Maintaining the gothic quirks of his debut, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, but adding a welcome layer of queasy childhood angst, Henry Selick’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s bestseller is an original, entrancing, occasionally worrying fairy tale. When inquisitive pre-teen Coraline discovers a secret door in her family home, she stumbles into a universe of apparent perfection – and underlying danger.
The film’s biggest draw has to be its intricate visuals, particularly in 3D. Selick plays with expectations superbly, presenting a drab, grey-hued world which slowly transforms into a dazzling phantasmagoria of talking cats, flying trapezes and a uniquely terrifying villain. This dark edge will be the biggest test of the film as a commercial prospect: it may be too terrifying for the target audience. But for braver kids – and parents – this is a thrilling, even challenging ride.