Today: April 16, 2024

Janet’s Animation Corner: Creepy Coraline

I love a thrillingly scary movie. Especially at this time of year. When the ghouls slip out from under the bed and rampage the street in festive Halloween spirit. I could easily reel of a list of bone-chilling, pants-wetting movies, from The Shinning and the nerve-shredding Babadook, to the more twisted Clockwork Orange. But since we’re in the animation zone, there’s one stop-motion film that leaps to mind whenever I think “deliciously creepy” and that’s director Henry Selick’s Coraline.

So, OK, nowhere near as stomach-churning as Stanley Kubrick’s flick but for a kid’s film it’s pretty disturbing. And, what better time to shamelessly talk about the spookiness of Coraline than All Hallows Eve? Not that Coraline ranks that highly on my list of favourite animated films – though it has earned a solid top twenty place. My choice of Coraline as the topic for this Halloween Animation Corner has more to do with the fact that I am continuously baffled by how Selick managed to pass it off as a cutesy, little avant-garde kids flick. When in fact it has the power to both mesmerise and terrify at the same time. It is impossible to look away once the eerie soundtrack begins, drawing you into this hellishly freaky world. A world, might I add, that is no place for the young, easily spooked minds. In the words of Simpsons’ Helen Lovejoy, won’t somebody please think of the children?

Now I pride myself in having a kid who is tough as nails. Lord Voldemort did nothing to shake her eight-year-old bones. Nor did the ghoulish beast in Stardust. Or the sight of Thorin Oakenshield’s orc foes in The Hobbit. But stick Coraline on as a Saturday afternoon mooch film and the hysterical protests can be heard for miles.

A slight exaggeration? Possibly. It has been a few years since I’ve actually suggested watching it to her but the poor DVD case still gets thrown the occasional dirty look and the odd reprimand. So, I would assume, that she and Selick have yet to make peace. But why? Why should Mount Doom be fine to visit when a stroll down Coraline’s neck of the woods is out of the question?

With her saccharine-sweet voice and her unearthly button eyes I would be inclined to blame Other Mother for unnerving my little girl but, actually, Nayana got the chills long before that creepy, kid-nabbing loon showed up.

From the music and the elongated neck of Father, to the gloominess that saturates even the colouring of the characters, Coraline just seems to send shivers down her spine. I need only sing Other Father’s Coraline song to terrify her into obedience.

Selick is expert at doing that and by ‘that’ I mean taking a childish theme and injecting it with a heavy dose of creepiness. He seems to have quite a knack for teetering a film on the edge of too far before yanking his young audience back to safety. The Nightmare Before Christmas springs readily to mind and there’s always been something about his James And The Giant Peach that feels more like eerie horror than Roald Dahl magic and wonder. Still, Coraline takes the cake.

It has been suggested that beneath the macabre quirkiness of the film are themes of mind-control and trauma-inducing torture before losing ones’ persona by a controlling handler – in this case Other Mother. Find out more about this intense, possibly overblown, theory here.

I may not wholeheartedly agree with the very deep, very serious theory but one thing’s for sure, Coraline is anything but a darling little movie that will be a scream for the family this Halloween. Don’t forget the covers. You’ll need something for the kids to hide under.

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