Over the past month we’ve written about truly great villains. But I don’t think any of them are nearly as scary as the Other Mother from Coraline. The movie itself is surprisingly scary and creepy, which is of course what distinguishes it. It’s my personal favorite stop-motion movie and a huge factor in that is the Other Mother. She’s a great villain for plenty of reasons we’ll analyze right now.
After we get to see Coraline’s everyday life and the way her real parents treat her, it’s obviously delightful to get to see this other world where everything’s fun and the food is delicious and her Other Parents give her so much attention. A recurring theme in my favorite villains is that they know how to exploit the hero’s flaws and desires because it makes them much more scary.
Here, we see a perfect example. The Other Mother doesn’t have to kidnap Coraline. The girl is literally running to see her every night. She’s giving her everything she’s missing in her normal life. This makes the Beldam (as she is also known) even scarier. She’s offering our protagonist everything she wants for free. And as Tiana taught us all, you need to work to earn things in life. Otherwise you just get what you want and not what you need and that means you’re probably a villain.
Not only does our villain of the day constantly tempt Coraline, once her true form is revealed it’s even worse because we feel betrayed. That’s part of what makes villains like Lotso so despicable. With classic villains like Jafar or Scar, you always know they’re evil. You fear for the protagonist because you know they’re going to do something evil. But with Lotso and the Other Mother, it’s trickier. They both offer our heroes everything they want. It seems almost too good to be true.
Which makes it even worse when they reveal their true colors and makes you hate them even more. Also, look at that image. That is a scarily excellent design. That’s just not okay.
Finally, another good trait (bad trait?) every villain needs is to be a little like a cockroach. They have to be tough to get rid of. Every time you think Coraline’s beaten this monstrous being and you start breathing normally again, the Beldam strikes again. Which obviously makes it even better when they do truly beat her and send that claw down the well. If we draw the Lotso-parallell again it’s the same. The Toys almost escape him but he catches up. They can escape the incinerator but he stops them. Time after time he refuses to be beaten. And then he’s caught and you feel some kind of vindictive pleasure.
So in conclusion, Lotso and the Other Mother should hook up and be the most terrifying couple in the history of animation. They will seduce us with everything we’ve ever wanted and then betray us and scare us and be evil. They truly aren’t good people.
Pablo Ruiz is a Colombian filmmaker. Movies like Toy Story, The Lion King and Aladdin made him fall in love with the art form and now he hopes to dedicate his life to telling stories, hopefully for Pixar (if they go back to doing original films).
Some of his ambitions are making a movie as emotionally impacting as Toy Story 3, meeting JK Rowling, and petting a million dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@PabloRV7).