Coraline (2009)

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"Tell me vat happened, Mouse. In your own vords."

“Tell me vat happened, Mouse. In your own vords.”

"Paper Alchemist...it was her fault! She told me to watch it...I thought she was my friend. Those eyes. Button eyes..."

“Paper Alchemist…it was her fault! She told me to watch it…I thought she was my friend. Those eyes. Button eyes…”

"I don't understand. You had made such fine progress. Ven last ve spoke you had overcome  your fear of Pinocchio and were reviewing the entire Disney canon. You seemed in good mental health. Vat triggered zis relapse?"

“I don’t understand. You had made such fine progress. Ven last ve spoke you had overcome your fear of Pinocchio and were reviewing ze entire Disney canon. You seemed in good mental health. Vat brough on zis relapse?”

"Pinocchio? That's right. I used to be afraid of that movie. God, I was a fool."

Pinocchio? That’s right. I used to be afraid of that movie. God, I was a fool.”

HELLO!

HELLO!

"Hey."

“Hey.”

"Then tell me, Mouse. What triggered zis episode?"

“Then tell me, Mouse. What triggered zis episode?”

"I remember it like it was yesterday. When in fact, it was the day before yesterday. I'd finally decided to start reviewing non-Disney movies regularly. Walt tried to warn me against it..."

“I remember it like it was yesterday. When in fact, it was the day before yesterday. I’d finally decided to start reviewing non-Disney movies regularly. Walt tried to warn me against it…”

"You're a fool mouse! Everytime you review a non-Disney movie you invite terrible doom!"

“You’re a fool Mouse! Everytime you review a non-Disney movie you invite terrible doom!”

"But I thought it'd be fine! After all, I reviewed Nightmare Before Christmas at Halloween and nothing bad happened!"

“But I thought it’d be fine! After all, I reviewed Nightmare Before Christmas at Halloween and nothing bad happened!”

"Ja...of course."

“Ja…of course.”

"You don't know that!"

“You don’t know that!”

"I am sorry, zis is a private session. I will have to ask you to leave."

“I am sorry, zis is a private session. I vill have to ask you to leave.”

"And who the stuttering fuck might you be?"

“And who the stuttering fuck might you be?”

"I am Herr Doktor Ernst Fiedelman. I am ze Mouse's  psychoanalysist."

“I am Herr Doktor Ernst Fiedelman. I am ze Mouse’s psychoanalyst.”

"Fiedelman? What is that, Jewish?"

“Psychoanalyses? Mouse why are you wasting your time with this flim flam? Some good old fashioned voodoo is all you need, where’s my cauldron?”

"Out."

“Out.”

"I think I am beginning to understand. You reviewed a movie horrific enough to undo years of intensive psychoanalysis. Something by Adam Sandler I am guessing?"

“I think I am beginning to understand. You reviewed a movie horrific enough to undo years of intensive psychoanalysis. Something by Adam Sandler I am guessing, ja?”

"Nein. Coraline."

“Nein. Coraline.”

"Mein Gott!"

“Mein Gott! Mouse, ve have no choice. You must face your fear, and talk me through the review. Only then can we undo the psychological damage.”

"Really? Because that sounds like it would make things so much worse."

“Really? Because that sounds like it would make things so much worse.”

"Ve're talking fifty fifty either vay. Now begin!"

“Ve’re talking fifty fifty either vay. Now begin!”

Well. Okay. Here we. go. Coraline.

***

Coraline the movie begins with Coraline the girl and her parents moving into their new home, a dingy apartment in a dilapidated mansion in the middle of Buttfuck Nowhere, Oregon. Coraline is a blue haired eleven year old voiced by Dakota Fanning, the precocious slightly eerie blonde child actress who appeared in absolutely everything before Saoirse Ronan killed her and took her place, thus continuing the great circle of life. First thing that struck me was the animation. This is directed by Henry Sellick, who also directed Nightmare Before Christmas which was an absolutely amazing achievement in stop-motion. Coraline makes Nightmare Before Christmas look like the Plonsters.

It is without a doubt the most beautifully fluid stop motion animation I have ever seen.

"And how does this make you feel?"

“And how does this make you feel?”

Good. It makes me feel good. Coraline goes exploring her new neighbourhood which is the kind of colour bleached barren wasteland that you expect to find tramps arguing about whether they should keep waiting for someone who may be God but probably isn’t. While searching for a hidden well, she runs into Wybourn (Robert Bailey Junior), whose grandmother owns the Pink Palace, which amazingly is not the local brothel but rather the mansion where Coraline and her family have just moved in. Wybourn is a little…odd…but he shows her the well, saying it’s so deep that if you fell down and looked up you’d see a sky with stars in the middle of the day. Not sure exactly what that means but it sure sounds pretty and why yes, this movie is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman. She also meets Wybourn’s black cat, though he’s quick to point out that he doesn’t actually own the cat, and that he just feeds it and sometimes it brings him “dead things”.

"Ve often see this in future serial murderers. This is typical behaviour."

“Ve often see this in future serial murderers. This is typical behaviour.”

Wybourn tells Coraline that he’s surprised that his grandmother rented the Pink Palace to her parents, as she normally doesn’t rent to people with children. Coraline asks why and Wybourn says he’s not supposed to talk about it and Coraline, grab him now and beat it out of him because I guaran-damn-tee you that is some vital information he is withholding there. Wybourn’s grandmother calls him away and Corlaine returns home. We now meet Mel Jones, Coraline’s mother who’s voiced by Teri Hatcher. Coraline asks her mother if she can go outside and do some gardening but Mel says no because it’s raining and rain equals mud. Coraline points out that it’s a bit odd that her mother is a gardening writer and hates mud but Mel is all “So I contradict myself, I am vast, I contain multitudes”. Mel then says that someone left a package for Coraline and she unwraps it to find a little doll of herself with buttons for eyes.

Leave the house. Now. Just go. Don't wait. Don't sleep on it. Don't wait and see how things pan out. It may already be too late. Just go. Just go know. Leave. Never mind the cost. It's only money. Get out of the house. Go. Go now. Go.

Leave the house. Now. Just go. Don’t wait. Don’t sleep on it. Don’t see how things pan out. It may already be too late. Just go. Just go now. Leave. Never mind the cost. It’s only money. Get out of the house. Go. Go now. Go.

Yeah, Coraline is supposed to be this smart, resourceful protagonist but I’m not buying it. How smart can she be when she stays after that? I mean, this is clearly turning into one of those campfire stories whose last sentence  begins with “And written in blood on the wall were the words…”. In fact, let us now meet the real hero of this movie; Coraline’s father, Charlie Jones voiced by John Hodgman (you’re welcome). Charlie is a man who simply wants to write, but is perpetually being distracted by the constant demands of his wife and daughter.

Truly, a hero for our time.

Truly, a hero for our time.

Coraline heartlessly pesters her poor father despite that fact that he just wants to finish the damn Lilo and Stitch review  write his gardening article. Using both cunning and resourcefulness, Charlie dispatches the little time-thief by sending Coraline to take an inventory of the house, counting all the doors and whatnot (genius, gotta remember that one) and goes back to writing “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES CHARLIE A DULL BOY” five hundred times. While exploring, Coraline discovers a tiny door hidden behind the wallpaper and nags her mother into unlocking it. Mel finally does, digging out an odd little button-shaped black key from the kitchen drawer which she knows opens the hidden door because look, a bird!

Oh that's beautiful. We don't have these in Europe you know.

Oh that’s beautiful. We don’t have bluebirds in Europe you know.

Mel opens the door for Coraline, and all the while the little Coraline doll just…watches.

"And how does this make you feel?"

“And how does this make you feel?”

Nervous. It makes me feel nervous. But once Mel opens the door there’s nothing there but solid brick. Disappointed, Coraline goes to bed, and puts the little doll on a stool where it can watch her while she sleeps because hey, why not? Who wants to live anyway?

Honestly, I think the doll is offended that  she's making it this easy.

Honestly, I think the doll is offended that she’s making it this easy.

Coraline wakes up in the middle of the night to see a mouse on her bedroom floor (funny story, I actually dated that mouse in college for a few weeks. Her name was Stacy Lillenbeck. Great fun, but fucking crazy.) Coraline chases the mouse downstairs and through the little door which is now somehow unblocked. Coraline follows the mouse through the door only to find that the mouse has vanished and she is now lost in another world with no idea how she got there and no way of getting back (and that is just so Stacy). Coraline finds herself in a house that is seemingly identical to her own only classier. Following the smell of something delicious from the kitchen she walks in and sees someone who she thinks is her mother but who then turns around and ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Lord.

Yeah. This is not going to end well. Just throwin' that out there.

Yeah. This is not going to end well. Just throwin’ that out there.

This is the Other Mother, also voiced by Teri Hatcher and I’m going to say that with the possible exception of Judge Doom she is the most terrifying villain of any children’s movie I have ever seen. She’s even scarier than the Horned King, who I remind you is not merely a fictional character but an actually real-life malevolent being of pure evil that nearly killed me. That’s how scary she is. Partially it’s the character design (those button eyes…blind yet always watching) but mainly it’s Teri Hatcher’s performance. Honestly, I haven’t seen Teri Hatcher in a lot. I used to watch Lois and Clark and I’ve seen a few episodes of Desperate Houswives. She’s one of the all time great Lois Lane’s definitely but I have to say I wouldn’t have pegged her as a fantastic voice actress from anything I’d seen her in previously. But here, damn she is fantastic. As both Mel and the Other Mother she brings a real depth and range to her performance. The Other Mother’s chipper facade is chilling in it’s own way, but later in the movie when she gets to bring out the rage and even the loneliness that forms the core of the character, just sterling work. Coraline, upon seeing the buttons says “You’re not my mother!”

Well duh

The Other Mother laughs and tells her to get her Other Father and tell him that dinner is served. Coraline goes into the study and sees her Other Father, who instead of writing is composing on the piano. The Other Father is voiced by John Hodgman (you’re welcome) and, okay look. There’s a lot of other “other” characters in this so just take it as read that they’re voiced by the same actor as their real world counterpart or we’ll be here all day. Anyway, the Other Father plays Other Father Song, which was one of several songs written for the movie by They Might be Giants because the movie was originally going to be a musical. And…I have no idea how that would have worked. That’s like hearing that the Blair Witch Project was originally going to be a slapstick comedy about three hikers and their talking chipmunk pal. The song however is really good, and if they were only going to save one of TMG’s songs, I’m glad it was this one. Coraline and the Other Parents sit down to a roast dinner. This scene basically tells us everything we need to know about the Other Mother’s world; that it’s superficially nicer and more affluent but nonetheless filled with people who are eerily fake and artificial, kinda like Dublin’s southside.

Northside till I die, yo.

Northside till I die, yo.

After dinner, the Other Mother asks Coraline if she wants to play a game but Coraline says she should probably get back to her other mother. The Other Mother says “but I’m your Other Mother” and Coraline says “No, my other other Mother.”

"Cos I'm an Other Mother, she's an Other Mother we should fuck each other's mothers. Fuckin' each other's Mooooooms..."

“Cos I’m an Other Mother, she’s an Other Mother we should fuck each other’s mothers. Fuckin’ each other’s Mooooooms…”

The Other Mother then puts Coraline to bed and she wakes up back in her old room the next morning. She runs to the small door but it’s bricked up as before. Disappointed, Coraline goes outside and finds a load of parcels on the doormat addressed to Bobinski, the russian gymnast who lives upstairs and who for some reason looks like a Blue Meanie. No explanation is ever given in the movie as to why he’s blue but he is wearing the medal given by the USSR to those who served in the Chernobyl cleanup so maybe that’s why (even though that is completely scientifically inaccurate).

Silly movie. Radiation turns you green.

Everyone knows radiation turns you green.

Bobinski claims to be training performing jumping mice (the packages are sweet, sweet delicious cheese) and gives Coraline a message from the mice; Don’t go through the little door again. That little bit of ominous business done with, Coraline pays a visit to Mesdames Spink and Forcible, two retired burlesque dancers who live in the basement with an army of Scottish Terriers. Spink and forcible are voiced by British comedy legends Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. They read Coraline’s tea leaves and warn her that she’s in terrible danger, or that she’s going to encounter a giraffe. Tch. Typical horoscopes, always hedging their bets. Later, Coraline sees Wybie and the black cat again and Wybie mentions that he’s never been inside the Pink Palace because his grandmother won’t let him. He says it was due to her twin sister going missing when they were still kids and then leaves and dammit Coraline just nail his feet to the floor and waterboard him until he tells you everything you need to know!

That night Coraline follows the mice through the small door despite being warned not to and all the signs pointing to this being a really bad idea.

"And how does this make you feel?"

“And how does this make you feel?”

Frustrated. It makes me feel frustrated. Worryingly, the Other Mother has started to refer to Coraline’s Other Father as her “Better Father”, and send her out into the garden to see him. The Other Father’s garden is an absolutely gorgeous wonderland of living plants that forms Coraline’s face when viewed from the air.

I planted one of these once. Mine looked like Andy Samburg, but the principal's the same.

I planted one of these once. Mine looked like Andy Samburg, but the principal’s the same.

After dinner, Other Mother tells Coraline that Other Mister Bobinski has invited her to see his performing mice and that she and her “friend” should go and see him (sidenote, Teri Hatcher puts a little weird emphasis on the word “friend” like it’s a foreign word she’s not quite sure she’s pronouncing correctly and it’s just wonderful). She then open the door to reveal Other Wybie.

Just do it. Whatever you're planning to do. Just do it. The waiting is worse.

Just do it. Whatever you’re planning to do. Just do it. The waiting is worse.

Other Wybie doesn’t say anything because as Other Mother explains “I thought you’d like him more if he talked a little less. So I fixed him.” It’s such a chilling moment, and honestly, Coraline’s blasé “I like it” on hearing that this Wybourn can’t talk is even worse.

"And how does this make you feel?"

“And how does this make you feel?”

Like a ferret is running up and down my back and he has cold hands. They go upstairs to Mr Bobinski’s apartment and watch the jumping mice perform a fantastic, brilliantly animated choreographed setpiece.

Pff. I could do that. I just don't want to.

Pff. I could do that. I just don’t want to.

The next morning Coraline wakes up in her bedroom and runs downstairs, only to find that her mother has locked the small door. She asks Mel why she locked it and Mel says “I found some rat crap around there.”

Mild profanity?! Well no wonder this thing has a PG rating. That and the mindbending horror.

Mild profanity?! Well no wonder this thing has a PG rating. That and the mindbending horror.

While her mother goes shopping for food Coraline searches the house and finally finds the button key. She unlocks the small door and passes through into the Other Mother’s world where she finds a note on the table telling her that she’s been invited to see Other Spink and Other Forcible perform. Worryingly, the note is simply signed “Mother”. Outisde the house, she sees Wybie’s black cat and assumes that he’s the Other Cat version but the cat says “No. I’m not the other anything. I’m me.” And holy shit that cat is voiced by the most badass voice there is; Keith David!

You're in his world now, not your world. And he's got friends on the other side.

You’re in his world now, not your world. And he’s got friends on the other side.

The Cat tries to warn Coraline that the Other Mother is, much like the German people, not all smiles and sunshine. But Coraline doesn’t heed his warning (girl, that cat voiced Goliath, you show him some respect) and goes down to see Spink and Forcible perform in the magnificent theatre they just happen to have beneath the Other Mother’s house. The curtain rises and oh my sainted aunt.
This is a children's movie. What the fuck is the matter with you people.

This is a children’s movie. What the fuck is the matter with you people?

Yeah, so Other Spink and Other Forcible perform a burlesque song dressed as a mermaid and Venus that, as someone on the TV Tropes page for this movie pointed out, is basically the Tits versus Ass debate in song form. Oh, side note, whoever’s been adding mentions of the blog to TV Tropes, ta very much. Anyway the song  ends with Other Spink and Other Forcible unzipping themselves and turning into young, svelte gymnasts who perform a death defying acrobatics act while reciting the “What a piece of work is a man” speech from Hamlet. Meh, whatever gets the kids into the Bard is alright by me. After the show Coraline raves to the Other Parents and Other Mother asks her if she likes it here. Coraline says she does and the Other Mother says that she can stay forever if she wants, she just has to do one little thing and gives her a box. Coraline opens the box and…

You know, I never would have thought the sight of two buttons could have made me violently shit my pants. And yet...here we are.

You know, I never would have thought the sight of two buttons could have made me violently shit my pants. And yet…here we are.

Shit just got real

Coraline, suddenly realising just how real this shit has in fact gotten says “yeahnothanxbuhbye” and runs to her bedroom and tries desperately to fall asleep. Somehow she does and when she wakes up…she’s still in the Other Mother’s world.

Ohhhhhhhhh crap.

She runs downstairs and out of the house and finds the cat wandering in the woods. They go walking together but the further away they get from the house the more the world just fades to white and the cat explains that the Other Mother only created what she knew would impress Coraline. Coraline asks what she wants with her and the cat says “She wants something to love. I think. Something that isn’t her. Or maybe she just wants something to eat.”

Seeing no alternative, Coraline sneaks back into the house and tries to get through the small door but the Other Mother is waiting for her. Coraline angrily demands to go back home and the Other Mother says “Is that any way to talk to your mother.”

Then…oh God…Coraline says “You. Are. Not. My. Mother.”

And then..the Other Mother…oh God…

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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

"And how does this make you feel?"

“And how does this make you feel?”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

"Ja, this is typical. But look closely at this scene Mouse. I think you may be missing something significant."

“Ja, this is typical. But look closely at this scene Mouse. I think you may be missing something significant.”

AAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGHHHHH….holy shit was that a morphing sequence? It was. Oh my God. They had a morphing sequence in a stop motion animation. Is…is that even possible?! HOLY SHIT THAT IS AMAZING!

Okay, so let me explain. Morphing is…you probably all know what morphing is, right?

No. Well yes, but...no, look we're getting off topic.

No. Well yes, but…no, look we’re getting off topic.

Morphing is the process whereby you take one image and morph it into another. You know Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” music video where he turns into lots of different people? That’s a morphing effect. It’s one of the first computer generated special effects ever developed and with modern computer technology it’s dirt simple to do. Ahem. When you use computers. The crazy bastards who made this film? They did this fucker BY HAND. That is, they created a new, slightly different Other Mother model for every twenty fourth of a second of footage. That. Is. Fucking. INSANE. I…I…just holy shit. In terms of technical difficulty this ranks up there with the panning shot over Gepetto’s village in Pinocchio. I mean just…

Is pretty much all I can say. Now where were we? Oh yes, total horror. So the Other Mother, now looking less like Lois and Clark era Teri Hatcher and more like Desperate Housewives era Teri Hatcher goes berserk and throws her into a mirror until she “learns how to be a loving daughter”. In the mirror, Coraline meets three ghost children who tell her that “the Beldam” kidnapped them and then stole their eyes, trapping them in her world forever. Coraline promises to try and find their eyes and set them free, and is then rescued by Other Wybie whose face was sown into a smile by the Other Mother after he stopped smiling.

Would you like to know how I got these scars?

Would you like to know how I got these scars?

Other Wybie helps Coraline escape and she returns back to the real world. At first she’s delighted but after searching the house she realises that her parents are nowhere to be found and the groceries her mother went to get are rotting on the kitchen table. She finally goes to sleep, making two…dolls…of her parents out of pillows. Well. That’s not weird at all.

Haven't been this creeped out by a little girl since Luana Patten.

Haven’t been this creeped out by a little girl since Luana Patten.

In the night, the cat wakes her and shows her that her parents and have been trapped in a mirror by the Other Mother and she has no choice but to go back through the little door and rescue them. The Cat tells her to challenge the Other Mother to a game, saying “She’s got a thing for games”.

Okay, confession time. I watched this movie on a DVD I borrowed from a friend who got it at a Lebanese market THE LEGALITY OF WHICH I DO NOT DOUBT IN ANY WAY and it’s a little…funny. Basically the disc gets to the point where Coraline arrives back and is captured by the Other Mother who swallows the button key and then jumps ahead to where Coraline is searching for the eyes of the three ghost children. What I deduce happens is that Coraline challenges the Other Mother for her parents’ freedom and she has to find the eyes before the moon is eclipsed. I think that’s it. Honestly, even without the jump this sequence is the weakest in the movie for me. It feels like I’m watching someone play a fetch quest in a video game as Coraline faces off against the now horrifying Other Bobinski, Spink and Forcible. She finds the eyes, which are disguised as innocent household objects and unlocks an X-Box achievement and then returns to the house to claim her prize.

Oh, and the Other Mother has now gotten even scarier with black veins running down her face and arms and hands made of sewing needles and and and and and I think I need a paper bag to breathe into.
"Ja, this is typical."

“Ja, this is typical.”

As part of her deal with the Other Mother, Coraline has to guess where her parents are before she’ll let them go. Coraline susses that they’re in a snow globe on the mantelpiece, but the ghost children warn her that even if she guesses right, the Other Mother won’t honour the deal. So Coraline guesses that they’ve been hidden behind the little door, which forces the Other Mother to open it. And then Coraline throws the cat at her head and CORALINE JONES HOW DARE YOU GIVE KEITH DAVID THE FASTBALL SPECIAL FOR SHAME!!! The cat actually manages to claw the buttons off her face and Coraline grabs the snow globe and races to the little door while the Other Mother, blind, enraged and screaming lashes wildly about. Coraline manages to slam the door shut, cutting off one of the Other Mother’s needle hands in the process. This scene is just traumatisingly terrifying. I think the worst part is Teri Hatcher’s agonised, furious sob “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE!”
God damn this is not a movie for little kids.
Well, Coraline finally escapes and arrives back in the real world. Her parents are back with no memory of what happened and the ghost children visit her in a dream to show her that they’re now at peace and all seems to be well.
OR IS IT?!
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The ghost children warn her that she’s still in terrible danger and she wakes up to see the cat in her room who’s no doubt looking for some payback after being tossed at the Slenderman’s sister.
"Forgive me. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I'm Keith Motherfucking David."

“Forgive me. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I’m Keith Motherfucking David.”

Coraline realises that she’s still got the button key and that she’ll never be safe as long as it’s in the house. She runs out of the house to the Hell, but unbeknownst to her she’s being followed by the Other Mother’s disembodied hand that’s come through the little door like Thing from the Addams Family after a gritty reboot.
Coraline is attacked and almost killed by the hand but Wybie arrives in the nick of time and they manage to destroy the hand. Coraline and Wybie drop the crushed hand and the key down the well, thus ending the threat of the Other Mother forever unless of course the hand was just faking and manages to crawl back out with the key in which case they’ve merely postponed their own inevitable horrible deaths. The movie ends with Coraline’s parents throwing a garden party for their neighbours and Coraline finally meeting Wybie’s grandmother, who she promises to tell what happened to her twin sister.
Picture taken the moment before Coraline starred slamming that lady's head in the gate for renting this death trap to her parents without so much as a cautionary note.

Picture taken the moment before Coraline started slamming that lady’s head in the gate for renting this death trap to her parents without so much as a cautionary note.

***
In an era when even traditional cel animation is considered too time consuming and expensive, what the hell chance does stop motion animation have? This is the animation method for animators who’ve decided that sanity is for the weak. Coraline was the longest stop motion animated film ever made, produced by a no-name company and released with next to no marketing. It should have died in the wilderness on release, but amazingly word of mouth not only kept it alive at the box office but turned this into one of the most financially successful animated films of the year. It also probably helped that Coraline’s main competition at the time of release was The Pink Panther 2.
If I want to watch a desperate, unfunny cash-in Pink Panther sequel I’ll watch one of the ones that actually starred Peter Sellers thanks very much.

If I want to watch a desperate, unfunny cash-in Pink Panther sequel I’ll watch one of the ones that actually starred Peter Sellers thanks very much.

But the importance of Coraline’s success should not be underestimated. This is brilliant, dark, intelligent and exquisitely animated children’s fare from an era where such a thing is almost extinct. This is something every animation fan owes it to themselves to see.
"Thanks Doc. I needed that."

“Thanks Doc. I needed that.”

"This is what I do Mouse. But I am concerned about you, especially vith the next few movies that you shall be rewieving. I think perhaps ve go back to our regular sessions, ja?"

“This is what I do Mouse. But I am concerned about you, especially vith the next few movies that you shall be rewieving. I think perhaps ve go back to our regular sessions, ja?”

"Alright. If you think so."

“Alright. If you think so.”

"Tschuss!"

“Tschuss!”

"Danke."

“Danke.”

"Bitte, my friend..."

“Bitte, my friend…”

"Bitte..."

Bitte…”

Scoring
Animation 20/20
I’ve certainly reviewed movies that are more beautiful but the level of technical skill on display here…they did a morphing shot in a stop motion animation. They did. A morphing shot. IN STOP MOTION.
Lead 16/20
She’s not exactly what you’d call genre-savvy, but Coraline is a smart, relatable, appealing protagonist.
Villain 20/20
Nah it’s fine. I didn’t like these pants anyway.
Supporting characters 15/20
No weak links here, all the supports are visually distinctive, well voiced and interesting.
Music 16/20
The score and the children’s choir work to an excellent job of establishing a creepy atmosphere. And the Other Father’s song is insanely catchy.
 
TOTAL SCORE: 87%
NEXT UPDATE: 13 February 2014
 
NEXT TIME:
At last this odious offspring whom thou seest
Thine own begotten, breaking violent way
Tore through my entrails, that with fear and pain
Distorted, all my nether shape thus grew
Transform’d: but he my inbred enemie
Forth issu’d, brandishing his fatal Dart
Made to destroy: I fled, and cried out DEATH!
Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sigh’d
From all her Caves, and back resounded: DEATH.
images
***
Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. This review was made possible by the kind donation of Amelia Mellor. Thanks Amelia!

62 comments

  1. Coincidentally, I just watched this movie again over Christmas break. The animation is VERY impressive. As a fan of Aardman, I appreciate well-done stop-motion. And the story is a great thrill-ride, probably the only horror film I’ll ever watch. My youngest brother hates it, and, well, it’s a pretty freaky movie, so I can’t say I blame him. I personally really like this one.

    Next time… Oh boy. Good luck. I still remember seeing it in theaters, coming out after it was over and just going: “… what did I just watch?”

  2. Hey now, I live in Oregon, and let me tell you, Buttfuck nowhere is a lot more interesting than Boring and Dull (yes, there are towns in Oregon called Boring and Dull…they even made a holiday commemorating each other…I am so thankful I don’t live anywhere near those places).

    Anyways, what I found interesting was that I was visiting a community college in Portland that has an animation class in it, and the teacher even said that they worked in connection with Laika, the studio that made Coraline. So any students that were apart of the course could work for them. And truth be told, I think it’s a great way of getting a foot in the door in terms of animation, especially if CalArts might seem too expensive to go with. Their third major film, Boxtrolls, doesn’t seem interesting for me, but I might warm up to it.

    I understand that you said the scene where she looks for the eyes is the weakest part, but I think there is a very strong moment when she’s in the garden and the Other Father, despite fighting her, resents and gives her the eye, sacrificing himself to save her because that’s how much he loves her even though he’s just another one of the Other Mother’s creations. Honestly, it’s such a great, heroic thing for this character, showing that at least something in the Other World cares about her.

    In terms of your reaction to the Other Mother’s transformation, I can understand where you’re coming from, and at the same time laughed a plenty along with the Other Mother fucking the other mother joke. Really glad I wasn’t drinking or eating anything.

    Don’t blame you in terms of a children’s movie: wait until the child is around eight or so, and then watch it with them. That being said, the things I’ve read from Neil Gaiman are some Sandman comics, and an unfinished Graveyard Book. Other than that, what drew me to the film was Henry Selick. But after this, I’ve been thinking about reading some Gaiman stories here and there, especially since a new book of his just got published. Which do you think would be a good start to read, if you’ve read any?

    Anyways, always a great review and a pleasure reading your stuff as always.

      1. Not a problem. From your description I would understand. You can try finding it on youtube, but I couldn’t find it on there, nor is there that much of any scenes appairantly. Weird.

  3. Fantastic review per usual!

    The scene that really got me in this movie was the spiderweb sequence. Damn…..I was mesmorized.

    Anyway, I watched Coraline in preperation for your review. Can’t believe I hadn’t seen this film before. I knew Henry Selick had done Nightmare before Christmas, and I didn’t have to look up anything to assume he had done James and the Giant Peach. I looked him up because HOLY SHIT the quality of his work is so damn impressive. Turns out after the three aforementioned movies he has directed one other movie. Must be a lost masterpiece no? No, it is not. It was…..Monkeybone. Be grateful no one requested that movie. I watched Monkeybone and while there is some impressive work within the movie. It was an awful, awful movie. I blame this blog for opening my mind to such autracities such as Monkeybone.

    Speaking of awful movies. Home on the Range. Well, maybe you’ll wish you were watching Monkeybone.

  4. A Paradise Lost reference? I love you. (I’m the fellow troper who added the references to your blog on TV Tropes, by the way.)

    I think that Coraline is one of the few instances of the film actually improving on the original source material. Book!Coraline didn’t have much of a personality and reacted…strangely to her parents’ disappearance. Film!Coraline may be a bit of a brat, but she acts more like how an actual teenager would and the film’s Other World explores the “too good to be true” and “be careful what you wish for” elements more fully whereas the book’s Other World is fucking creepy right from the start and definitely not a world that any sane child would want to stay in for any longer than necessary (I mean, after the scene in which the rats crawl out from under Coraline’s bed and sing a song about how they’ll be there and waiting until humans get what they deserve, I was surprised that Coraline didn’t scramble to get the hell out of there). And while some people were unhappy about Wybie’s inclusion, I liked him and his Other version even more.

    I’ve never watched (and never plan to, if the gods are willing) Home on the Range, but I’ve heard enough about it to be afraid. Be very afraid…

    (P.S: It’s Teri Hatcher, not Terri Hatcher.)

  5. Ok, first I need to share this gif with y’all because it pretty much illustrates how goddam crazy the process of making this movie was

    Absolutely insane. Apparently they sewed every piece of clothing for this movie BY HAND with near microscopic needles.

    Neil Gaiman just might be the best storyteller currently working. Everything he does is just phenomenal. Coraline, amazing. Stardust, fantastic. American Gods is one of my all time favorite books. And The Sandman is just incredible. Hell, Gaiman is so good that Miramax trusted him with handling the screenplay for the English dub of Princess Mononoke. And everything he does is just so wonderfully magical and yet so perfectly dark. He finds the perfect mix between the two elements, enchantment and horror. And yet, despite how outright disturbing Coraline can be, I think it works perfectly well as a children’s film. Now, I”m talking slightly older children, maybe 7 and up. But like I said, Gaiman just has a talent for perfectly blending magical enchantment and dark horror together to make something truly unique and wonderfully entertaining.

    1. Oh, and one more thing. Coraline was not the most profitable animated film of 2009. That honor would go to Up which made over 730 million at the box office on a 175 million dollar budget.

      1. The year was also not THAT bad for animation – yes, there was yet another Ice-Age movie, and I really loathe Disney’s version of The Christmas Carol, but the year brought The Princess and the Frog, Ponyo (both movies I don’t like THAT much myself, but are everything but bad), Up and Walz with Bashir.
        Mouse, if you consider that a bad year for animation, I really don’t want to know what you think about 2013.

      2. I am not as armoured of Frozen than some others (I think the songs are badly used and even worse, the story in unbelievable contrived and predictable) and in 2010, 2011 or 2012 I wouldn’t even considered it for an academy award for anything other than “best song”. And even if it were the best movie ever, it wouldn’t make up for all the garbage they served this year.

  6. I read Coraline a year or so before the movie came out. The trailer alone was enough to convince me that the only way this movie could be made was in animation form because live action would have received a rating of DEAR GOD PROTECT ME FROM EVIL!!!! So I wussed out and still have yet to see it. This review has convinced me I need to see it if only for the artistry, but not when I’m home alone.

    Also, Dr. Ernst Fiedelman is an awesome addition to your supporting cast, provided he is not a minion of Bahia, which I’m sort of starting to suspect may not be that far from the truth.

  7. I’ve only seen this once and don’t remember it well. I just remember it being FREAKY BEYOND BELIEF (as you so rightfully pointed out) and wondering what the heck the naked lady was for!

    Looking forward to your return to the Canon in 2 weeks!

  8. Be careful what you wish for indeed. After getting tired of so many dumb children’s shows and movies, I prayed for a Who Framed Roger Rabbit for the modern generation, something scary-but-fun. Instead, we got Toon Judge Doom turned into a film. The only reason why I could handle Toon Judge Doom as a kid was because of how awesome the movie was prior to that pants-shitting point. I can’t find anything to focus on that saves me from this terror.

    Least Home on the Range is scary on a whole different level.

  9. “Dakota Fanning, the precocious slightly eerie blonde child actress who appeared in absolutely everything before Saoirse Ronan killed her”

    Is that a thing? I haven’t seen Ronan on…anything. I guess there’s The Host, but I bet not even her wants to talk about it.
    Makes me wonder why she decided not to be Scarlet Witch, she suuure knows how to find good roles.

    I really need to see this movie. I HAVE seen it, just…not the entire thing. I’ve been seen the last 40 minutes or so I think.
    About, ahem, “Bust a Moo”…I’m just gonna say the lat-am makes the damn thing at least somewhat tolerable. Yes, that DOES make me feel better!
    But seriously dude, good luck. It’s kinda sad that you have to review films like Home on the Range and Chicken Little to finally get to the new renaissance (and Bolt I guess). It’ll be a long, long journey.

      1. That’s probably it. I have to admit I’ve seen her on a lot of casting…rumors recently, however.
        I feel like she could do so much more with her career. Same with Gosling.

      1. I didn’t even know there was an “original” one! I guess it was pretty odd that no one tried to adapt the book before…

        Anyway, I saw the CGI one a few days ago and hoped that someone would ask you to review it, it’s probably my favorite Dr. Seuss (which is not really much of a compliment when you have The Cat in the Hat to compare it to…)

        P.S: Good to know you’ve finally seen Frozen,.

  10. On phone in outback. Typing hard. Love review. Informative and funny. Glad you liked movie. Sorry for nightmares. Fyi parts of movie were shot in 3D with cameras deliberately out of sync to create feeling of unease. Not that it needed more. Also DO NOT GOOGLE, SEEK OUT OR PURCHASE ANYTHING CALLED LA LA LOOPSY IF YOU VALUE YOUR CHILD’S SAFETY/YOUR SANITY.

    Thanks again for doing my request! 😀

  11. Did you really have to do the “Disney hates Jews”-joke? There is next to now evidence that the accusation is even true, instead a lot of evidence that it wasn’t, but joking about this unproven rumour which was created during a smear campaign keeps tainting the memory of a man who can’t even defend himself anymore. I think it is very tasteless humour. There are a enough questionable things Disney actually did do to joke about.

  12. I watched this movie yesterday before you posted your review. This was a STRANGE movie to say the least. My mind is still boggled after watching it. But I guess that’s to be expected from films by Henry Selick or Tim Burton (even though he wasn’t part of this movie). Not a bad thing, but I guess I just need to keep that in mind more often. The stop-motion animation is nice and a treat to see these days as far as animation goes. The animation on Other Mother, coupled with the fact she has buttons for eyes and an excellent performance by Teri Hatcher, is scary enough, but OMG, the theater performance scene by Other Spink and Other Forcible, specifically the way they’re dressed (or lack thereof)? *hurls* I agree, this is NOT a scene to show your kids until they are older. Same goes for the movie as a whole. I’m glad I saw this movie once, but I’m not sure if I’d see it again. Great review, Mouse!

    *sigh* I guess you already previewed Home on the Range. I guess you know it’s bad. In the words of Zazu from the Lion King, one of your favorite movies and mine, “Good Luck”.

  13. Great review! I’m really glad that I saw this in the theater, completely by chance, because I hadn’t heard anything about it before my wife and I were looking for something to see one night.

    Coraline had another competitor, at least here in the US. Many theaters only played the 3D version of the movie, and a lot of those theaters were only able to show one 3D movie at a time. The Jonas Brothers had a 3D movie/performance that was released shortly after Coraline, and its unfortunate popularity meant that Coraline got booted from a lot of theaters preemptively.

    Have you seen ParaNorman yet? I thought it was pretty good, not as consistently good as Coraline, but definitely worth it for the climax – the animation in particular.

  14. Coraline is my favorite stop-motion animation movie, and I didn’t even see it until a few weeks ago. Honestly, a few of my least favorite animated animated movies are stop motion so I’m happy I like this one so much.

  15. Have the 3D DVD version of this. Love it to bits. But I adore Neil Gaiman in general, so no big surprise. Mouse, you should get your hands on the short story “Snow, Glass, Apples”, his REALLY twisted take on Snow White. That tale was what I was thinking of when I was reading your “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” review, incidentally. You cannot really see the original story in the normal way after reading Mr. Gaiman’s take on it.

  16. Quick! Get that anchor up while I have that demon rooster distracted with that roll of firecrackers. Helm! Hard over and let the sails go full, and let the streamers go. Every man man an oar. I want to leave this godforsaken as fast as we can before we’re missed.

  17. I agree with u spot on omygod…… that morphing scene.
    and that scene where the beldam gave her the buttons. when I saw the box, I was like, ‘no.no.no.no.no.stop.no.no.dont’. and they opened it. and it was a fucking pair of buttons. me: ‘holyshit. coralline. run. don’t come back. just. run. go. now. plz. ohshit.’

    honestly, ive never been so entranced by a stop motion film like this ever! even nightmare before Christmas cannot defeat this masterpiece.

    1. The big difference between the two is that Nightmare Before Christmas is trying to say “no, look, the monsters aren’t really scary”. Coraline is saying “Oh no. They totally are.”

  18. Ummmm…
    So you claim you’ve been frightened by Coraline, when you know that next in line is Home on the Range?
    This begs an interesting cinematophilosophical question. Isn’t a horrible, shitty, emetic comedy much more frightening than a brilliant horror film?
    I firmly believe so.
    And, about Stacy… we’ve all been there, Mouse. We all have. I’m glad you made an upgrade, as some men never learn.

  19. Well, I finally watched it…one of our network did an animated movie day and Coraline (as well as Secret of Kells) was on the list. I needed two tries, because during the first time, the worst storm I ever experienced started to wreck the neighbourhood and, consequently, the reception went out (plus, I was busy securing the house and being glad that none of the trees fell on anything really important). But I was able to watch the repeat during the (still stormy) night….
    Honestly, I was disappointed. I guess partly because it was always praised so much, so I expected more in terms of …deepness, I guess. But also because in the end it boiled down to a horror movie, and I am not only not really into horror movies (because they rarely scare me if they are that obvious…I am more for the subtle horror), especially not ones which use the following clichés: 1. The Protagonist doesn’t flee when he/she should (in this case I would have left the moment the creepy doll turned up…or when the hole behind the door suddenly turns up….or after leaving this creepy world the first time) and 2. the “it is not really over yet”-twist (which was used multiple times).
    I think you overrated the animation a little bit…it’s really impressive, but the rats/mice are sometimes an eyesore.
    More generally speaking: I more or less hated all the parts involving Wilby (or however his name is). His only function was sprouting exposition, and I honestly hated the way Coraline reacted to the “improved” version of him. I think the movie had been better off without the character.
    I also would have preferred it if the real world had been a little bit less odd, and the parents a little bit more toned down and therefore more realistic. I think they could have made a real point, but they wasted it for a Horror flick…a pretty good one, if you are into the stuff. (I still fear the Coachman more).

  20. Yea I really like this one- it’s certainly quite dark and creepy for a kids film, although I do think they should have done away with the T&A scene. I probably even prefer it to Nightmare as there is more of a story line. Have you seen Corpse Bride, and if so what do u think of it?

  21. So, the first of the non-Disney reviews, eh? Well, nice to start off on a good one. I enjoyed Coraline quite a bit. I don’t think it scared me *quite* as much as it did you, though I can definitely say it was chill-inducing.

    Ha, 45 reviews in and that Coachman gag still never gets old. Though I guess you’re getting numb to it. I guess the Coachman kind of shares quite a bit with the Beldam, doesn’t he? Lures unsuspecting kids in with promises of a carefree getaway. Maybe their similarities were what made Coraline scarier to you. I’ve heard true horror attacks what scares the child in people. Seizing the fears of their early memories. And speaking of early memories, Plonsters!!! *slips into nostalgic glee* Hmm, no accident you picked the one involving a garden and a sudden monster attack, was it?

  22. Wait a minute, that was Dakota? Wow, who knew she was actually in something good. And that bit about how relatable you found the dad cracked me up. And then the Shining reference. Brilliance. Loved the running gags about the random mice in the movie being your random acquaintances. Also, that Motherlover reference. Ohhh, man, that sure made me chuckle in an awkward, nervous manner.

    Y’know, apparently Teri Hatcher provided a voice in Planes. Which explains so much about her being the voice of one of the all-time most horrifying literally-scare-your-pants-off movie villains. And yeah, I definitely remember all the scenes with those ghost kids making me feel as if I was talking to some video game NPCs. Maybe that was deliberate, it kind of gives them a sense of lifelessness.

    …Well, those glowing eyes weren’t horrifyingly ominous at all. Maybe he just got hit by the same superpower-producing ray as Walt did, giving him laser eyes, but I’m not sure. In any case, I kind of like the idea you’re setting up here for your request series.

    Hmmm… Milton-references. I wonder if I should be expecting a Lucifer cameo next review, huh?

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