This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Coraline (2009). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Henry Selick, the 2009 fantasy drama stars Dakota Fanning as Coraline. The film is based on a novel of the same name written by Neil Gaiman. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel.
Coraline (2009) – Plot Summary
A very old house also known as the Pink Palace Apartments has three new residents: a couple and their child (Coraline). The family’s neighbours are quite intriguing characters: one is a circus mice trainer (Mr. Bobinsky), while the other two (Miss Spink and Miss Forcible) are former burlesque performers.
Coraline spends most of her time alone, her parents are always busy with work. During a walk nearby the house, Coraline meets a black cat and a boy named Wyborne (a.k.a. Wybie), he’s the landlady’s grandson. Later on, Wybie drops by at Coraline’s house to give her a doll that he found at his grandmother’s house. It looks exactly like Coraline.
While Coraline was unpacking some personal objects the living room, the doll disappears. Confused, Coraline looks for the doll and finds her next to a small door in the living room. Unable to open it, Coraline asks her mother for the key. The mother attends her daughter’s request in exchange for some quiet time. Then, she reaches out for a drawer full of keys and picks the one that has a button on it. After opening the small door, Coraline finds out that there is nothing behind it, only a bricked wall.
At night, a mouse guides Coraline to the small door in the living room. But this time, instead of a bricked wall, Coraline finds was a colourful tunnel. The girl decides to get in it but finds herself in her living room again. Then, Coraline notices a nice smell coming from the kitchen. There, she finds her “other mother” cooking for her. However, this woman has buttons instead of eyes. The same goes for her “other father”. Both of her “other parents” seem to be more caring towards Coraline’s wishes. After dinner, Coraline goes to bed and awakes in the real world again.
Coraline and Wybie meet each other again and the boy tells her about his grandmother’s missing twin. Turns out, the other twin disappeared in the apartment as a child. Despite of hearing the horrific incident, Coraline continues to visit the “Other World”. During the following nights, the girl meets the other versions of her neighbours, as well as, a mute Wybie. Meanwhile, Coraline also meets the black cat in the other world and he can talk.
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Coraline by Neil Gaiman (Book)
The “other mother” expresses her wish of making Coraline stay in the “Other World” indefinitely. However, in order to have that life, Coraline needs to sacrifice her eyes. The “other mother” wants to sew buttons on them. A terrified Coraline refuses and demands to return home. Unhappy with the girl’s answer, the “other mother” transforms herself and imprisons Coraline.
While trapped, Coraline meets the spirits of other kids. These children were also victims of the “Other Mother” / Beldam. Just like Coraline, they were also lured to the “Other World” under the promise of a happier life. However, once the victims let Beldam sew buttons on their eyes, she stole their souls and “ate” their lives. After hearing their story, Coraline decides to find the victims’ eyes so she can free them from Beldam. Meanwhile, the “other Wybie” helps Coraline escape.
Back in the real world, Coraline notices that her parents are not at home. Later on, Coraline realizes that Beldam kidnapped them. Desperate, Coraline goes to her neighbours Miss Spink and Miss Forcible for help. After hearing that Coraline’s parents are missing, the ladies give her an object meant for bad / lost things. When Coraline was half asleep, she receives a visitor: the cat. He leads the girl to her parents: they are trapped in a mirror. Coraline decides to go back to the “Other World” to rescue her parents.
While crawling through the tunnel, Beldam lures Coraline by disguising herself as her mother. Unaware of the demon’s trick, Coraline runs to Beldam and hugs her. However, the demon quickly changes back to her shape and locks the door. Then, Beldam swallows the key so Coraline cannot escape. As an attempt to get back to the real world, Coraline proposes a game to Beldam: if she finds the spirits’ eyes and her parents, the demon must set everyone free. Amused, Beldam agrees and leaves a small clue for Coraline.
The spirits’ eyes are all over the propriety in the form of little gems. Coraline finds her first pair in the garden. Then, another one in the theatre. Although the girl struggles to get the third and final pair of eyes, the cat helps her and hands it to her. After gathering the eyes, parts of the “Other World” start to disintegrate. Back in the living room in search of her parents, Coraline sees Beldam in her true form: a metallic spider-looking creature. Meanwhile, one the spirits remind Coraline that even if she wins the game, Beldam will not honour her part of the bargain.
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Coraline [DVD] (2009)
In order to outwit Beldam, Coraline tricks Beldam into unlocking the door by telling her a lie. Coraline knows that her parents are not behind the small door, but tells Beldam they are because she wants the demon to spit out the key and unlock the door. Without being aware that the little girl is playing her, Beldam unlocks the small door. In a split of a second, Coraline grabs the snow globe with her trapped parents inside and escapes through the tunnel. While running away, Coraline cuts one of Beldam’s hands when she force shut the door.
Back in the real world, Coraline finds traces of liquid on the floor, they belong to the snow globe that she was carrying. The parents are alive, but they have no memory of what happened.
After falling asleep, Coraline dreams about the three spirits. The children are happy but warn Coraline that she’s still in danger: Beldam is still looking for the key. After hearing this, Coraline goes to the woods to dispose the key. When the girl was about to drop the key, Beldam’s hand appears and tries to take it away from Coraline. During the struggle, Wybie appears and fights the hand, which in turn, retaliated by pushing Wybie to the well. Meanwhile, Coraline tries to save Wybie by grabbing the hand with a blanket. Though Coraline’s efforts to stop it fail, Wybie manages to climb up again and smashes the hand with a rock. They wrap it all up in a blanket and throw it to the old well together with the keys. Then, they close the lid.
The film ends with the neighbours joining efforts to regrow the communal garden. Wybie also brings his grandmother to the garden and Coraline greets her. Meanwhile, the cat disappears behind the post that says “Pink Palace Apartments”.
Coraline (2009) – Ending Explained
One can say that Coraline (2009) has a happy ending. Nevertheless, there are still some questions that need an answer. For instance, how did Wybie know that Coraline was in danger? In addition, why did Coraline’s parents forget about the Beldam?
First of all, Coraline (2009) is a very creepy film. Due to the sinister nature of the film, a couple of “conspiracy theories” are circulating out there debating the true meaning behind the ending of Coraline (2009). For instance, some believe that Coraline never escaped, in other words, everything that the viewer sees in the ending scene is not real. Beldam used her powers to create another sweet illusion for Coraline, so she stays longer in the “Other World”. However, there is not much evidence in the film supporting this theory. Although, it’s an interesting idea, it doesn’t seem to fit the film very well. If that’s true, then what’s the point of the story?
Back to the ending, if one takes it at its face-value, then Coraline managed to escape and save her parents along the way. Today’s post is based on the narrative that Coraline fought and conquered. So far, all the talk has been around the ending. But, what is the film really about?
At its core, Coraline (2009) is a tale of neglect. One could say that, Coraline was curious and that’s why she adventured to the “Other World”. What no one is really asking is: how did she get there? Beldam has her powers and all, but her tricks only work on unhappy children. Sadly, that was Coraline’s case when she first moved to the Pink Palace Apartments. Coraline’s parents were the main reason why the daughter wanted to escape her reality.
Right when the film starts it’s very clear that Coraline’s parents don’t pay much attention to their daughter. Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t love Coraline, but it’s apparent that they give more priority to their job than their own child. That’s when Beldam started to build her own web to trap Coraline. You see, the demon needs children to live, their souls make her grow stronger.
The way how Beldam lures children is very simple: she gives them what they are lacking. Let me rephrase that, Beldam creates the illusion that she’s giving them what they need. So what did Beldam give to Coraline to get her attention? Loving parents and good food. Luckily, Coraline is a smart girl and she quickly noticed that there was something off about the “other mother”. Despite of having a great time in the “Other World”, that wasn’t enough to make Coraline want to stay indefinitely in that place. In addition, the girl used common sense and figured out that once someone asks you to sew buttons in your eyes: it’s time to run.
What sets Coraline apart from Beldam’s previous victims? First of all, she seems to be a bit older than the other kids. So, Coraline’s critical thinking might be more developed compared to the others. Second, Coraline had help. Having someone that looked after her, like the “other Wybie”, allowed her to escape from Beldam.
HOW DID WYBIE KNOW THAT CORALINE WAS IN DANGER?
Was it coincidence or not that Wybie appeared at the right moment? There are some hints throughout the film indicating that Wybie knew what was going on in that house: maybe not the entire story, but parts of it.
Wybie’s grandmother definitely knew about Beldam and her appetite for little children, hence, her initial refusal to rent the house to couples with small children. The bricked wall covering the entrance to the “Other World” was probably her idea too. Having said that, it’s very probable that the landlady instructed her grandson to look after Coraline, just in case, she runs into Beldam.
So when Wybie came to Coraline’s rescue, it wasn’t by chance. He was probably watching her from afar. No one rides a bike with tong clamps unless they are ready to fight someone.
WHY DID CORALINE’S PARENTS FORGET ABOUT BELDAM?
Sadly, that was most likely another of way of showing that Coraline’s parents did not change at all, they learned nothing from the whole ordeal. The parents are still oblivious and neglectful of their daughter’s needs. During this entire time, the parents never paid much attention to what Coraline was saying, let alone, feeling. Having said that, the parents’ short term memory loss is just a reflection of what they’ve been doing this entire time: dismissing what’s really going on.
Now, that’s one way of reading the parents’ reaction. However, there could be another angle to this: Beldam cast a spell on Coraline’s parents. She made them forget about what happened to ensure her own safety. Let me explain.
The main reason why Beldam kidnapped the parents was to lure Coraline back to the “Other World” and find new ways to trap the girl there. Having said that, it seems like Beldam’s powers work in both worlds. That’s the only way to explain how she could get her hands on the parents.
As powerful as Beldam appears to be, she has no interest in others knowing about her existence. That would draw too much attention to her “illicit activities” and the demon doesn’t want that. In addition, can you guess what the adults would do once they find out there’s an evil entity in the house? They’ll probably move out or go after her. Either ways, it’s no good for the demon: no kids, no souls to eat.
Can I be honest for a second? Before watching Coraline (2009), I thought that it was just another cutesy little horror story. Make no mistake: Coraline (2009) is not a film for little children. Though it’s an animation film, it’s not the best idea to show it to an younger audience, unless you want the little ones to develop a phobia against buttons, dolls and spiders.
I said this before, but I’ll say it again: Coraline (2009) is a very creepy film. It gave me the shivers when I watched it and I’m an adult. However, that shouldn’t be seen as a negative remark. Seriously, the film is really good and memorable. The viewer won’t forget about Coraline and Beldam for days after watching the film.
One of the things that stands out about Coraline (2009) is the film’s ambiguity. Having said that, the viewer is one who’s going to finally decide whether Coraline (2009) is a simple or a complex film. As I said before, there are a couple of popular conspiracy theories circulating out there, but then again, theories are not facts. To me, the film is about learning that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The colourful world that Beldam created for Coraline was not real, it was just a sweet illusion to keep the young girl in the “Other World”. However, Coraline was smart enough to not fall for the trap. In the end, the girl realizes that her parents are not perfect, but at least, they are real.
Overall, Coraline (2009) is a very noteworthy watch: I mean, you have to give credit to films that are memorable and have interesting stories to tell. Those are usually the ones that really make an impression on you. By the way, I believe the soundtrack elevated the film’s tension and made it scarier. That ending song in Coraline (2009) really helps to cement the film in a person’s head — it was the cherry on top of the cake.