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By Patrick Samuel • December 12th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
Focus Features / Universal Pictures

Original release: February 6th, 2009
Running time: 100 minutes

Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Ian McShane


Do you remember how scared you were by fairy tales like The Snow Queen and The Red Shoes, by Hans Christian Anderson? Or how about the Brothers Grimm stories, Cinderella, Rupenzel and Snow White? I’m sure it wasn’t just me who was scared by them, but others too. My parents thought they were nice little stories for kids at bedtime, but I often wondered…children eaten by witches, or abducted and shut away in towers, dying from food poisoning and or being forced into child labour…if anything they made me afraid to be left alone in the dark.

Well, Coraline is somewhere along those lines, it’s essentially being about a little girl who comes to learn to appreciate things how they are, rather than how she wishes them to be, but it’s always quite frightening in parts. Based on the children’s book by Neil Gaiman, it tells of an 11 year old girl, Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning), who’s just moved from Michigan to Oregan. Bored by her new surroundings, ignored by her busy parents and missing her old friends, she’s goes in search of some excitement.

After meeting some of the town’s locals, including a boy her own age, Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.), her eccentric neighbours Miss Spink and Forcible (Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French) and a bizarre Russian Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), Coraline still doesn’t find the excitement she’s looking for…That’s until she discovers a secret door in her house leading to a parallel universe! Although it looks pretty much the same, it seems a hundred times better. Her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) always has time to make amazing meals, her Other Father is much more playful, Other Wybie doesn’t speak at all and the Other neighbours are even odder than before.


Coraline could get used to life in the Other World, but there’s just one catch, she has to let her Other Mother replace her eyes with buttons. As you can imagine, the poor kid’s horrified at the idea and soon tries to escape. Coraline realises there’s really no place like home.

The film’s beautifully shot using stop-motion animation by Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and James And The Giant Peach (1996). The details are painstakingly intricate; from the shimmering blue of Coraline’s hair to the amazing night garden her Other Father creates for her. Hand crafted by artists, it took several months to complete with thousands of paper flowers needed for the dazzling effect in one of the film’s most impressive sequences.

Coraline is also a little bit scary. There are awkward moments of silence and its handful of bizarre characters left me feeling unsettled. I wasn’t sure if we were meant to find the idea of taxidermy funny either. The sight of Mr Bobinsky’s Coralineprotruding belly and the scantly clad bodies of swinging trapeze artists Miss Spink and Forcible, both of whom I’m sure were more than friends, seemed entirely out of place in a story already lacking in areas where those earlier children’s classics didn’t.

The film becomes much darker in tone and therefore more absorbing as it reaches its climax with Coraline’s Other Mother showing her true face. While grown-ups may pick up on adult themes and innuendos, children are more likely to be tickled by the colourful Other World and the misadventures of a curious little girl to notice. Still, it’s not enough and ultimately Coraline falls short of being as truly entertaining as any one of Selick’s previous films despite its aesthetic appeal.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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