Coraline is a Children’s horror film and, unsurprisingly, has been quite controversial within parental forums with some arguing it is too scary for it’s PG rating. The Nightmare Before Christmas – also directed by Henry Selick – provoked a similar reaction yet is a firm family favourite with a strong cult following. It’s very different from a regular children’s film, which may account for its success. Likewise Coraline is a refreshing break from the same-old same-old and pushes the envelope on children’s entertainment. It’s frightening in a surreal, psychological way evocative of nightmares with a sprinkling of creepiness. But by embodying these intangible childhood fears it also tackles how to deal with them, and is ultimately empowering and uplifting.

Coraline is a stop-motion animation and the hand-crafted feel is particularly appropriate to its theme. With the introduction of computer-generated animation stop-motion, which is a painstakingly slow process, is becoming increasingly rare. Coraline’s visuals are breathtaking with minute attention to detail in every frame. It’s a work of art with beautiful, atmospheric scenery and luscious, touchable textures. I could forgive a multitude of sins for something this pretty.

Coraline could live in a perfect world if she'd just let her Other Mother sew buttons in her eyes

The plot is simple and, based on a Novella by Neil Gaiman, required a fair deal of fleshing out to fill the run-time of a movie. Mostly the additions are an enhancement. I love the interaction between Coraline and her real parents, their personalities are well developed and give a real grounding to the whole plot. They added a sense of realism in an otherwise entirely fantastical tale. You can sympathise with them all, Coraline is feeling lonely and unloved whilst her parents are working hard (they are writers and have a publishing deadline) to provide her with a nice place to live and just put food on the table. They don’t have time to give her the attention she’d like and can’t afford to buy her everything she wants right now. And then the Other Mother comes along and her whole world is Coraline… quite literally! But Coraline is a smart girl and knows it has to come with a price…

The addition of a boy to the story was a good call in my opinion – it gives Coraline someone to explain things to and the audience needs that. Though personally I hate his name ‘Wybie’ because it seems too extraordinary for the ordinary world. Likewise making Mr. B an acrobat adds too much credence to his claims of creating a mouse circus. It betrays the concept slightly by making the real world a bit too bright and interesting. Why would the Other World’s spectacles tempt Coraline when her real world has spectacles to rival it?

But, nit-picking aside, this is a beautifully crafted, very original and enjoyable film. And if you have kids you should let them go and see it!

Related Films / Films with similar themes:

The Nightmare Before Christmas, Labyrinth, Pan’s Labyrinth, May, Mirror Mask

Fun Stuff: You can get bendable Coraline dolls whose faces are interchangeable enabling you to create your own Coraline stop-motion animation like this one on YouTube. If I had the money to spare I would so be getting these. Uh, I don’t suppose you want to buy me a present?

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