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The Ancient Storytelling Rhythms of ‘Coraline’

There’s a reason ‘Coraline’ gets under your skin (and your eyeballs).
Coraline Ancient Storytelling
By  · Published on October 27th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video about the older narrative influences on Henry Selick‘s Coraline.

It’s pretty wild that Coraline is a “kid’s movie.” You know, what with the buttons-for-eyes and the child murder. It’s a creepy and affecting watch. But then again, we often underestimate the strong stomachs of children, how their capacity for the macabre and the horrific is often far greater than we give them credit for.

After all, some of the first stories we hear as kids have a distinctly disturbing flavor. Fairytales and fables aren’t exactly known for pulling punches. Especially in the child murder department. It’s fitting, then, that Coraline‘s narrative roots are equally old, intertwined with morality tales, ghost stories, and traditional terror rhythms of the grotesque.

The Laika-produced, Henry Selick-helmed stop-motion animated film, based on Neil Gaiman‘s novel of the same name, follows a young girl who is unhappy with her life. More specifically, with her parents, who in her eyes, are boring, inattentive workaholics. Then, one day, she discovers a portal to another dimension where her parents are absolutely perfect. A little too perfect, as it happens.

So on that skin-crawling note, here’s a video essay that unpacks how Coraline‘s engagement with ancient forms of storytelling serves the film’s central theme: a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession and the importance of being grateful for what you already have. Because if you’re going to learn a lesson, why not do it in the ookiest, spookiest way possible?

Watch “How Coraline Borrows from Ancient Forms of Storytelling“:

Who made this?

This genre breakdown comes courtesy of Lessons From The Screenplay, which is a consistently insightful video essay channel created and run by Michael Tucker. Lessons From The Screenplay focuses on analyzing movie scripts to determine exactly how films tell effective stories. You can check out Lessons From The Screenplay’s YouTube channel here. And you can follow Tucker on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).