As a kid, I had imaginary worlds and dreamed fantastical dreams. Coincidentally, none of those consisted of characters with black button-eyes. Weird, huh?
Henry Selick’s masterpiece Coraline can be easily described with one word – weird. It’s one of the weirdest (and creepiest) movies I’ve ever seen in my l ife. It’s weirder than theThe Nightmare Before Christmas, which Selick directed. It’s weirder than Tim Burton’s classic Edward Scissorhands.
So what makes it a masterpiece, you ask? The very thing that is the source of the oddity.
Coraline is a normal girl that moves into a creepily big house in a small neighborhood. She finds another world behind a small door that is supposed to be overlaid with brick. In the other world she finds a world more perfect than she ever imagined. Her parents, normally absorbed in their work as writers and without time for her, shower her with attention and gifts. They’re more interesting; her mother cooks, her father gardens, and, of course, they have black buttons for eyes.
There are other creepy details, too. There’s the doll that just happens to look exactly like Coraline, blue hair and all. There’s Mr. B, otherwise known as The Awkward Gymnast, the two retired awkward burlesque actresses, and the awkward black cat.
Oh, and the awkward friend, known as Wybie.
Things soon turn out to be quite a bit more sinister than they appear. The nameless cat shows this to her, as he can talk in the world of the “other mother.” Her “other mother” has ulterior motives that include, in a very real sense, feeding on her. She manages to get out (obviously, since this isn’t a tragedy), but before receiving a cold and harsh wake-up call, she was really and truly seduced by her “other mother,” who had given her all kinds of presents wrapped in pretty packages to present herself as an angel, when in reality she was an especially horrid brand of devil.
“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
The devil’s tricks present themselves as fantastic things wrapped in pretty packages that our “boring” Father, God, never would give us. In the end, however, we will find ourselves bereft of life and desperate for redemption. We will be unable to obtain it until we are willing to give up Satan’s devices, which are all part of an elaborate façade.
“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.” – Proverbs 5:3-4
Themes of self-sacrifice are also present, as Coraline ventures back into the world of the “other mother” to rescue her parents, as well as three poor souls who fell prey to the woman in earlier times. The latter is especially noteworthy, seeing as she has no real reason to be attached to these three. It comes in handy, however, as they are able to lend a hand (pun intended) in helping her. The message is clear – selflessness pays off.
No film is perfect. The movie fails to explain how her parents have no memory of events in the other world, why other Wybie helps her when he’s only an invention of the “other mother,” or why the cat cares at all about her. But those are petty criticisms in light of a film that reminds of a sobering fact: once in the grasp of deception, it takes a long and hard struggle to come out of it, and we may very well bring others down with us.