A Review of “Coraline”: 14 Years later, still Spooky and Magical

Issue 8: Oct 28, 2022

As the weekend draws to a close, so too does the month of October! This first semester has flown by so quickly, and it feels as though we haven’t been able to truly appreciate the cold and spooky gifts autumn brings. Being away from home for the first time I’ve found myself missing Halloween traditions I never realized I had. So, in order to honor my beloved Halloween customs, I thought I’d share my thoughts on my favorite spooky movie, “Coraline.”  

“Coraline,” a novel originally written by Neil Gaiman, was adapted to film in 2009, by the directing hands of Henry Selick. This chilling story is brought to life in the stop motion animation style of Laika Studios, giving the film its impressively timeless aesthetic. 

This story highlights the life of an adventurous 11-year-old girl, Coraline, who has just moved to a new home. While exploring this new environment Coraline finds her parents to be cold and neglecting. Her curiosities are dismissed after she finds a small door hidden behind the living room wallpaper, but her courageous spirit continues to burn. The door, presumed to be bricked up opens in the night, revealing a magical tunnel to another world. As Coraline explores this fantasy realm, it feels as though everything is better. Once she gets past everyone having button eyes of course. Coraline continues to visit this magical world, but after the 3rd night, this dream becomes a nightmare. 

This movie has been a favorite of mine for 14 years now (since I was 4). So, I pretty much know it inside out. From the script to hidden secrets and details in the scenery, I have spent 14 years observing and dissecting this film. And still, 14 years later I find myself discovering new things and developing new appreciations for the art and animated elements of this film. 

The colors, shadows, furniture, even designs of the animals, contribute to the aesthetic contrast of both worlds. Laika makes a point to make the real world dull. For example, the apartment complex called “The Pink Palace” that should feel lush and extravagant, is made old and run down. The pink hues are desaturated making the environment of the real world disappointing. So, when Coraline ventures to the fantasy realm beyond the door, she is overwhelmed with the wonder of color and brightness that has been drained from her own environment. Even the visual saturation of characters in the film are manipulated to convey desire and energy in one world, but tiredness and staleness in another. 

This film explores themes of home and courage. Coraline does not let herself become blind to the dangers of manipulation and evil in this new world, although it first brought promise and happiness. She instead finds courage in herself to fight for what and who she loves. It is an incredible film to encourage the symbolic natures of bravery and determination, as well as creating a mesmerizing environment that never loses its magic. 

While it observes elements of a horror film, I implore you to watch and admire the creativity of Coraline (2009). The enticing story and character interaction paired with beautiful animation produces a wonderful and soulful film that never gets old.