Movie Reviews
This gets much creepier, I swear.
Coraline Review

You ever feel guilty watching kids movies? Even when the good ones have the ability to speak to adults and children on multiple levels? Yeah, I’m not talking about G-Force or Spy Kids. Just a slight stigma I have I take it. At least I’m not still watching them in my mid thirties, childless, spouse less, and bitter. But it does manage to make me feel awkward. What’s even more upsetting is that this movie was able to creep me out. I’ve seen videos on the internet that feature content that should be illegal on every continent of this earth, yet the story of a small girl and a mystical closet managed to make my skin crawl. Man, I guess I need some help.

That said, just because this film creeped me out doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Quite the opposite. A long time ago I saw Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and also Return to Oz, but something has to be said for growing up and looking at similar works in a new light that only maturity brings. Having enjoyed Henry Selick’s prior work I was glad to get the same out of Coraline that I had gotten from his previous works years before. Not on that same level however. When I was a kid I could watch the same movie five times. But seeing as how I barely watch two movies in one week, it should speak volumes that I put aside everything else to watch Coraline to its conclusion.

This gets much creepier, I swear.

Coraline is centered around Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) who has moved into a new apartment with her overworked and unsympathetic parents. Whilst trying to find something to do (because kids can never just sit and behave) she finds a mysterious other world in a hidden door behind her living room wall. There she encounters her Other Mother as well as “Other” versions of everyone she has come to know in the complex. Soon she realizes that there is a dark and sinister secret to what’s going on inside this world – and you can already guess what’s going on without me even telling you. The story is basic. It follows its three acts without too much gusto but what it does well is add its own unique blend of elements to creep you out.

Subject matter focused around children always has a weird sort of unsettling ambiguity to it. When you see a character present in a dreary world made up of rather depressing aesthetics yet see them ultimately enjoying themselves, it puts you at ease as far as immersing yourself as the character, but in the back of your mind (at least mine) it makes you feel uneasy. Almost as off putting as seeing someone laugh while watching Silence of the Lambs. This movie is like that. Coraline seems unnerved by the look of the apartment complex she inhabits, and the Other World is even creepier than the one she came from. It’s always night time, the ‘Others’ have buttons for eyes, and everything is a little “too” joyful for being so mopish. Add in some very disturbing character designs for a main villain and you have something that can quite easily creep me out.

See! I told you. I'm not crazy.

However, I really loved the look of this movie. I saw Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and I didn’t think it looked half as good. Coraline has its own style that becomes immediately apparent. It’s not necessarily grim or tragic, although it is dark. It also meshes a lot of detail in every character without being completely computer enhanced. It uses modern technology to its own advantages rather than working around those strengths and weaknesses. The art design shines through well, and the characters do manage to show surprising emotion for mere puppets. All this is added to by the clarity of Blu-Ray. It’s just one of those rare moments where practicality and technology are exactly on the same page. I’m not going to comment on any of the 3D features because being a Netflix’er means you don’t always buy movies. Although I’m skeptical of watching this again (I don’t know exactly why it creeps me out THIS much) it’s a movie I’d like to have in my collection. But 3D glasses and me don’t exactly gel. I wear a pair already.

The music really captured the feel of this film too. I’m not too keen on Dakota Fanning (horrible in War of the Worlds and just about every movie trailer I’ve seen her in) but she worked well as Coraline. Not annoying at all. Maybe she was meant for voice acting. Or fluke. I thought Kieth David was a pretty odd choice for the cast, but I recognized him immediately. He had maybe 10 lines in the film so it must’ve been an easy check for him. Ian McShane was also notable, even though his voice really overthrew the accent he was trying to portray. The rest of the actors/actresses I had to IMDB because they really weren’t as obvious. All of them worked well however, no one stuck out like a sore thumb.

Don't let the cotton candy fool you, he's creepy too.

I think there’s still a market for stopmotion films, especially ones done with as much care and style as Coraline. You have to be more careful with them though. Getting the story, design and look of a movie like this is even more paramount. You can’t just tell the CGI whizzes to make it look better, or add in a explosion. CG movies tend to get more attention simply because they’re CG. Not to say they aren’t good, but if you made the same film with another medium chances are you would make half the money or less. Maybe it can be attributed to parents just naturally assuming CGI = kids movie. Guess that’s why parents backed out of Final Fantasy when the lips started locking.

3 comments
aaronrob
aaronrob

This movie didn't scare me as much as you lol

Twana
Twana

Loved this film! It wasn't too creepy, I think Burton's movies are weird.

deftangel
deftangel

I watched this in our basement in 3D and really enjoyed it. The film-makers used it very intelligently to really bring out the depth of Coraline's world. All very subtle and no gimmicks but adds to the immersion. I think the fact that they're actually filming real models rather than creating the 3D in CGI helps with this a fair bit. Even in 2D it's a charming film though. Might scare some very sensitive children :P