I know I promised to review things off the radar, but I thought maybe I’d give it a shot reviewing something we all know and love off the bat. My first review is going to be on Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. If you haven’t gotten your hands on this book or watched the movie, I suggest you stop here and go do that.
Are we on the same page now? Good.
This story is by far one of the most messed up I’ve come across in a while. In all reality, this story keeps me up at night. In the beginning of the book, one of the first things we run into are singing “shadows with red eyes and yellow teeth”. As if that’s not scary enough, they sing this:
We are small but we are many
We are many we are small
We were here before you rose
We will be here when you fall
The book proceeds a lot like the film, however, there is no Wybie in the book. This character was added by Henry Selick with the approval of Neil Gaiman. The Other Mother is also described as taller, thinner, with long red nails that are curved and sharp. She does not appear identical to her mother in real life, as she does in the movie. I also had to re-read the part when Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are introduced in the performance piece in the book. The fact that they describe them opening their coats, but not just their coats, but their faces, was something that I could see in my imagination that took a long time to erase.
There are other subtleties that are different, but what movie is identical to the book? Here are a few WTF moments I had when watching the movie.
We’ll start in the movie where she meets Other Mother and Other Father for the first time. The only scary thing here? They all have buttons for eyes. Let me repeat that. Buttons. For eyes. This was enough to make me pause the first time I saw this movie, and have a serious WTF moment. She returns to her own world, visiting her downstairs neighbors and discovers that they have all of their dogs stuffed and put up on the wall, in angel outfits. Yet another terrifying WTF moment.
Next I’ll discuss their performance in the theater – can we just take a moment to think about this. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible not only singing about “bow legged women,” but they SHED THEIR SKIN to reveal the skinnier versions of themselves underneath. I can’t even imagine what was going through Henry’s mind when writing that scene.
After Coraline’s Other Mother offers to sew the buttons, and Coraline refuses, things start to fall apart quickly and then the scariness really starts to show itself. The cat states a couple times that maybe “she just wants something to eat,” and when Coraline finds herself in the Beldam’s room, everything is now bug related, and the witch reveals herself to be this tall, skeletonized woman. So scary! But wait, there’s so much more. Cue up the ghost children. Cue up the missing parents. Cue up the creepy two sided parent doll.
When Coraline goes to fight the Beldam, or trick her, however you’d like to look at it, and it’s revealed she’s a spider-type being, I think I had my biggest scare of the movie. I knew she wasn’t “right” but the thought that she had kidnapped children and ate them, and that this movie was marketed as a children’s movie, really struck me in some strange way. The book and the movie did a great job portraying this fear and communicating that thought to the audience.
Some cons I didn’t enjoy, although they were limited, include things such as, what happened in the accident with Coraline’s mom? I know there was some sort of truck incident, but they never go into it.
I also didn’t understand why the owner of the Pink Palace would let a child in, now. If her sister had disappeared all those years ago, and that was the main reason she didn’t rent to families with children, why change her mind?
Again, the “cons” are just that, and really quite inconsequential. The overall rewatchability of this movie makes most of that go away. It’s really good at expressing the importance of not taking things for granted and appreciating what you have. I did enjoy everything coming together at the end and that’s why I rate this movie high on my favorites list – with a solid 4 stars.
I had the opportunity to see some of the actual pieces of this movie when I went to the Museum for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA in September 2016. I was actually there for the Labyrinth exhibit, but while walking through the other parts of the museum we came across a few models from the movie. It was really interesting to see all of the hard work that goes into the filming of these films. Here are some of the pictures I took while there.
As always, thanks for looking. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!