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Coraline

Year: 2009
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Henry Selick
Producer: Henry Selick
Writer: Henry Selick/Neil Gaiman
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Keith David, Ian McShane

Without the big studio licensing people breathing down his neck that stifled Burton himself because of $100m production budgets (like happened with his humdrum Alice in Wonderland ), protégé Selick's Burton-esque imagination is given full flight.

It's everything you know from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice taken to the extreme, with a gnarled, gothic, surreal vision of horror. Better yet, it's bolstered by a strong idea. When young Coraline (Fanning) moves to a creepy remote house with her too-busy-to-care parents, she finds a secret doorway that leads into a mirror world where her loving mother, cooks delicious meals, her father dotes on her and everything seems perfect.

But there's a dark side. Everyone in this world has buttons for eyes, and if Coraline wants to stay with her mirror-image family, she has to have her eyes plucked out and replaced with buttons too. When she resists, her mother (Hatcher) become increasingly dictatorial, eventually morphing into the spider-like evil overlord of the world in the climax.

Selick's visuals are a delight of realist extrapolation, and from the enormous busted faded vaudeville stars to the contortionist Russian neighbour upstairs it's all a fever dream of riotous shapes, colours and movement. Subversive of cartoon forms and effectively dark and scary, it's also not for very small kids.

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