Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman
Director: Henry Selick
Running Time: 100 mins
Coraline is an American film about a young girl with unloving parents who finds a secret doorway to a parallel world where everything is better in her new house, only to discover it’s not really what she wished for.
Well, this is an extremely unsettling and bizarre dark family fantasy, however it deserves so much credit for sticking to its guns and creating a hugely exciting and visually fantastic film that bucks the trend of so many other ‘family-friendly’ dark fantasies and provides a brilliant watch for anyone.
The film is directed and adpated from the novel by Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, in collaboration with Tim Burton. And whilst this does retain a lot of the same atmosphere as that film, Coraline manages to go above and beyond to make a much more captivating and exciting watch.
It’s arguable that The Nightmare Before Christmas, and other Tim Burton-ish films like this, are more style over substance, and don’t feature enough emotion or thrilling drama to make a properly engaging film to watch, but the reason Coraline manages to avoid that is because it’s much more patient with its storytelling and shows off its animation a lot less.
Of course, the animation is sublime here, and it’s incredible to think that it’s all done in real stop-motion, but it is. Like the similar films, the bizarre stop-motion is very effective in creating a very uneasy and eerie atmosphere, and this deserves huge credit for that.
But what’s most interesting about Coraline is that it’s a completely engrossing film from start to finish. The eeriness of the story is immediately attention-grabbing, and its continual descent into darker and darker territory is just exhilarating to watch. However, the brilliant thing is that it doesn’t immediately fly into the dark other world, but waits patiently to build tension and make it appear all the more frightening.
In truth, the film is aimed at families, seeing as the story doesn’t show the extreme fear and trauma that it would bring in a more grown-up movie, but still be warned that kids will definitely find this terrifying. The presentation of the ‘other mother’ and the disturbing nature of a lot of the plot lines is pretty unsettling for adults, and will surely give kids a good fright, although don’t worry, it’s not too traumatising, just pretty scary for them.
Overall, Coraline gets an 8.0 from me, not only because of its excellent animation and visual style, but its successful creation of a genuinely unnerving atmosphere and its interesting and hugely captivating story.