When I was just a little girl, full of childhood whimsy, one of my favorite, favorite movies was The Nightmare Before Christmas. Maybe I was a morbid little kid, but there was something about those eerily stylized characters, the haunting melodies, and the fancifully sinister plot that made me watch it over and over. Jack and Sally were my Romeo and Juliet. Halloween Town was my Oz. So, naturally my first peek of the Coraline trailer dredged up all that comfortable nostalgia. Wrapped like a burrito in my comforter, I pressed play on the TV and prepared to be delighted.
I was immediately struck by the familiar artistic style, those odd-shaped claymation-style characters with their spindly limbs and soulful eyes–not to mention the meticulous detail put into the scenery, sweet and sinister, a Gorey Wonderland. As the first scenes of the movie played out, with Coraline’s introduction and venture into her new house, my heart fluttered a few worried beats. The characters were typical Henry Selick, off-the-wall and eerily endearing, but the plot in the first twenty minutes or slow was slow to develop.
Once it did, Coraline delivered all it promised. With a manipulative and beautifully ridiculous villain, carefully placed foreshadowing, and a mix of suspense, self-realization, and the touch of morbid flair that makes Selick so remarkable, it offered a plot both accessible to children and intricate enough for adults. Some of the punchy jokes and racier scenes would probably scare off most parents and the macabre mood and nightmarish animation might traumatize some sensitive children, but I know that the five-year-old me would have worn out the DVD (VHS, then!). While Nightmare will always own my black little heart, Coraline has definitely earned a place on my shelf.