Hello everyone, it is the Classic Film Kid and just in time for Halloween, I thought I would tackle a spooky stop-motion that just so happens to be one of my personal favourites, and that is Henry Selick’s Coraline, based on the dark fantasy novella by Neil Gaiman and the first film from acclaimed studio, Laika Animation. In this film, Coraline Jones, an adventurous young girl voiced by Dakota Fanning, is exploring her boring new house when she discovers a secret door leading to a parallel, and much more enchanting, world but in this world, she soon discovers a dark and sinister secret.
Now I absolutely love the studio Laika. All four of their films have delivered and I don’t think any one film is anything less than great. Kubo and the Two Strings was a mystical samurai tale with some wonderful animation and exhilarating action, the Boxtrolls has a fantastic villain with some dark charm, and ParaNorman is a great, cosy Halloween romp. These are all great, but Coraline takes it to the max, this is an inspiring, unsettling, deeply layered film that is an absolute gem. I adore this movie, you need to know that from the get-go.
The main hook for me on this one when I go back and rewatch it is that is properly unsettling. I mean, this is just a PG-rated kids’ flick, but it is creepy and disturbing, and this is a benefit of a wonderfully-structured story, with twists and turns and spine-chilling implications. Henry Selick wrote the screenplay for this film as well as directing it, and I would love to see more screenplays of this genre wrote by Selick. In this film, he creates and establishes a world that is seemingly joyful, yet morbidly enchanting and disconcerting, before finally revealing its sinister true colours at the halfway point.
Selick directed the classic Nightmare Before Christmas. What I love about that movie is that it never lulls. It’s very short, clocking in at around 70 minutes, and that’s because our attention to the story is never deviated from by some superfluous comedy or throwaway dialogue, and this is what he carries through from that film to this. There is the occasional joke, but they are almost used for black comedy effect e.g Wybie’s real name being Wyborn (I actually think it does mean ‘Wyborn’ like ‘Why were you born? Now I have another person to save from the witch who likes to stitch. Cool, isn’t it?).
Also, Selick, in the screenplay, places an emphasis on stereotypes. For example, the parents are dull. Wybie is supposed to be annoying. The other mother is, at first, overly warming and friendly. Stereotypes are often thought of as a negative thing to use in literature and script, but for this film, it works, as you know the parents will become more open, and you know the other mother is too good to be true (which wasn’t the case when I first this movie. Oh, I should have saw that coming, then I’d got out of it way easier…).
And since we’re talking about a LAIKA film, I might as well talk about the impeccable stop-motion animation. This animation is exquisite. It fascinates me every time I get a LAIKA movie on Blu-Ray, as I can click on the animation featurettes in the bonus content, and be mesmerised by how much work, detail, refinement, go into every nook and cranny of their creations. The gardens in the normal world and the other world, the building, the vehicles, the walls, the portraits, the Beldam’s lair, the gateway, all of it, it’s magnificent. For the actors, all they have to do is record their lines, and that could potentially take them only hours. The animators have to create several character models for every frame, and that’s why I admire these guys so much. They are so hardworking and professional at their craft, and they never cease to surprise me.
But the big thing for this film for me is that what is underneath the surface, what is behind the curtain, the secrets the movie is hiding from you, is absolutely PETRIFYING and are secrets that should never be discovered. There is this great guy on YouTube called The Theorizer, who delves deep into film and TV, uncovering all the implications and providing hints as to what things could mean. He has done eight videos about Coraline. All of them exploring different theories. And some of them are so chilling, and yet are backed up with evidence. Please think about all these.
Some of his ideas were that the well is another portal to the Other World and the main one. That the cat is actually one of the Beldam’s previous victims reincarnated so he can travel between worlds and prepares the new children for the Other Mother. And that the Beldam can see everything through the buttons, so through Coraline’s doll, she is spying on the real world, meaning Coraline is still not safe in the real world. Thinking about these in bed at night makes it really hard to get to sleep, believe me.
These theories I honestly think are genuine fact. There is enough evidence to prove every single one of them. So it’s either these are just terrifying coincidences, or Henry Selick is a very clever man with a very morbid fascination. I’m really hoping it’s not the latter, although if it is, then the movie becomes a whole lot scarier and a whole lot smarter. Even at the end, when Coraline is having that picnic in the garden and all seems fine, the camera slowly pans up revealing a face makes up the garden. In the Other World, it was clearly Coraline’s face. In the real world, it looks remarkably like the Beldam’s. And the film has one more punch to throw at you. The cat looks mysteriously at the camera, before disappearing behind the apartment sign with a thud. A thousand thoughts start whirling through your brain, like ‘Has he found the other world again? Is the Beldam still alive?’ and it just makes you feel uneasy. That is why I’ve watched this movie ten times, and every time, I’ve watched it in broad daylight.
One more thing: the voice acting is great, particularly Teri Hatcher, who plays both the normal mother and the other mother/the Beldam. It’s only fitting to talk about her as the other mother, as she appears a lot more often than the real one does. She does the very sweet, kind voice extremely well, but when she clicks and becomes monstrous, her voice becomes sinister and uncontrollable. Dakota Fanning is suitably cocky as the teenager Coraline, and Keith David is strangely inviting as the cat.
So there you have it, a review of one of my favourite films, and for good reason. Coraline is an unsettling, eerie fairy tale film with a flawless screenplay, dazzling and horrifying animation, and story undertones that are enough to make you have nightmares for weeks on end. And here it is, after nearly a year of reviewing on the geek show, here it is… a 10/10
That felt good and incredibly well-deserved. Congratulations Coraline, you are flawless. So, plenty more reviews to come. Working in some TV reviews for Doctor Who’s Class, Torchwood, Stranger Things and A Series of Unfortunate Events, and some films will be Close Encounters, The Goonies, and Shaun of the Dead maybe. I’m also trying to work out what I’ll review for a Christmas special, but we’ll see. Anyway, happy Halloween and whatever you do, please, do not accept a doll of yourself. Throw it away immediately. Bye bye, for now, film lovers!