YPG Screening of Coraline: We Are Officially Creeped Out

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On October 17, the YPG Book to Film Club gathered around a conference table at Penguin for a Halloween-themed meeting. Sadly, there was no trick or treating, but there was popcorn, candy, and Coraline, the 2009 animated adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic horror novella (HarperCollins, 2002).

Discussion began early while we fiddled with the DVD player, with one member looking around the room and blurting out, “Was anyone else as freaked out by this book as I was?” “YES,” said nearly everyone there, and we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we weren’t the only ones oddly terrified by a children’s book. It turns out we reacted just as Neil Gaiman himself would have predicted; he’s said in the past that kids tend to view Coraline as an adventure, while adults are the ones who are creeped out. There weren’t any kids at the meeting to test his theory, but it sounds pretty right-on to me. If I read Coraline to my seven-year-old cousin I’m sure she’d think Coraline Jones was awesome, and if I brought her to the meeting she’d sit there looking supremely unruffled while the grown-ups around her confessed to nightmares about button-eyed people, making us all feel super-great about ourselves. (Note to self: don’t give Coraline to Sophia until she’s old enough to be scared like a normal person.)

Coraline is the sort of book that seems it will be scariest in your imagination, so it was a pleasant surprise when the movie largely lived up to the source material’s creepiness. YPGers were especially impressed with the artistry and inventiveness of the animation. We were not, however, impressed with some of the film’s notable departures from the book—namely, the film’s more overt moralizing about being happy with what you have (done with such wonderful subtlety in Gaiman’s novella) and the character of Wybie, a boy around Coraline’s age added to the movie so Coraline wouldn’t be talking to herself all the time. (Admittedly, our biggest beef with Wybie was probably that he rescued Coraline near the end; more than a few members were indignant at the notion that the brave and spunky Coraline needed to be saved by a man.) We were also puzzled by a mid-movie performance by Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, Coraline’s elderly neighbors; it was unclear why two computer-graphic septuagenarians needed to be swinging around a stage in something like strip club attire, one’s animated breasts so large they made Barbie’s body look proportional. It was a bizarrely sexual but disturbingly unsexy scene, and as we pondered aloud what the filmmakers might have been thinking, one member commented, “I actually saw this movie when it came out in theaters, in 3D….and that was the scariest part of the whole movie.”

All in all, it was another successful YPG Book to Film Club experience for the members present. The next Book to Film Club selection was an in-theatre viewing of Anna Karenina on its opening night, Friday, November 16th. This new film by Focus Features was adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy into a film written by Tom Stoppard, directed by Joe Wright, and starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Our upcoming Book to Film Club selection is The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (Houghton Mifflin, 1985). The screening of the Oscar-nominated 2004 film adaptation will take place at Penguin on Wednesday, December 19, from 7:00-9:00pm. Hope to see you there at the final meeting for 2012!

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