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Nightmare Fuel / Coraline

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"She said that she loved us, but she locked us in here... and ate up our lives..."

Almost all the stories of Neil Gaiman are fueled by readers' terror, and Coraline is a notable example.

In keeping with policy, this page is spoilers off. Proceed with caution.

  • Adults actually find this book (and film) scarier than kids do, with the unsettling feeling of the Other World being not quite right giving way to its later decaying transformation into the Beldam's lair.
  • "...So I fixed him!" With a literally Sewn On Grin!
  • Coraline's interaction with Other Bobinsky near the end of the film.
    Coraline: "You're just a copy she made of the real Mr. B."
    Other Bobinsky: "Not even that... anymore."
    (Coraline takes off his hat, revealing that he's only a swarm of rats).
    • The build-up to that reveal, when his all you saw was his uniform doing some unsettling acrobatics while his head appears to be missing was also pretty damn frightening.
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  • The Cat's summary of the Other Mother: "She wants something to love, I think, something that isn't her... Or maybe she'd just love something to eat."
  • Coraline escaping the Other Mother...
    • Right before then: "You dare disobey your MOTHER?!!"
    • Following that we have the shot of the door to the Other World getting closer and closer to the real world before Coraline finally slams the door on the other world.
      • And the Other Door doesn't close in smoothly; to judge by the rhythm and sound effects, the Other Mother is beating so hard against it that she's literally pushing the two realms closer to each other with the force of her blows.
    • During the climax of the film, Coraline struggles to fight off the Other Mother's disembodied metal hand. The camera zooms back to the house, which shows the door to the other world banging loudly and glowing ominously...
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    • It doesn't help that after they throw the hand and the key inside the well, you can hear the Other Mother whispering "No".
  • What happened to the three ghost children.
    She spied on our lives, through the little doll's eyes. And saw that we weren't happy. So she lured us away, with treasures and treats, and games to play. Gave all that we asked, yet we still wanted more. So we let her sew the buttons. She said she loved us... but she locked us up here. And ate up our lives.
    • It's no better in the book:
    She left us here... She stole our hearts, she stole our souls, and she took our lives away, and she left us here, and forgot about us in the dark.
    • The little ghost children in GENERAL (except for at the end, where they are kind of cute). Seriously, think about it - DEAD CHILDREN, talking about the horrors of the Other World in a distinguishably childlike way, looking like they just crawled right out of the Uncanny Valley, all with buttons in their eyes.
    • Notice the bed in the room. It's filthy, and has a sunken-in pit filled with dark fluid...
    • That tall ghost girl's face, which is stuck in a permanent scream...Many fans have suggested that she died screaming with agony and/or terror.
  • The Other Mother, in the book, swears on her mother's grave. Coraline was surprised that her mother was dead. The Other Mother's reply? "I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to climb out, I put her back."
  • The Weird Moon functions as a timer of sorts during Coraline's game with the Other Mother. How so? The less time Coraline has, the more the moon is covered... by a giant black button. As if that frequent reminder wasn't enough, there's the way the music stops dead every time she looks up.
  • In the audiobook, the rats' 'song' is heard as a breathy, hissing chant with little semblance of a tune. It comes right the hell out of nowhere and is arguably the creepiest part of the whole story. And the book is narrated by the author so you know this is the way the song was meant. And then in a later chapter it happens again.
    "You'll all get what you deserveses,"
    when we rise from underneath."
  • The (admittedly rather obscure) musical adaptation has a short little ditty called "The Greeting Song," which makes excellent and frightening use of Last-Second Word Swap.
    Coraline, you're tangible,
    Coraline, you're grand.
    How we'd like to take you by the hand.
    Coraline, you're nice and plump,
    Coraline, you're sweet.
    How we'd like to have you to... Greet.
  • When the Other Wybie expresses his disapproval through a frown instead of smiling like he's supposed to, the Other Mother sews his lips into a perma-grin. The stitches are cut, but not before we see what the Joker might have looked like as a child.
  • When Coraline discovers the remains of the other Wybie.
  • "He pulled a loooong face... and mother didn't like that."
  • The Other Father's deterioration and death.
    Sssorry... ssssooo sssorry... M-mother making meeeee...
    • This scene in the video game is also terrifying. You have to press the right buttons to dodge the giant praying mantis, but if you press the wrong ones, there is a scene of Coraline falling to the floor and the claw of the mantis swinging down. It doesn't show the impact though, thank goodness.
  • The Other Mother's real form and real real form.
  • That whole thing of sewing buttons onto eyes.
  • Neil Gaiman holding the buttons over his eyes and smiling in this video.
  • The Other Father's song about Coraline, which eerily foreshadows the whole thing about sewing buttons onto eyes.
    Makin' up a song about Coraline
    She's a peach, she's a doll, she's a pal of mine
    She's as cute as a button in the eyes of everyone who's ever laid their eyes on Coraline
    When she comes around exploring
    Mom and I will never ever make it boring
    Our eyes will be on Coraline!
    • "Our eyes will be on Coraline" references that the doll sees all and by all, they mean all. Your adventures in the woods, your yearning for a more interesting life, your parents who can easily be replaced...
      • That line can be also taken more literally: The Other Mother wants to take Coraline's eyes and replace them with buttons, so her eyes will physically be on Coraline.
      • This piano plays me!
  • "I'll give you to the count of three. One... two... THREEEEE!".
  • Coraline suddenly getting grabbed by the Other Spink and Forcible monster, a melded form of both of them as they change back to taffy.
    Thief!! GIVE IT BACK!
    • The whole Nothing Is Scarier approach during that scene. Coraline walking down the dark isle with the dog-bats above and then noticing a giant candy wrapper wrapped over something (and it's not candy) that's hanging from the ceiling. The whole time you're just waiting for something to pop out or wondering what the hell is inside that giant candy wrapper.
  • Some of the pictures in the novel - especially the picture of the Other Mother with a bug in her mouth. It just doesn't look right.
  • This book cover. Yeesh.
  • This movie poster. Double yeesh.
    • Not to mention this one. Triple yeesh!
  • The rats in general. Their true form is hideous. Especially with those button eyes.
  • The making of the puppet-things themselves here. *shudder*
  • The scene after Coraline throws the cat at the Other Mother and her eyes get clawed off and she turns the room into a web.
  • The American cover of the book. The girl is evidently Coraline (or a mirror reflection of her) — her body looks mostly normal, but her neck is huge and very awkward and her face looks like it had buttons sewn onto them once, then removed, leaving big hollows where they once were.
  • The name "Beldam" may be a reference to La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy), a figure from French folklore who would trick travelers into entering her world and eat their very life away from them. This may add another layer of creepiness to the story for those with a detailed knowledge of folklore, as it gives the audience a little hint that the Other Mother may not only have been doing this for centuries, but also she may not even be confined to that house or to children as victims!
  • The empty flat and what became of the Other Father in the book. Slowly reverting back to a shapeless form, and even when he's a blob, even his eyes have fallen out, he's still forced to chase Coraline out of the cellar...
  • Not to mention the Other Forcible and Spink towards the end of the novella, trapped in a cocoon with their bodies melding together. Eesh.
  • The Other Mother's hand, when it's after Coraline. It leaves scratches on the window pane, and hurts one of Spink and Forcible's dogs. And when Coraline is making plans to deal with it... the sequence where she's walking to the well and can tell that something is following her, always staying just out of sight, is one of the scariest bits of the whole book.
  • Another big one happens at the very beginning of the movie: the re-sewing of the little girl doll into Coraline at the beginning of the film. The braided hair is unraveled, the clothes are removed and the button eyes are pulled off, leaving the doll as a featureless, human-shaped sack of cloth that gets refilled with sawdust and made into a button-eyed copy of Coraline herself. Even before we see the Other Mother, this scene is a reflection of how easily she replaces her playthings. The vaguely soothing music, "Mechanical Lullaby", that plays during the scene softens it a little (or makes it worse, it's up to the viewer to decide).
  • Anybody noticed the Beldam was humming to the song in the beginning of the movie? Was she actually playing it on a recorder?
  • It's interesting to note that in the beginning of the movie, we see a glimpse of the outside of the window. It appears to be full of stars. It was mentioned in the movie that the well was so deep that you can see stars during the middle of the day. So it's hinted that the Other Mother was STILL alive in the well, to this very day. So maybe throwing the key down the well wasn't such a good idea after all. It also explains how the doll looks like it's floating when it is set free from the house.
    • This might explain why the well looks like the passage to The Other World
      • Or perhaps not. The well thing is actually said of deep spaces with isolated views, it's not specific to this film's setting. Also, the Other World is always night, so it could have just been the sky...but it begs the question of how the doll crossed over without using the passage...
  • When given a group of questions about the Other Mother on his Tumblr, Gaiman intentionally left most of the answers vague. However, he did say there were most likely others like her!
  • The Other Mother in general. A monstrous witch whose powers are fueled by the souls of the children she captures. She disguises herself as the perfect parent to lure children into the Other World by giving them love, tasty food, toys, and everything a child could want, only to trap them in a dark room and suck up their life energy. When Coraline, the next would-be victim, starts seeing through the facade and resists her, the Other Mother's appearance becomes severely emaciated to the point of turning into a skeletal, arachnid monstrosity towards the climax. Her Villainous Breakdown when Coraline defeats her reminds one of an emotionally abusive parent who tries to prevent the children she torments from finally leaving her. Finally, her behavior in luring children to the Other World is akin to a serial killer, one who specifically targets unsuspecting children by luring them in with "treats and games to play" so she can kill them.
  • The Passage Between Worlds. Not only does it connect our world to the Other World, but it's trippy, unexplained, and alive.
  • The fact that all of the background songs are sung, not only by a creepy-sounding choir of children but also in complete gibberish. It's basically the auditory equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.
  • At the end of the film, we pan out on the garden in the real world. Where the garden in the Other World was made to look like Coraline, the way the real version has been planted looks alarmingly like the Other Mother...
  • The old Coraline website is nothing but this. The music and dark imagery are genuinely creepy. Even worse is that the site hadn't been updated in years while it was still up, effectively making it abandoned. It was taken down, but can still be accessed here.
  • We never get to see what Coraline's other version of her bedroom looked like when the Other World turns evil...
    • In fact, we don't get to see many of the rooms when this happens. Just how nightmarish does the house become?
  • One scene that stands out is when the Other Mother eats "cocoa beetles". In the book, it's made out to be a mother-daughter talk where she takes Coraline aside in a last-ditch effort to discipline her. During the whole conversation, she casually eats beetles out of a paper bag as if they're chocolates, and even offers Coraline one. When this fails, the Other Mother locks her in a small, decrepit room as punishment. The movie retains the scene and makes it even more creepy, with an off-putting soundtrack and the Mother becoming increasingly monstrous when Coraline refuses to comply.
    Other Mother: "...You may come out, when you've learned to be a loving daughter."
  • This little Big-Lipped Alligator Moment from the novel:
    " And there was something else, which suddenly scuttled between her feet, nearly sending Coraline flying. She caught herself before she went down, using her own momentum to keep moving. She knew that if she fell in that corridor she might never get up again. Whatever that corridor was was older by far than the other mother. It was deep, and slow, and it knew that she was there. . . ."
  • Also in the novel, during Coraline's search for the souls, she comes across a bathtub containing a dead spider the size of a cat. It's mentioned only briefly, is never explained, and Coraline doesn't dwell on it. In its own eerie way, it's almost scarier than a living spider because of how nonchalantly it gets introduced and dismissed with no indication of where this enormous spider came from, why it's there, or why it's dead.

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