Read before watching.

I read Neil Gaiman’s Coraline last night. It’s funny and pleasantly terrifying (the type of book I would have enjoyed reading as a child). I fear it will not make the transition to film with all of its humour and terror intact, however; the book’s unsettling moments — encounters with doubles of Coraline’s family (all sporting buttons in place of their eyes), talking animals, and, in the book’s final chapters, the presence of a witch’s severed hand — are unsettling because they are uncanny interruptions in Coraline’s average world, and in the neutral narrative voice that delivers the story. Henry Selick’s decision to reuse the “surreal” animation of Nightmare Before Christmas will, I think, rob the story of that uncanniness (Coraline’s average world is already the stuff of “Nightmares,” so we are not likely to be much disturbed by the nightmare world’s interruptions into the everyday).

Gaiman deliberately chose Selick and has approved the film in recent interviews; none of his writing or film projects have disappointed yet.  I suppose I can reserve any further reservations until the film’s release.

30 January 2009 ~ St. Catharines

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