this movie is so fucking creepy jesus fuck
It’s by Tim Burton, what did you honestly expect?
Actually, it’s Henry Selick, who was the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The book was written by Neil Gaiman, though, and is far…far….worse.
Sorry, I’m about to geek the hell out.
The movie is captivating, but the book is twenty kinds of terrifying, even now, ten years after I first read it. As disturbing as the movie may have been to some, the things Selick added really serve to cushion just how horrific the story really is.
First of all, the character of Wybie does not exist in the book. Coraline is facing all of this nearly alone, with her only help coming from the sly comments of the cat, a warning from the circus mice, and the stone given to her by her neighbor, presented with no comment but that it “makes the unseen seen.”
Second, the Other Parents are never quite as warm (and, dare I say, normal) as they are in the gifs above. They’re described as having paper-white skin and the Other Mother’s hair is said to move on its own, and her long, red, claw-like nails don’t ease any uncertainty that she is absolutely, positively up to no good. The first time Coraline meets them, they (and the rest of the Others) seem to be playing roles (for whatever reason, Coraline does not seem to pick up on this), like they all know what to say and what to do and are simply waiting for Coraline to make her move in their terrifying play world. This is shown to be partly true when the Other Parents tell her they know she’ll be back soon after she refuses the buttons – this time, to stay.
Third, the Other Mother commits atrocities that really should not have been in a book for anyone not fully grown up. She physically deforms the world around Coraline to slow her progress in their game beyond any mild traps the movie portrays, and, instead of turning the Other Father into the wandering pumpkin-thing seen in the film, she simply ceases to use him and throws his body away in the cellar, leaving him to rot with whatever bit of sentience he has left. She begins to lose her touch, as Coraline gains the upper hand. Her world doesn’t just become a nightmare – it falls apart completely. No creepy but oddly cool bug furniture here, just the house that now appears to be a child’s drawing. Whatever the Other Mother is (a beldame, but something tells me she’s much more ancient and powerful than that), she does not give half a hump about what she has to do to ensnare Coraline. Destroy the supporting characters of her twisted creation? Done. Allow herself to be dismembered to ruin Coraline’s life in the normal world? Not even gonna bat an eyelash.
On a final, personal note, imagine eight year-old me, ignored by my parents, absorbed in the story and identifying with Coraline from the start. Imagine me finishing this bloodcurdling book and immediately thinking of my basement, where there is still a locked door that my grandmother swears up and down is nothing more than a storage room, but has not once in my (or my mother’s) lifetime unlocked.
Can you see why this book still scares me?
Fun fact I learned from seeing neil gaiman speak: when he first wanted the book published, his editor said it was too scary. He suggested she read it to her young daughter, and then decide. So she did, and her daughter wasn’t afraid, and it was published. Years later, Gaiman was sitting next to that daughter at an event and told her this story, and she said “oh I was terrified I just didn’t want to tell my mom”.
Coraline WAS too scary to be published, but exists anyway because a girl lied to her mother.