Director Henry Selick’s take on Neil Gaiman’s vision of a magical world of the macabre is probably one of the most sinister animated films I’ve seen since “Monster House.” Henry Selick takes the same American Gothic motif and injects it in to a classic formula of a young girl finding a magical world being exposed to all the oddities at the director’s disposal. Gaiman penned the grossly underrated “Mirrormask” and essentially provides us with the exact pacing and eye catching creatures and machinations paired with some top notch animation that works as a mixture of claymation and computer animation that gives the dark atmosphere a peculiar more original taste.
Selick is not a stranger to this sort of surreal fantasy animation especially since he directed “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and he doesn’t seem to miss a beat helping “Coraline” to become one of the more interesting tales brought to us in theaters in a long time. Coraline is a girl who just moved in to an old house with her business driven parents and seeks some form of entertainment. Hoping to cure her loneliness, she discovers an old small door at the base of the rooms walls and re-opens it to discover a whole other world inside. Without consideration to the inherent dangers lurking, she meets her “Other Mother” and “Other Father” two disturbing characters who cater to Coraline’s every whim and gaze at her through black buttoned eyes.
With the combination of Gaiman’s twisted writing, Selick’s eye catching direction and the Tim Burton influence “Coraline” is a recipe for a cult classic. The animation is impeccable for the majority with stark pastels and a washed out series of colors that make ‘Coraline” feel so much like a nightmare and a lot less like a children’s film. Selick composes a child’s horror film, one that touches on themes of abandonment, neglect, and the notion that a horrific world awaits us where we sleep. Selick and co. play with the duel animation mediums to create the feeling of a twisted fairy tale and one that won’t sit well with children under the age of ten.
For them they’re given the stock of creepy critters (including the appearance of the spirits of three dead children) and an almost ghoulish series of characters who wear buttons on their eyes and secret embody deformed bodily appearance that will certainly rattle someone’s cage. What sets this animated film apart from the others is that every element doesn’t exactly live up to what we’re expecting. Our heroine is a bit petulant and mean to people while the villainess of the piece has intentions for Coraline that are slightly sympathetic only if you’re willing to look through her perspective. The rest of the movie plays out with some rather fantastic visuals that make this Gaiman adaptation a thrill to sit through. In the hands of director Henry Selick and a respective cast of folks like Dakota Fanning and Ian McShane, “Coraline” is in good hands with great animation and a story that walks the thin line between scary and downright entertaining.