This occurs during a neat little scene where the Other Mother catches the Other Whybie not smiling. She gives him this creepy fake grin, and a few scenes later we see Whybie with pins in his face holding up a smile. Creepy as hell. Another scene occurs where the Other Father sits vacantly at a piano, banging out the same note in an exhausted trance. His piano (which has hands) then grabs hold of him and forces him to be silent and cheerful. Also creepy. In fact there are a few more scenes similar to these – they may not seem downright horrifying, but they are pretty frightening for even a seasoned horror viewer as myself.
Bottomline is that “Coraline” is a great little animated horror flick with a lot of terrifying bits and pieces that come together to make it truly excellent. Will it become a successful cult film like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, I doubt it – but it’s a fun film for anyone of any age regardless.