Directed by Henry Selick, Coraline (2009) is a stop-motion animated film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, featuring a gothic-style horror and adventurous story of our leading little girl Coraline. Her name, differing from a much more common name “Caroline”, clearly grants her a discernable scent of heroin temperament.
Obviously, the whole narrative is constructed on an educative fable with indicative hints for the final sinister truth. As newcomers in the town, Coraline and her parents move into an old shared apartment where she encounters other strange but strongly characterized residents. Beside all of these, her biggest discovery is the portal which is seemingly linked to “another universe”.
There, she meets her so-called “other parents” and spends an enjoyable night with them. Due to the stark comparison, Coraline has developed such a deep attachment to the other world that she cannot wait to enter that Utopia, while then she is asked to have buttons sewn over her eyes by “other mother” in exchange for a permanent stay. Refusing to do so, Coraline adopts a series of bond action to salvage herself as well as other three imprisoned souls. Ultimately, she manages to escape and forever seal the alternative world.
From spectator’s perspective, our greatest fear arrives when buttons and sewing kit is presented in that beautifully wrapped box. Apart from feeling physically threatened, blindness means giving up one’s individuality, or “the soul” in its filmic language. Different hierarchies of knowledge here help to build up sense of suspense as well as the increasing tension between the unsuspecting heroine and the promised prophecy of terror. During the opening alongside the main muttering melody is a bizarre sequence of doll crafting, which in later story we would find out it is the incarnation of our protagonist. Simultaneously, it embodies the process of creating a life predisposed to deception and control, as well as suggesting a lurking danger stored in future. Few mythological references achieve same effect. No matter the fairy ring made of mushrooms under Caroline’s feet when she waving that magic dowser, or that one-hundred-year-old candy which resembles a hag stone and indeed proves to be useful by warding off evil spirits and finding invisible lost things, an abundant source of mystic ambiance provided an unstartling premonition,
Thanks for dedicated work of Laika Studio, we are presented how refined and exquisite a stop-motion animated film can be to behold. And with all that elaborately designed visual wonder and sobering subtext, it is not merely a fable for children, but also an adult nightmare that stretches the boundaries of dark fantasy.