Coraline is one of the most imaginative and entertaining stop-motion films of the century - but it's also a spine-chilling nightmare designed to traumatize young children. Coraline is really an animated horror film masquerading as a kids' movie, which many viewers may not know before sitting down to watch the seemingly family-friendly film.
Even from the opening credits, something is seemingly off - rarely do kids' movies start with a pair of needle hands surgically disassembling a stuffed doll. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Coraline's disturbing imagery. The whole movie is a fever dream of quirky humor and hideous terrors, and these are the most creepy and bizarre parts of the film.
Perhaps the most horrific aspect of the movie is the Other Mother, a creature living in a world parallel to Coraline's. Known as the Beldam by her victims, the Other Mother is a button-eyed monstrosity that first appears to Coraline in the form of her mother.
Eventually, we see the Beldam's true self - a monstrous beast with needles for hands. We get a good look at her pointy digits in the opening credit sequence, but it's the final image of her spider form that will likely haunt viewers long after the credits roll.
The Beldam feeds on children to survive, and she accomplishes this by spying on children in the real world. She uses the information she gleans to create a fantasy world tailored specifically for them. If the Beldam is successful, the children will want to stay in the Other World and never return to their real parents.
In order for the children to stay with her in the Other World, they must agree to let the Beldam take their eyes and replace them with buttons. She stitches the buttons over each child's eyes before consuming them, leaving nothing but a lost, tormented soul. All the souls of the children she's consumed are trapped in the Other World until Coraline sets them free.
Everyone in the real world has an Other-World doppelgänger, except for Coraline. This includes her friend and next-door neighbor Wybie, whom she constantly ridicules for talking too much. In the Other World, however, Wybie has button eyes and can't speak.
This doesn't stop him from helping Coraline escape the Other Mother, but he pays for his actions. The Beldam sows his mouth shut, leaving him with a horrifyingly broken smile.
As more is revealed about the Other World, the audience begins to understand just how dark Coraline is willing to go. At one point, Coraline is trapped by the Other Mother and meets the souls of the Beldam's former victims - children that she lured into her clutches.
Coraline speaks with them and hears their stories, including one from a girl revealed to be the twin sister of Wybie's grandmother. The discovery is both disturbing and a little touching, but it's certainly an intense spectacle for children to witness.