Coraline: A Disturbing Dark Fairytale

One thing you should know about Coraline is that if you’re thinking it would be your usual animated film for kids, you’re definitely wrong. I remember reading this book as a kid, attracted by the seemingly spooky cover, playing it brave. The next thing I know, I’m having nightmares about a severed hand trying to get through my bedroom window. And now, as an adult, I have tried to revisit this childhood nightmare and oh boy, I was in for another ride.

Coraline follows the story of an inquisitive girl who just moved to a new apartment with her parents. In addition to moving in, her parents were also busy working on their deadlines leaving Coraline on her own as she explores her new environment. She meets her new and rather odd neighbors. Out of boredom, she discovers a trapdoor in their new home. This leads her to a tunnel that opens into a house eerily similar to where she lives and finds out that she has other parents waiting for her. Contrary to the rather cold treatment that she receives, her other mother and other father celebrates her presence. She gets to have everything she likes and asks for which makes her wish to stay. Actually, she could under one condition. She has to allow her other mother to sew buttons into her eyes. As the story progresses and Coraline tries to break free from the grasps of what she thought were her ideal parents, things get more sinister.

The buttons must have been one of the most unnerving parts of the movie for me. Imagine, sewing buttons into the main character’s eyes, a literal child for a supposedly children’s movie. That alone is enough to catch anyone off guard. Its eerie theme does not even stop there. Coraline is also not your usual kids’ film protagonist. She is not dreamy. She complains and bickers and openly despises people she does not like. While this can be attributed to the neglect she receives from her parents, it is certainly a deviation from the usual animated kids’ film trope where the protagonist somehow always sees the good in everything. Also, Coraline isn’t a super genius or possess magical powers. She is nothing but an ordinary girl. The film does a good job of packaging reality in the guise of animation.

Of course, no Coraline review will be complete without mentioning its art style. Though the movie is based on a book written by Neil Gaiman, Henry Selicks’ direction is also something worth mentioning. Raising the bar high for stop motion films in Nightmare Before Christmas, Selick did an impeccable job and might have even raised the bar higher with his work on Coraline. This modern, dark fantasy fairytale may not be the usual animated film type that we’re used to but upon closer look, it does possess more detail and depth in artistry. The grotesque and eccentric character designs were great addition to the eerie feeling the film gives. The world building, the differences between the Pink Palace and the Other Pink Palace plus the easter eggs hiding in plain sight, everything is just impeccable.

If you’re looking for film for a test of courage with your kids or even friends, Coraline will definitely be a good watch.