Coraline – Review

2009100 MinN/A

An adventurous 11-year-old girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets.

Movie Review

We are taking a look at something a little different for day 8 of our KOween 31 Days of Halloween feature. Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, has a knack for creating kids movies with a distinct element of horror. Coraline is a perfect example of this.

While not a horror movie in the traditional sense. Coraline is a Stop Motion animation with plenty of horror elements. Suitable for older children and with plenty to offer adults, Coraline definitely earns a spot in our Halloween feature.

We are reviewing a horror movie a day for the entirety of October 2022 leading up to Halloween. These reviews will be sh0rter and more straight to the point than my standard format. We will feature a range of movies from horror classics to international hits and a few indie darlings. You can check out the entire KO-Ween feature by clicking right here.

Coraline (2009)

Coraline follows the story of an 11 year old girl who moves to a new house with her parents. Coraline’s parents are workaholics and pay little attention to her. Perpetually bored, she heads out to explore the area around her new home. While outside, she meets Wybie the grandson of the lady who owns the Pink Apartments where she now lives. Wybie tells Coraline he is not allowed to go to the Pink Apartments due to bad things happening there.

Later that day, Wybie drops off a doll that looks like Coraline. The doll was taken from his grandmother’s trunk and features peculiar buttons for eyes. Bored and not allowed to go out into the rain as mud makes mess, Coraline wanders around the house with the doll. She eventually comes to a bizarre small door that is bricked up and covered in wallpaper.

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Later that night, a mouse wakes Coraline up. She follows the mouse who leads her to the tiny door which happens to now be open. Behind the door is a portal which Coraline follows. On the other side is a replica of her own house. Confused, Coraline walks into the kitchen where her mum is cooking. It becomes clear when Coraline’s mum turns around that she has buttons for eyes.

Coraline and her dad from Coraline (2009)
Coraline’s boredom leads her into all kinds of mischief.

The buttons are not the only thing that is different, however. Coraline’s parents are more attentive and eager to tend to her needs. The world seems more colourful and wonderous. The food is better and Coraline has everything she could possibly want. She falls asleep only to wake up again in her own world. Confused by what she saw, she tells her mum only to be told it was likely a dream.

Coraline heads to the neighbours apartments to meet them. First the upstairs neighbour, gymnast and mouse circus owner Sergei Alexander Bobinsky, played by Ian McShane, and then the downstairs neighbours, former Burlesque performers April Spink and Miriam Forcible played by Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French respectively.

Both neighbours warn Coraline of danger via a message from a mouse and reading her tea leaves. Later that day, Coraline meets Wybie again. Wybie tells Coraline that his grandmother’s sister disappeared from the Pink Apartments. Coraline, not paying attention to the warnings continues to visit the other world where nothing is actually as it seems.

Something a Little Different

I decided to go with something a little different for today’s movie. We have covered some classic horror, a few found footage movies, and a horror comedy. Why not mix things up a little more with a stop motion movie that is suitable for both adults and kids? Coraline fits that bill perfectly and is a must see for all horror fans.

Coraline is a spectacular example of how incredible stop motion can be. Absolutely stunning throughout, you will be asking repeatedly whether this is actually all done by hand or whether it is CG. The amount of work that has gone into Coraline makes it almost peerless when it comes to stop motion.

I suppose we should expect nothing less from the man behind The Nightmare Before Christmas. Obviously the concept of Nightmare belonged to Tim Burton and it is Burton who the movie is most often associated with. In reality, however, Tim Burton actually only spent a couple of days of production on the set for Nightmare. The real brains behind it was Henry Selick. When it comes to children’s animation with a hint of horror, there are few better minds than Henry Selick. As an example of stop motion, Coraline far exceeds The Nightmare Before Christmas and pretty much every other stop motion movie that preceded it.

An Incredible Visual Spectacle

There are moments during Coraline when you can’t help but marvel at what the animators achieved. From the very beginning you will likely be gobsmacked and wondering just how they managed it. This was obviously a labour of love. Some of the perspective shots must have taken so much work and planning. The set design is incredible and the scale of everything is very impressive.

A scene from Coraline (2009)
Coraline is one of the most visually impressive stop motion movies ever.

There are a couple of scenes, in particular, that are mind blowing. One scene where Coraline is walking into the garden in the parallel world features lighting the likes of which I have never seen in stop motion before. The flowers unfurl in a choreographed pattern and it looks fantastic. Another scene sees Coraline watch a performance from around 50 jumping mice. This scene was done by hand and is not CG. The work that must have gone into this is staggering. It is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in a stop motion animation.

I would honestly say the movie is worth checking out for these things alone. It is a piece of art that deserves to be appreciated. It helps that Coraline is a really good movie with an interesting story and a few decent scares to boot.

But is it Really Horror?

Obviously, you really do have to ask the question – does Coraline really count as a horror movie? Perhaps, more to the point, do kid’s horror movies have anything to offer adults? In both cases I think the answer is yes. Coraline is one of the best introductions to horror that an older child could possibly have. You could throw it in there with movies such as Ghostbusters and Gremlins. It really wouldn’t be at all out of place.

I would actually make the argument that Coraline may even be a bit too scary for younger children. There are a few scenes that are fairly intense and I could imagine it upsetting more sensitive children. For those of you wanting to introduce your children to the world of horror, however, Coraline is perfect. The best part about it is that you will probably really enjoy it as well.

Coraline's Mum and Dad from Coraline (2009)
Pictured: Literally everyone in the UK thanks to the crumbling pound and increased energy costs.

Coraline maintains that 2000’s trend of making movies for kids with plenty for adults to enjoy. Sure, some of the humour is a little cheeky and based on inuendo but the movie is actually compelling enough to keep adults engaged. I would wager that some of the horror elements will actually surprise adult horror fans. Some of the imagery and scenarios are genuinely creepy and the Beldam’s spider like visage is truly horrifying.

Excellent Voice Acting

Coraline is a well voice acted movie. Dakota Fanning, as Coraline Jones, is decent and fits the role well. Her scream is like nails on a chalkboard, however, and may be the most unpleasant sound ever put to film. It’s actually 90’s bombshell Teri Hatcher, believe it or not, who steals the show here. Her performance as Coraline’s mum, other mum, and The Beldam is absolutely brilliant. She mixes caring mother with a sort of uncanny valley sinister tone and is just fantastic. I couldn’t think of anyone who would be better in the role. She is great.

The Beldam from Coraline (2009)
The Beldam is legitimately scary.

Coraline also features a strong supporting cast featuring a few Brits including the excellent Ian McShane and the comedy duo turned successful actors Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Keith David’s turn as the Cat is a genius casting choice and works so well. Dawn French is probably the weakest member of the cast, to be honest, and I say that as a huge fan. She hams it up just a little too much and, compared to Jennifer Saunders who is an excellent voice actor, she stands out as being not so great.

Perhaps a Little Slow Paced

Coraline is, perhaps, a little on the slow side. This was our third or fourth time watching it and, if I am honest, this is the first time I didn’t mentally drift off for awhile. I do sometimes struggle with keeping focus on movies but Coraline lost me at one point every time. This may be a problem with small children who struggle to keep attention. My friend watched with his kids, however, and they absolutely loved Coraline. There were no issues with boredom at all so it may just be a me problem.

I do think there are a few scenes that drag on a bit, however. Despite being a visual feast, the scene with the jumping mice is fairly dull. There is another similar scene with April and Miriam performing Burlesque that is also a little less interesting and magical than others. It’s not that these scenes are bad, they are just not as interesting or fantastical as Coraline visiting the garden. I think cutting 20 minutes off the run time would have improved pacing a lot. These are tiny complaints, however. Coraline is fantastic.

Is it a Knockout?

Coraline is the perfect introduction to horror. Funny, visually stunning, and just a little bit scary. Coraline features some of the most impressive stop motion animation ever put to film. A really incredible achievement, it is honestly worth watching purely for the visuals.

Some genuinely scary scenes and some fantastic horror imagery are enough to qualify Coraline as a horror movie. Ideal for young horror fans, Coraline has plenty to offer adult horror fans as well without ever resorting to toilet humour.

Voice acting is fantastic, Teri Hatcher, in particular, is excellent in all three of her roles. Pacing is perhaps a bit of an issue and Coraline may lose a few younger, and even older, viewers half way through thanks to its 1 hour 40 minute runtime. Aside from this, however, Coraline is another incredible movie from the excellent mind of Henry Selick.

Trailer: Coraline

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Coraline Review

Movie Information

Release Date:8th May 2009
Movie Type:Animation, Drama, Horror, Fantasy
Movie Length:100 Min
Starring: Keith David , Dawn French , Jennifer Saunders , Ian McShane , Teri Hatcher , Dakota Fanning
Directed By: Henry Selick
Country: United States
Genre: Horror, Animation, Fantasy, Drama
Language: English
Parental Guidance: Animated violence, Comedic Semi-nudity, Peril.