When it comes to Halloween movies, it's easy enough to look at the horror genre, or, obviously, movies that are actually about Halloween in some way. However, there are a few genuinely creepy family features that fit just as well, not the least of which is 'Coraline', here. It's the first official film from Laika Studios, based on the Niel Gaiman book of the same name, and directed by Henry Selick of 'Nightmare Before Christmas' fame.
Our basic plot involves an 11-year-old girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) who moves into a new home with her all-too-average parents. I many ways, she's bored and frustrated. She misses her friends, her parents are too busy for her, and she certainly doesn't relish in the chore or unpacking.
She finds herself wandering the property, running into a fairly annoying boy named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.) who gives her a mysterious doll that looks just like her. The doll sort of guides her to this mysterious crawl space door within the house, where Coraline discovers a strange but amazing new world. It's much like home, but with awesome, fun parents, who make sure there's never a dull moment for her. It's like the world was built special, just for her. However, this new, wonderful place, might just be a little more sinister than she imagines it to be.
Along the way, there are interesting comparisons between the real world and this mystery world. It often profiles a few other characters who, although very strange in the real world, become what Coraline might expect/want them to be in the other. Various additions to the voice cast include the likes of Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman, Keith David, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, and Ian McShane, all of whom do a great job with their voice acting. However, I remain thoroughly impressed with Fanning on this one, as she very much comes across as that little girl who's a bit bratty, but sees the world through awed eyes.
The whole gist of the movie is a cautionary tale on being careful what one wishes for - the perfect life one dreams of isn't all it's cracked up to be, and may have creepy consequences and catches. For those who have seen this movie, you'll all know the role that button eyes play here, and that alone is eerie enough for this one to qualify for an annual Halloween watch. "ParaNorman' is way more up my alley that this, but 'Coraline' could be held accountable for breathing new life into the stop motion art of animation.
The film is considered by many to be a sort of instant classic, and it manages to reach the tip-top of a lot of peoples lists when it comes to top stop-motion animated films. Not that there's a whole whack to choose from, but it seems to have that sort of nostalgic power, in a sense. For myself, watching it reminds me very much of just being a kid with a crazy imagination, often being bored of the real world and wanting to escape some place fun. However, it does manage to hit home with a certain range of homesickness she gets, realizing that home isn't such a bad place, being so safe and comfortable.
For my money, this really is a great flick for the whole family. It's a nice little intro to scary stuff for the kids, and maintains its creepiness factor for us adults all the same. Even though it's not officially any sort of Halloween movie, it still carries that Halloween magic along with it, and again, could become a non-typical annual watch for many. It seems to have gone that route anyway.