VOD film review: Coraline
James R | On 23, Jun 2017
Director: Henry Selick
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Ian McShane
The line between scary and too scary is a hard one to draw, especially when you’re a kids animation. Coraline, based on the story by Neil Gaiman, is a creepy, disturbing affair, but it joins a group of family movies – ParaNorman, The Nightmare Before Christmas – that prove some things can work better in animation instead of live-action. This stop-motion delight from LAIKA (The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings) is an old-school fairy tale that tingles your spine in a good way. As long as you’re over nine years old.
Coraline (Fanning) lives a dull life, neglected by her work-focussed parents (Hatcher and Hodgman). In a new home, surrounded by strange neighbours, she dreams of a better place, as most kids would. The difference is that she finds it – hidden behind a secret door upstairs.
Here, everything comes over all Henry Selick: her alternate reality is twisted, colourful, stunning and odd. The neighbours are fascinating – the eccentric, drunk Mr. Bobinski (McShane) now has a circus full of dancing mice – the garden is gorgeous, and the food is delicious. Oh, and they all have buttons for eyes. At the heart of it all is Coraline’s Other Mother (Hatcher), a smiling, sinister surrogate, who wants to keep her there forever.
Directed with a natural eye for the macabre, this weird and wonderful world reeks of attention to detail, the wiry puppets fleshed out with wonderful costume design. The dark plot, taken from Gaiman’s novel, is a perfect match for Selick’s visual style, providing a touch of menace that feeds into the movie’s emotional impact. It’s likely too scary for younger kiddy-winks, but Selick’s gem is a pleasingly unpleasant bedtime story.