The Door That Should’ve Never Been Opened
A secret door, an alternate reality, and another mother are three of the many aspects of the odd life of a little girl called Coraline. Coraline is an animated movie produced in 2009 by Henry Sleik, the director and producer of The Nightmare before Christmas, and it was based on the novel, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (2002). The movie was first premiered worldwide in the Portland International Film Festival, after which it was released in the United States and made 16.85 million dollars during the weekend it was released in. Additionally, the movie ranked third in the Box Office and it made 124 million dollars worldwide after its box office release.
This animated movie, Coraline, is named after and revolves around the life of the protagonist, an unhappy and dissatisfied child who moves into The Pink Palace in Ashland, Oregon from Pontiac, Michigan. At the start of the movie the young girl wanders around her new home counting the doors and windows of the house, as her father instructed her to do so while her parents work. As she does so, Coraline discovers a secret little door that in itself holds a secret. Coraline finds an odd button-shaped key that opens the door, and during the night the door leads her to another and better reality of her life. In this reality, she finds that she has an Other Mother, Other Father, and copies of her neighbors as well; in Coraline’s eyes, her other life in this alternate reality is better than her real one, but as with everything good, there comes a price, which is what Coraline is yet to learn as she wanders through this alternate reality.
Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) meets her odd neighbors Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders), Miss Forcible (Dawn French) and Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane) when her parents were too busy working. Throughout the movie the audience gets a sense of foreshadowing when Coraline meets the grandson of the owner of the Pink Palace, Wyborn Lovat. Wyborn tells Coraline about how strange it is that his grandmother let her and her family move into the Pink Palace as his grandmother doesn’t allow people with children to live there. This creates a sense of tension within the movie as it shows another hidden story in this movie which is surrounded by mystery.
Coraline and the Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) have a mother-daughter relationship that every child dreams of, as the Other Mother does everything in her power to satisfy and keep Coraline happy in this alternate universe. She created this alternate universe especially for Coraline because the Other Mother has other intentions than what she lets Coraline believe. This shows how “home” is a reoccurring theme in Coraline as the movie creates two different homes for Coraline; her real and imperfect home and another perfect and exciting home in the alternate universe.
The mystery behind the door, the warnings Coraline gets from the people in her life and the alternate reality she so desperately loves is what makes this movie the dark, fantasy horror film it is meant to be. The Other Mother’s hidden agenda and secrecy is what makes Coraline fight with all her might against the price she must pay in order to stay in her alternate reality. It is Coraline’s willpower and clever thinking that helps her unlock the mysteries of her alternate reality and her other family. Coraline’s bravery is one of the main themes in the movie as she has to overcome the Other Mother’s intentions of keeping her in the alternate universe not only by winning the “game” she plays with the Other Mother, but also by finding a way to free herself from her.
Another aspect that has proven itself to be an additional key factor of making the movie a dark, mysterious movie is the music (by the French composer Bruno Coulais). The music is eerie and simple from the beginning of the movie, and it plays while showing a needle-hand undoing a doll of a figure in order to create and sew a doll that looks like Coraline. As the plot thickens, the music gets darker and eerier, making the audience sit on the edges of their seats, anxious to see what would happen to little Coraline.
Coraline’s producer Henry Sleik took a huge risk when he made this dark horrifying mysterious story an animated film. Even though this risk worked in his favor, the movie was rated as PG; however, any child under the age of ten can be scared out of their wits while watching it. Coraline is known to have been disturbing to watch for any child below ten years old—as the mystery and the story unravels so does the spooky and horrifying aspects of the movie.
Other than the fact that the movie was rated PG instead of providing a higher age restriction, the characters’ physical appearance was somewhat troublesome. Coraline’s father and Other Father (John Hodgman) were the creepiest looking characters of the movie, and they played a supporting role in both Coraline’s real and other life. Their hunched backs, along with their elongated and horizontal necks, made them the most uncanny and oddest-looking characters in the movie, which would not have been so bad and actually would have been more suitably compatible if both fathers had played a bigger role in the horror aspect of the movie.
Regardless of the way the characters look, this movie is an eye-opening mystery that deserves to be solved. The mysteries found in the movie revolve around the opening as it leaves the audience wondering “whose needle hands are sewing the doll of the main character?”, and the hidden intentions of the Other Mother as the entrance to her alternate universe is through a door so small that only children can fit through. The targets of the Other Mother are children, but this fact only leaves the audience wondering, “why?”
The poster adds to the themes as it warns the audience by saying, “Be Careful What You Wish for”. Coraline is not merely a movie that requires a warning on the poster, but it is most definitely a movie worth watching and a mystery worth solving. The tagline on the poster was used to entice the audience’s curiosity as it describes Coraline’s experience as “An Adventure too Weird for Words.”