It takes a certain kind of person to adore movies like Rocky Horror Picture Show, Return to Oz, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and most recently, Coraline. It takes a person with a sick sense of humor and a love of all things twisted. Well, I AM THAT PERSON.
I read the book, Coraline, before I saw the movie. I did so because after reading The Graveyard Book, I fell for Neil Gaiman and wanted to read everything he’d ever written. We were at Jake’s mom’s house, and there was Coraline on her bookshelf. I asked about it, and she said she hadn’t liked it at all. Disregarding this, I asked to borrow it, and she was happy to remove its presence from the rest of her collection. I read the book in two days (I’m not bragging; it’s really short), and I loved, loved it. Sure, it creeped me out. I was getting goose bumps before bed, and yeah, I had screwy dreams. For sick people like me, though, these are symptoms of a good read.
Once I finished the book, I had to see the movie. Let me be clear: I loved the movie before I knew anything about it. I now love it more, because I now know it was directed by Henry Selick—the dude who brought us James and the Giant Peach and my epic favorite, The Nightmare Before Christmas. (Strangely enough, the guy was even on the art direction team for Return to Oz.) So yes, Coraline is the same wacky, stop-motion animation as his other flicks … and it’s just as disconcerting.
Coraline is the story of … urm … Coraline—an adventurous little girl with blue hair (and blue fingernails—excellent). She has just moved to a new apartment with her parents, who are both too busy with their jobs to actually pay attention to their daughter. So Coraline runs around by herself, meeting the annoying neighbor boy, Wybie; two crazy ex-actresses downstairs, way past their prime; a black cat with crazy blue eyes; and an acrobatic Russian, training circus mice on the top floor. Soon, she discovers a secret door in her family’s apartment. When she goes through it, well, here’s where it gets weird: she finds her family’s apartment, only it’s different. It’s more fun. She also finds her Other Mother and her Other Father, who are super cool and they pay attention to her and they make yummy food and they … have black buttons … for eyes … but anyway, that can be overlooked, right?
As Coraline spends more time with her Other Parents, she begins to realize there’s something funny about them. There’s something funny about the Other World, actually, beyond the fact that Wybie’s voice has been stolen (which is super creepy—a kid with button eyes who can’t talk and smiles a lot—ewww) and the black cat TALKS. There’s something funny and frankly, bad, but by the time Coraline is onto her Other Mother, her real parents have gone missing, and Coraline is the only person who can bring them back. As a tough adventurer, Coraline has a good chance of finding her parents in the Other World, but with Other Mother, who starts to look more and more like a giant insect, will it matter? Even with the mission complete, will the crazy lady with the button eyes let them go?
I don’t think this is a movie for most kids, even though it’s animation. I don’t think Gaiman’s book was written for most kids either, even though it was published by Scholastic. I do believe this movie and this book are perfect for people like me—the ones with the sick senses of humor and twisted imaginations. So if you’re one of us, do check out Coraline—book and movie. It’ll leave you with some heebie-jeebies, and yeah, you’ll probably dream of giant cockroaches. But hey, a little nightmare never hurt anyone. Right …?