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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was a tritina, which has three set words to end each line in a pattern of ABC, CAB, BCA, and a final line with all three words in it. I decided to use the form for a creepy effect.)


Hark to the promise of pleasure and play.
Heed all the whispers that bid you come in.
Enter and leave your old world at the door.

Rest and don’t fret at the slow-closing door.
We’re glad that you had a good reason to play.
It’s been quite a while since a human came in.

I told you, don’t worry about the way in,
Or out for that matter; I’ve hidden the door.
It’s time that we all wear a smile and play.

I’m so glad the door brought in someone to play.

MPAA rating: PG

While I enjoy various kinds of animation, stop-motion isn’t my favorite. I love Chicken Run, but I’m less dazzled by the more macabre usages of this kind of puppetry, like The Nightmare before Christmas. That being said, stop-motion does lend itself to an unnatural movement perfect for creepiness, and Coraline utilizes this uncanny quality judiciously. From the first masterful shots of needle-composed fingers sewing up a little girl’s doll, it’s clear that experts of both animation and spookiness have put their craft on display.

Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel and with a Roald Dahl sensibility, Coraline first applies its technical finesse to the real world, as Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) and her parents move into a ramshackle apartment building. Coraline explores the neglected gardens and meets the eccentric neighbors and ultimately becomes bored and disgruntled at her surroundings. Then she finds a mysterious door which leads to an alternate universe where everything dull and mundane in the old world is bright and colorful and fun. Her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) and Other Father are everything she wishes her parents could be, except they have buttons for eyes, and she has second thoughts when they want to sew buttons on her eyes.

Coraline cleverly manifests how a dream can so easily segue into a nightmare. Everything is fun and innocent at first (although some cartoon nudity goes a bit far), but as soon as Coraline becomes wise to her Other Mother’s sinister plans, the wondrous quickly turns monstrous. This disquieting wonderland is a perfect outlet for the animation, and many of the stunts and deft camerawork make one wonder how the filmmakers accomplished so much fluidity within the confines of tiny detailed models.

Perhaps because Tim Burton wasn’t involved, Coraline’s dark fantasy won me over, making it probably my favorite of the creepy genre of stop-motion animation. Some of the characters are still unnecessarily weird for my taste, but the central adventure has a winning blend of awe and fright that will make children think twice about too-good-to-be-true reveries.

Best line: (Other Mother, to Coraline) “They say even the proudest spirit can be broken…with love.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


© 2016 S. G. Liput

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