Watch Wednesday

Watch Wednesday #14: Halloween Movie Countdown — Coraline

Out of all the holidays in a year, Halloween is up there in the top three.  I love Halloween.  I love choosing a costume, dressing up, going to parties, and trick-or-treating.  But I really love Halloween movies.  SO MUCH.

We’ve all got our favorite Halloween movies.  One of my friends does a full month of Halloween films each year, watching one movie each night until Halloween.  I’m not as cool as that (I wish), but there are certain films that I find myself watching every October.

In the interest of bolstering the Halloween spirit (ha!) across the blogosphere, I’ll be using the next three Watch Wednesdays to highlight some of my favorite spooky films.  The countdown to Halloween begins!

Halloween Movie Countdown — Coraline

Directed by Henry Selick (the same guy who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and Paranorman), Coraline is a film that is adapted from the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman.  If don’t know these two men, let me assure you–they’re both very good at what they do.  To have the two come together for a film project basically guaranteed epic results.  And man, Coraline delivers.

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The stop-motion film centers around young Coraline Jones, who has been uprooted from her hometown in Michigan and moved out to live in a pink house in who-knows-where Oregon.  She’s vocally upset with the move as she struggles with the loneliness of a new town and the absentee parenting of her mother and father.

Coraline’s story begins as she struggles to cure her boredom by exploring the aged apartment in which they live, only to discover a tiny door–but it only opens to a brick wall, much to Coraline’s disappointment.  When Coraline awakes the following night and wanders back to the door, she’s surprised to find an iridescent tunnel leading to a mirrored version of her current home, complete with an Other Mother and Other Father.  Perfect copies of her parents, except they’re everything she wishes her real parents were–exciting, attentive, doting, and all about Coraline.  The only difference?  They have buttons instead of eyes.

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This film is a feast for the eyes that takes the misplaced desire of child to an entirely new level of cinematic beauty.  As Coraline is invited to stay with the Other Mother and Other Father (with the simple price of having her own button eyes sewn on) we see her struggle as she contrasts the somewhat unsettling dream world with the lonely realities of real life.

Coraline is horror at its finest simply due to the fact that it doesn’t rely on grueling imagery or shocking thematic schemes.  Coraline retains a PG-rating while still portraying what is a horrifying and entirely unsettling story.  The opening sequence alone is beyond creepy, and yet isn’t done just for scares.  In fact, it’s a remarkable use of foreshadowing in a moment often used for artistry rather than story in children’s films.

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I suppose that the fact that Coraline is a children’s horror film is what makes the whole thing even scarier.  Here I am, an adult, and I’m being scared by this movie–it’s that well put together.  There’s enough weirdness that keeps you in a lovely discomfort the entire time.  Because, hey, that’s what scary movies are for–to keep you on your toes.  That’s the adrenaline that Coraline relies on.  Rather than jump scares, violence, or adult imagery, this movie makes what you’re watching just off enough to make you squirm.  It’s perfect.

The underlying themes of Coraline’s story take that creepy feeling one step further.  When it comes down to it, Coraline addresses how children can be groomed and manipulated using facets of parental love.  Other Mother’s entire operation is rooted in using motherly love for predatory practices.

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The characters of Coraline are fantastic and colorful.  I love the full line-up, and I especially love the headstrong and resilient heroine.  Coraline, even in her most exposed and vulnerable, has a grounded sort of pluck that makes her feel real.  Her character arc in incredibly well-crafted, as she faces the truth that what she desires isn’t actually what she thought in the end.  It is a fantastic character evolution, watching as she must take in the reality of wishful thinking.

Coraline is a horror film fit for a wide age group.  I think that it’s an awesome stepping stone if you’re looking to introduce your kids to the horror genre.  I’m not going to put a specific age range on it because every kid is different.  My sister was really into Goosebumps at age six, and I think I had nightmares about it until I was like ten (anyone remember that haunted mask one?), so all kids are different.  For example, if your kid is afraid of any non-creepy films, Coraline is probably best left until they’re older.

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With Coraline, I think it opens up a lot in the way of conversation for whatever party you decide to watch it with.  The ending is enough to have everyone asking, “Okay, wait, is it actually over?” but still tight knit enough that, if you want the horror to stay away, you can conceivably say, “Yes, it’s over.”  (If that makes any sense, bravo to you for reading through my weird thoughts.)

Coraline beautifully rendered, has a solid voice cast, and the story is tightly wound.  You will find yourself quite unsettled, no matter what age you are.  Luckily for you, Coraline is currently streaming on Netflix, so if you’re looking for a fun Halloween movie this month, I definitely recommend it.

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