Graveyard Shift

‘Coraline’ Is Even More Horrifying As A Book Than A Movie  

Erin McCann
1.8k views 14 items

In 2002, renowned author Neil Gaiman released Coraline, his first work intended for children. The story follows a young girl who moves into an old house with her parents and discovers a hidden door leading to a similar - but much more sinister - world. The book quickly became one of his most beloved and won several literary awards. In 2009, stop-motion animation studio Laika adapted Coraline as their first full-length feature.

Movie adaptations are often forced to cut things out or sometimes add new elements - in Coraline's case, the character of Wybie was added as a stand-in for the reader. Laika's filmmakers were probably justified in changing what they did, and many fans believe the movie conveys the same spirit and message as the book.

There were some big changes, however, and most of these came from the book's most terrifying moments and details. Whereas the movie is both whimsical and magical, the book is much, much darker. How much more horrifying is the book? That depends how terrified you are by dough monsters, severed hands scratching at your window, and daggers hurled at your head. These are the most frightening moments from the Coraline book that didn't make it into the movie.

Coraline Encounters Something In The Tunnel Much More Ancient And Terrifying Than The Beldam
Coraline Encounters Something ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list ‘Coraline’ Is Even More Horrifying As A Book Than A Movie
Photo: HarperCollins

Unlike the magical glowing tunnel Coraline crawls through in the movie, entering the book's Other World requires Coraline to travel through a frightening, dark, and possibly living hallway. Gaiman writes, "Coraline took a deep breath and stepped into the darkness, where strange voices whispered and distant winds howled. She became certain that there was something in the dark behind her: something very old and very slow."

When she returns to rescue her parents, Coraline hears something moving beside her, keeping pace with her strides: "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." Worse yet, the hallway seemingly turns into a living creature during her escape back to the real world:

It seemed to her that [the hallway] went on for a longer distance than anything could possibly go. The wall she was touching felt warm and yielding now, and, she realized, it felt as if it were covered in a fine downy fur. It moved, as if it were taking a breath. She snatched her hand away from it. Winds howled in the dark. She was scared she would bump into something, and she put out her hand for the wall once more. This time what she touched felt hot and wet, as if she had put her hand in somebody's mouth, and she pulled it back with a small wail.

The Beldam Bleeds Black Ooze When The Cat Slashes Her Face
The Beldam Bleeds Black Ooze W... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list ‘Coraline’ Is Even More Horrifying As A Book Than A Movie
Photo: HarperCollins

In both the book and the film, Coraline throws the Cat at the Beldam's face as a deterrent so she can escape into the real world. What the movie leaves out, however, are the horrifying, visceral details of Gaiman's original version. In the book, bodily fluids gush from the Beldam's wounds: "The cat made a deep, ululating yowl and sank its teeth into the other mother's cheek. She was flailing at it. Blood ran from the cuts on her white face - not red blood but a deep, tarry black stuff."

Coraline's plan is successful, and as she and the Cat make a run for it, her feline friend draws more of the disurbing blood substitute: "It hissed, and swiped its scalpel-sharp claws at the other mother's face in one wild rake which left black ooze trickling from several gashes on the other mother's nose."

The Beldam Claims That When Her Mother Tried To Climb Out Of Her Grave, She Put Her Back In
The Beldam Claims That When He... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list ‘Coraline’ Is Even More Horrifying As A Book Than A Movie
Photo: HarperCollins

As in the movie, Coraline proposes a "finding-things game" to the Beldam, in which the young girl attempts to find her parents, as well as the souls of the lost children. If she wins, everyone the Beldam has captured will be set free, but if Coraline loses, the Beldam can replace her eyes with buttons and force her to stay in the Other World forever.

In the book, the Beldam is intrigued by Caroline's suggestion and agrees to the game, but Coraline is unsure the Other Mother will keep her word if Coraline wins. To convince Coraline of her integrity, the Beldam tells her she will swear on her own mother's grave. When Coraline asks if the Beldam's mother really has a grave, the creature answers by hinting at a horrible backstory: "I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back."

The Other Father Chases Coraline Through The Basement As An Enormous Dough Monster
The Other Father Chases Corali... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list ‘Coraline’ Is Even More Horrifying As A Book Than A Movie
Photo: Focus Features

One of the most frightening scenes in the book occurs when Coraline enters the Other House's basement - a scene left completely out of the movie, possibly because it's so disturbing. As Coraline searches for the third child's soul, the Other Mother tricks her into thinking it might be located in an unoccupied apartment in the house.

Inside, Coraline discovers a trapdoor in the floor, which leads to a damp basement where she finds a pile of rubbish with a human foot sticking out. Coraline pulls a curtain away to reveal a creature that resembles bread dough, yet it is also vaguely familiar. Gaiman writes:

Coraline made a noise, a sound of revulsion and horror, and, as if it had heard her and awakened, the thing began to sit up. Coraline stood there, frozen. The thing turned its head until both its black button eyes were pointed straight at her. A mouth opened in the mouthless face, strands of pale stuff sticking to the lips, and a voice that no longer even faintly resembled her father's whispered, "Coraline."

She quickly realizes the third soul isn't in the basement, and that the Beldam has transformed the Other Father into a hideous creature as punishment for giving Coraline too much information. Suddenly, the creature tells Coraline to run because "[the Beldam] wants me to hurt you, to keep you here forever... She is pushing me so hard to hurt you. I cannot fight her." Coraline must then escape the basement as the doughy creature chases after her.