Friday, May 08, 2009

CORALINE - psych horror for kids

When you boil it all down, CORALINE is an animated kids film that plays like a psychological horror flick. And, I'm not being trite. CORALINE is everyone's worst nightmare. She's a young teenage girl who lives in a crumbling old house, with creepy neighbours, and workaholic parents who just want to get rid of her. No wonder her sub-conscious creates an alternate universe in which she is very much the centre of attention. The other mother is always cooking a tasty meal and the other father is always ready to play Coraline-centric games. Of course, this sort of Stepford existence is as dysfunctional as the real world, and the price of staying is to become an automaton - symbolised by having buttons stitched on your eyes. And thus, Coraline battles to return to her own world, but there are no happy endings. Mum's bought her some new gloves but she's as crotchety as ever, and Dad is as pussy-whipped. Coraline is still self-absorbed, it's just that now she knows there are consequences.

The resulting film is beautifully drawn, truly psychologically scary (that's a good thing), and faithful in most part to the Neil Gaiman original story. OK, so director Henry Selick added Wybie, the dumb-ass side-kick to lessen Coraline's isolation, but then again, he stripped down the up-beat musical numbers to a single song from They Might Be Giants. Following on from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, Selick has cemented his reputation as the pre-eminent director of intelligent children's movies - movies that understand that childhood isn't schmaltzy and sun-lit as symbolised by cute talking animals, but dark and insecure and selfish and savage. The only real criticism I could make of CORALINE is that, technically, it's a tour-de-force of stop-motion animation but it barely uses, and doesn't need, the added layer of 3-D. Presumably this was just a shameless cash-in on the part of the studio.

CORALINE was released earlier this year in the US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Portugal, Panama, Argentina, Hungary, Poland, Kazakhstan, Russia, Romania, Lithuania, Norway and the UK. It opens next weekend in the Netherlands, Estonia, Sweden and Turkey. It opens later in May in Bulgaria, Iceland and Greece. It opens on June 5th in Finland and Spain; on June 10th in Belgium, France, the Czech Republic and Denmark; in Israel on June 25th; in Italy on July 3rd; in Germany on July 20th; in Australia on August 6th and in Singapore on September 3rd.

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