‘Coraline’ (2009) – Revisiting Henry Selick’s Masterpiece | Film Review


With news of Disney’s exit and K5’s entrance into the production of Henry Selick’s newest film The Shadow King, I feel the time is right to discuss his previous film Coraline, and yes spellchecker it is spelt Coraline and not Caroline.


Coraline is a stop-motion animated fantasy film about a girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) who moves with her mum and dad to The Pink Palace apartments in Oregon. There she meets the other eccentric tenants such as the blue Russian gymnast Mr. Bobinski (Ian McShane) and his troupe of jumping mice. One night she follows the mice to a tiny door in her house, and behind it is a portal to another world. A seemingly perfect one.


The animation in this is second to none. I’m going to sound like “one of those pretentious snobs” when I say this but I hold no love for the computer generated animation of Pixar. Don’t get me wrong, the films they make are great, but the style and presentation of their animation just feels too clean and sterile. With a film like Coraline however, it’s different, you can sense the work that went into every frame. You can appreciate it more when you know a human hand made that hand move and not a computer algorithm.


This movie does not hold any punches either: it’s dark and it knows it. It harkens back to the children’s movies of the 1980’s with The NeverEnding Story and Return to Oz (interestingly enough Henry Selick worked on this one too), where they weren’t afraid to let kids feel fear. They’re tougher than modern films think. It is also a horror film, this is the type of film where some of the good guys die without coming back; without a happy ending.


Decay and body horror abound, getting worse as the film goes on. One scene I still recall vividly: a decaying version of her father with button eyes and a pumpkin gut. Bound and controlled by the hands that played the piano for him, he tries to kill her. He Runs her over with the lawnmower screaming, slurred, that he does not want to do this. He dies when the bridge collapses; the garden with Coraline’s face drains of all colour. The pallor mortis.


I feel privileged that I saw this film, if that is the correct way to say such a thing. Films like this do not come along very often, sadly, and when they do… you must grab them tight with both hands. And view it with both of your eyes. All of your heart. Coraline is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.



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