Halloween Horror Month: ‘Coraline’


The animated movie, ‘Coraline’, revolves around the unhappiness Coraline faces in her world. Quirky, chilling, and intriguing only begin to describe this classic Halloween film. Graphic by Dia Jain.

Based on the Neil Gaiman novella of the same name, Coraline remains a must-watch movie over a decade after its release, with its stunning animation and intriguing plot. Though it’s an animated film, one must not think it’s a lighthearted film for children. Coraline is incredibly dark despite its PG rating. Revolving around a theme of being grateful for what you have, the movie becomes spookier with the addition of creepy dolls, a parallel universe, and a somewhat scary fight. Nevertheless, younger and older viewers alike are still captivated by the quirkiness of this movie, from the interesting neighbors to the use of stop-motion animation. 

The movie immediately starts showing the making of a doll as the beginning credits roll. Though the viewer doesn’t know it yet, this doll will play a crucial role in the rest of the story, making this seemingly innocuous introduction a perfect segway into the actual movie. The scene opens to a sky filled with fog, and muted colors everywhere. This perfectly presents the world through Coraline’s eyes, as she also sees this town as a dark and dreary place. Ignored by her parents who are struggling to meet a work deadline, Coraline spends much of her time exploring her house and the world around her. She is eventually lured into a parallel universe called the Other World, with the Other Mother and the Other Father who seem to care more and provide a happier environment for Coraline. However, the condition for her to stay there forever is to sew buttons over her eyes, and never let her into the real world again. Coraline tries to escape the Other World after hearing about this terrifying condition but ends up getting trapped. Eventually, she manages to escape but the kidnapping of her parents and her desire to save the souls of other children lured by the Other World cause her to try and trick the Other Parents into letting them all leave. The movie ends with her having a new appreciation for the life she’s living and coming to terms with her circumstances.

Possibly the scariest thing about Coraline is how relatable it is. Though clearly a work of fiction, a viewer is easily able to understand why Coraline wants to escape her life. We have all been dissatisfied with how flawed the world around us is, and how dull it can be at times. When she is able to go into this other, seemingly perfect world we are immediately struck by how wrong it seems, despite the supposed warmth and happiness. Coraline’s experiences in the other world teach us to find the joy in life, and how we can make the world a nicer place just by being nicer. She is only able to enjoy her life in the new town once she starts appreciating the people and places in it. This message makes Coraline suitable for younger audiences, and reminds older viewers to be appreciative of the world around them and find the joy in little things.

The use of color in this film is also incredible. I didn’t really notice how much of an impact the hues made of the movie until I watched Coraline a second time. The movie starts with a dull gray sky and even bright colors such as Coraline’s yellow raincoat remain muted. When she first walks into the parallel universe, everything is a brighter shade showing how she views this world as better than the first. However, when she realizes her actual parents and town are truly beautiful, the colors really start to show, mirroring her newfound happiness. 

Since Coraline was made for children, it isn’t outright terrifying. But throughout the film, various happenings create a creepy atmosphere. For example, when Coraline moves in, she finds a doll that looks exactly like her, though she has never lived here before. In addition, every living being in the universe parallel to her has buttons for eyes, adding to the general vibe that something is amiss. The spookiness is furthered by the presence of traditional supernatural symbols, such as fairy rings, and black cats, though Coraline’s take on these types of objects was interesting- instead of making them signs of evil, they were just neutral and helped to further the plot. The ambiguity blurs the line between good and evil and makes a viewer wonder what is really going on in each of the character’s heads.

Despite the general creepiness, the film is incredibly quirky. I love the scene where lighthearted music is playing faintly in the background as she explores the house and tries to have fun doing it. Her neighbors include a Russian circus mouse trainer, two retired famous actresses, and a nerdy boy. All these people create a fun atmosphere for an otherwise slightly off putting film.

Coraline is the perfect movie for everyone, appealing to all types of people. The lack of pure horror makes it easier to view, yet the slightly chilling atmosphere makes it a Halloween staple. I love the lessons learned in it, as well as the weirdness scattered throughout the 100 minute film. The Tim Burton-esque plot and animation increase Coraline’s attractiveness, and remind me, once again, of why I fell in love with the movie in the first place