Coraline is a weird one… that’s for sure. Who doesn’t love the terror of a horrific spider demon-witch scratching out a child’s eyeballs with needles and replacing them with buttons?
Oh, right, nobody.
Even as an adult, I still come back to this movie. The book is just as horrifying, of course, but it doesn’t seem quite nearly as horrifying as the movie, which has just leagues of terror above the book. It’s decidedly Burtonesque (though in spite of that, and countless online rumors, Tim Burton himself never worked on the film—this one is from Laika).
Maybe it’s the Medium
Stop-motion movies are a rare breed. They take so incredibly long, they’re amazingly expensive, and with CGI being able to generate similar effects, it’s really not a surprise that very few studios actually focus on working on those movies.
However, stop motion creates this decidedly… creepy, uncanny feel. The world is just so colorful and strange, but at the same time, it feels grounded in reality. It’s sort of like a dream that feels so completely real, but there’s so much weird magic going on that in spite of it looking real, it just couldn’t be. The movie itself kind of feels like you’re stuck in one really long dream that slowly turns into a horrifying nightmare and then, eventually, sleep paralysis.
No, it’s probably the imagery
Y’all. The absolute images that are in this movie. A man TURNS INTO RATS. Rats. His skin falls off and rats pour out. The old ladies burst out of their bodies and become horrifying taffy creatures. The Other Father ends turning into a weird, slack-jawed pumpkin creature with the distorted voice. The Other Mother’s body stretches and contorts into a weird blind metal spider made out of sewing needles.
Really, it’s just an absolute medley of “what horrific miscreation will I find next?”
There is not a single drop of blood or even a single piece of gore on the screen, and yet the imagery is more bizarre and horrific than anything a traditional horror movie would put out.
Oh wait, it’s definitely the implications
Even discounting the stock of dead children that the Other Mother has just sitting around her spare rooms. The scariest thing about Coraline, though?
What is Coraline actually about when you get down to it? When you really pick it apart? A girl gets bored, doesn’t feel like she has a solid relationship with her parents, just moved into a creepy old house, and trusts the first person she sees. She finds better, more idealized versions of her parents who ignore her, and she immediately trust them over her real parents. Now THAT is a fear people are going to carry with them even when they have kids of their own.
Though, rat-filled skin sacks probably aren’t going to be leaving anyone’s memory any time soon either.