#13 – Coraline

May 28, 2007

intimate slow hands killer for hire, you know not yourselfI’ve heard exceptional things about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels for years, and my Grade 11 English teacher even had us read an issue of it; I read and immensely enjoyed Gaiman’s novel American Gods last summer; and his 2002 novella Coraline has won numerous awards and comes very highly recommended. However, none of these are the reason I just read Coraline. I read it because Henry Selick is currently working on a stop-motion animated film version, and John Hodgman is going to be voicing the father, in his first non-Resident Expert/PC role. I had to find out what kind of book would have a character so awesome that John Hodgman could play him. I wasn’t disappointed.

Coraline is ostensibly a kid’s book, but a seriously disturbing one. I think it probably surpasses Roald Dahl’s The Witches in terms of traumatising children’s literature. Coraline is a young girl whose family moves into a new house, with a door in a hallway which opens onto a brick wall.  So of course, one day while home alone, she opens the door to find a dark hallway where the wall should be.  This is an overused theme in fantasy works that never fails to creep the hell out of me.   Foolishly going down the hallway instead of burning the house down, Coraline meets her other mother and father: eerie mirror versions of her parents with pale white skin, too-long fingers which never stop moving, and big black buttons for eyes.  Jesus Quintana, that’s unsettling.

Gaiman’s skill as a writer is clear when reading Coraline.  In just 162 pages, he’s crafted a compelling story which draws you in completely.  It reminded me a lot of Pan’s Labyrinth, with a horrifying fantasy land parallel to our own trying to drag a young girl into it, minus the fascism.  In fact, the fantasy here might be even scarier: instead of encountering a giant toad or the eye-handed Pale Man, Coraline meets versions of her parents who are slightly off, and increasingly monstrous as she gets deeper and deeper into their world.  Bottom line, this is a great and creepy short novel, and once Selick (who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas) gets through with it, I’m sure it will make for a great and even creepier movie.



  1. Coraline looks pretty good; it’s amazing how many big name actors they get for these animated flicks

  2. Yeah, I really hope this turns out well. It certainly looks like they kept the darkness of the original, which is good.

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