Posted by: fireweaver | February 11, 2009

delightful old fairy tales, new

ever since they’d been running it, Chris had been telling me that little kiddos were leaving ‘coraline‘ in tears.  for some reason, that just warmed the cockles of the black part of my heart, and made me all kinds of interested in seeing it (as though a story by Neil Gaiman wasn’t enough).  i haven’t ever read the book, but i can report that this one is, indeed, a really good movie.

coraline has just moved into an old boarding house with her parents, who are endlessly distracted by their work as writers for a gardening catalog.  when she finds a secret door in the old house to a wonderful new life where everything is perfect, it seems like an easy choice to stay.  those of us who’ve read the old versions of fairy tales know, though, that nothing is ever free, and that black-hearted villainy is often masked by sugar & rainbows, at least at first.  cats are sinister and untrustworthy, even when they’re helpful, rats are never harbingers of good, and the smallest sacrifice of your person (“here, just eat this apple, my dear”) is often a very bad idea.  in many ways, it’s a modern re-hash of ‘the snow queen‘, with it’s cold promise of a better world.  and those kids crying on exit?  true enough, it’s scary as all get-out, in a much more “thinky” way than has been trendy for a good long few years.  stephen king gave an interview, oh, 15 or so years ago where he said something along the lines of, ‘i always try to go for true horror, the sort that unnerves you on a bone-deep psychological level.  failing that, i’ll go for spooky things jumping out from under the bed.  failing that, i’ll go for the gross-out.’  modern horror is all about the latter with a heavy sprinkling of the middle; ‘coraline’ is all about the former.  there’s no disembowelments, no demons leaping from closets, but there is plenty of echoes of the mind’s troubles in here.  very young children don’t necessarily fear death (understanding the concept, really understanding it, has been the hallmark for adulthood in more than one society), but they do fear abandonment both physical and emotional.  there are several symbolic deaths to creep out the adults in the audience (a doll or two or four are sliced open to reveal sand trickling out in that race to mortality), but the real horror is coming home to a house that you believe doesn’t love you.

kids older than 8 or so will love it.  those younger are very iffy.

as for the rest of us?  any day you can come up with a detailed psychoanalysis of a kids’ movie, you know you were in for a real treat.  and claymation, too!  highly recommended.


  1. What, no enlightened comments on “Chimp attacks CT woman”?

    • hmm, nope. turns out this movie wasn’t about chimp attacks at all!

  2. Thanks for the recap. I’ve both read the book *and* listened to the audiobook (narrated by Mr. Gaiman himself – how can you possibly go wrong with that?) and love them both, but you know how the old thing goes about the crappy movies after a fantastic book.

    There’s this really creepy song he injects into the book as well, I wonder if that’s in the movie. Maybe I will reward myself with thesis work by seeing the show 🙂

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