The stop-motion film Coraline was directed by Henry Selick and released in February of 2009. Coraline is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I am beyond excited to share my review! So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
The film’s opening is so creepy, but moreover, fun to watch, and the music makes it all the more perfect! We see a cute little doll float into a window, falling into a pair of metal, needle-like hands. These hands begin to dissect the doll and remove all of its contents, ie. the stuffing, clothing, and its button eyes. Then, we see the making of a whole new doll who looks identical to the film’s main character, Coraline.
When Coraline and her family first move into the Pink Palace, she immediately begins exploring outside, in search of an old well. While using a “dowsing rod” to try to find it, she is startled by a masked biker. After scaring the daylights out of her, he introduces himself as Wybie (Wyborne) Lovat.
Although Coraline is obviously annoyed by the boy, he goes on to tell her how his grandmother, the owner of the Pink Palace, never allows him to go into the manor, nor does she normally rent to couples with children.
We continue to follow Coraline through her normal daily life with two uptight, workaholic parents who have neglectful tendencies and very short tempers with Coraline. Not only is she ignored, but since their budget is so tight, Coraline is fed unappetizing foods that she says look like “slime”.
We also meet her neighbors: Mr. Bobinsky, who is a seemingly crazy old drunk who lives in the flat above Coraline, and Misses Spink and Forcible, who are two old retired actresses who live downstairs. Coraline is not too fond of these neighbors, mostly because they persistently call her “Caroline” instead of “Coraline”.
I must admit that these characters are what make the movie more enjoyable. I love that Mr. Bobinsky has a Russian accent, and that he comes off as insane. Misses Spink and Forcible are my favorite characters in the whole movie. These bickering old women offer her more help than any person in Coraline’s real world, and they dabble in witchcraft by reading Coraline’s tea leaves and lending her a tool that’s “good for bad things, sometimes.” Or lost? Bad? Lost? (If you know, you know.)
However, two events bring forth a huge change to Coraline’s life. The first incident is when Wybie leaves a doll on her front porch that is identical to Coraline, all the way down to the yellow raincoat and rainboots.
The second incident occurs when Coraline is utterly bored, and the rain has hindered her from any outside activities. After her father suggests that she walks around the flat and counts all the doors and windows, she stumbles upon a tiny door hidden behind the wallpaper of the drawing room.
When Coraline asks her mother to unlock it, they only discover that it is bricked up. After her great disappointment, Coraline puts the door out of her mind. Little does she know that this door is indeed magical… and dangerous!
That night, she is awoken by small mice at her bedroom door, and she follows them downstairs to the tiny door. When she opens the door, she is in jaw-dropping awe at the sight of a magic tunnel that takes the place of the bricks.
On the other side of the passage, she enters a home that is almost the same as her own, despite that it is more welcoming and cozy. Within this home, she meets a woman whose appearance is almost identical to her mother’s, besides that she has big black buttons for eyes. The kind woman introduces herself as Coraline’s Other Mother, and later she meets a man who is introduced as her Other Father.
The Other Father is actually another one of my favorite characters! And upon meeting Coraline, he sings her his “new song”:
“Making up a song about Coraline
She’s a peach, she’s a doll, she’s a pal of mine
She’s as cute as a button
In the eyes of everyone who ever laid their eyes on Coraline
When she comes around exploring
Mom and I will never make it boring
Our eyes will be on Coraline”
Although this seems to be a sweet, innocent song, if listened to carefully, you’ll know that this song is actually a grim warning as to what this world really is, and what tricks lie ahead for poor Coraline.
Within this world, not only does the Other Mother try to win her affection by making her delicious food and treating her with motherly affection that Coraline so obviously lacks, but she also builds her a beautiful garden, makes her pretty clothes, and “fixes” a friend of hers.
The Other Mother also seems to compete with Coraline’s real mother. For example, the day that Coraline’s real mother took her clothes shopping, Coraline asked her mother to buy her a pair of expensive gloves, and due to the Joneses’ tight budget, Coraline did not get them. However, when Coraline returns to the other world, she discovers the her Other Mother has made her a lovely blue sweater adorned with stars.
In one scene of the movie, the same cat from the real world has appeared, letting Coraline know that he is not the “other anything,” that he is indeed him. When Coraline asks how he can talk, he simply replies, “I just can.” I guess logic is just not a thing with this feline! Then, he goes on to tell Coraline, “You probably think this is a dream come true, but you’re wrong!”, foreshadowing that terror indeed lies ahead.
Later, she and her friend, the Other Wybie, who has been muted by the Other Mother, go to the Other Misses Spink and Forcible’s flat downstairs, and walk into a theatre, where the two women are performing a live show. This scene is actually disturbing, being that this is meant to be a KID’S MOVIE! First, we see the Other Miss Spink in a seashell bra and a mermaid tail, which I will say is not so bad. But the Other Miss Forcible is PRACTICALLY NAKED! Even Coraline exclaims “Oh my God!” at the sight of her! She literally has two tiny shells on the tip of her breasts! I really think this one particular scene was taken way too far, but it was not enough to damage my love for this movie!
The Other Mother starts showing a more grim side of herself after Coraline returns from the show. After the Other Wybie escorts Coraline back “home”, he slightly frowns, and the Other Mother motions to him to smile, and an eerie flash of music accompanies this gesture.
The Other Parents ask Coraline if she would like to stay in the other world with them, and Coraline is more than ecstatic. However, the Other Mother has one “tiny” condition… Coraline must have buttons sewn into her eyes! Completely appalled, Coraline shouts her refusal and shoves the gift box that contains the said buttons. When the Other Mother comforts her by saying it’s her decision, Coraline declares that she is going to bed.
In contrast to the two previous times that she has fallen asleep in the world, she does not wake up back in her own bed. Instead, she wakes up only to find herself still in the other world.
Later, Coraline and the Other Mother have a dispute when Coraline tells her that she wants to go back home to her real parents. While the Other Mother is enjoying a box of yummy cocoa beetles from Zanzibar, she gets angry when Coraline shouts at her, and she locks Coraline inside a mirror, saying that she may come out when she has learned to be a “loving daughter”.
Inside this mirror, she meets three ghost children who tell Coraline their stories of falling into the “Beldam’s” trap just like Coraline. Then, they encourage her to try to escape, and to find their souls so they can be freed.
I have a couple comments on the ghost children. First of all, these kids are obviously not from the Elizabethan times, but one child tells Coraline, “Thou art alive. Thou art still living.” Also, the animation of these children is creepy, sad, and well done, except for the odd facial expression on one of the two girls. Besides this, I’m actually disappointed that one of these children was not a fairy, being that in the book, there was a fairy! But the scary, twisty-face girl is good enough. The scene still delivers, so I appreciate it.
Coraline is rescued by the Other Wybie, and he helps her back into her real world. Although Coraline is happy to be home, to her misfortune, her parents have gone missing.
She later discovers that the Other Mother has taken them when the cat leads her to a mirror in her hallway, and she sees both her parents trapped in what appears to be a blizzard. Through her shivering, Coraline’s mother writes HELP US backwards on the glass, and they both disappear.
Coraline returns to the other world to rescue her parents, but is aware that this will be no easy task. The Other Mother is already waiting for her at the end of the tunnel, and she pretends that she has no clue as to what happened to Coraline’s real parents.
It is while the Other Mother is cooking an omelet for Coraline (an omelet that has no business looking that delicious!) when Coraline asks the Other Mother if she would like to play a game. The deal of the game is that if Coraline finds all the ghost children’s souls and her parents, the Beldam, (aka the Other Mother) must let them all go. Shall she lose, she will stay in that world forever, and allow the Beldam to sew the buttons into her eyes.
Coraline scavenges through the three “wonders” that the Beldam created. First, she searches the garden, where the plants begin to attack her, and the Other Father involuntarily attacks her as well, steadily apologizing and explaining that the Beldam is making him do so.
I absolutely love the Other Father! Of course, I know he is just a creation by the Beldam, but I love that he actually tries to fight back and help Coraline.
The next obstacle is the Other Misses Spink and Forcible’s theatre. During this scene, Coraline finds one of the souls within a pearl on a ring. And the ring happens to be on one of the women’s hand. Inside some kind of cocoon that looks like a piece of candy. And the two women are some kind of taffy-noodle monsters who screech “THIEF!” as Coraline tries to take the pearl. She manages to escape with the soul after the women are attacked by a swarm of… dog bats?
Coraline’s final obstacle is the Other Mr. Boninsky’s flat. This scene SCARED THE HECK OUT OF ME! When Coraline enters the flat, the once-joyful and merry entrance of the circus is now abandoned and dark. She continues into the next room where a limp body that appears to be nothing more than the Other Mr. Bobinsky’s clothes slithers around the room, taunting Coraline and begging her to stay. When Coraline tells him he’s just a “copy she made of the real Mr. B,” he replies,
“Not even that… anymore.”
A rat! Coraline pulls off his tall top hat to reveal a RAT! Coraline sees that one of the souls is trapped within a red ball that the rat had been holding on to, and instead of running after the rat, she THROWS HER MAGIC STONE SHE NEEDS TO FIND THE SOULS at it! That made me CRAZY!
However, all hope is not lost, as the cat manages to get the soul for Coraline by killing the rat that had escaped with it.
Coraline’s last battle is with none other than the Beldam. She asks Coraline where they are, but she instead tricks the Beldam into opening the door by saying that her parents are behind it, when all the while, she knows they’re inside a snow globe atop the fireplace mantle.
When the Beldam tells her she loses, she tells Coraline that she is going to stay there forever, but Coraline says otherwise and throws the cat at her face. Angry, the Beldam stomps her feet over the floor, and the whole room turns into one giant web. After a long struggle with the Beldam, Coraline does manage to escape.
Back in her real world, Coraline is ecstatic to see her real parents, but they have no recollection of ever being trapped by the Beldam. Coraline pushes the scary thoughts away and celebrates having her parents back.
That night, Coraline sets the ghost children free through a dream, but they warn her that she is still in danger, and that she must dispose of the key to the tiny door. Never mind that she has just tackled the seventh circle of hell and finally made it home, but she’s still not finished!
Coraline’s next move is to walk down to the well from the beginning of the movie, and she begins to throw the key down the well, until she is attacked by the Beldam’s needle-like had that had managed to return to her world with her. When the hand almost drags her back toward the Pink Palace, Wybie shows up on his bike and rescues Coraline, and he helps to get rid of the key and the hand.
The movie ends with panning over the Joneses’ huge garden that looks eerily like the Beldam’s grim face, and a loud boom before the credits. It gives the audience a kind of it’s-not-over-yet feeling, and I’m all for an unsure, creepy ending!
Aside form the story as a whole, I just want to say that I absolutely love the style of this film, and moreover, I love the music! It fits the film and the story so well, and I actually have an interesting fact for you! Did you know that the singing in film is entirely gibberish? Yep. That is a choir of children just singing a melody of gibberish, and honestly, that just makes it more creepy!
I also have one last thing to discuss. I’m not sure if you noticed, but there is actually a color scheme to this movie. When Coraline is bored of her home life, she tends to wear brighter colors, like yellow, orange or pink, while the home shows mostly blue or gray colors. However, everything in the other world has more exciting colors like red, orange, yellow; even the characters show these differences. Coraline’s Other Father wears orange monkey slippers, and her father’s are blue. However, when Coraline begins to miss home, we see her wearing blue and black. In other words, the colors of her clothes correspond with which world she is longing for.
Coraline is, and always will be one of my favorite movies, and I am so thankful that Henry Selick displayed his talent so well in the film! I give this movie a HUGE five-star rating!