Illustration by Adeline Pericart
Throughout December we’ll be adding more Christmas films we love – so keep an eye on the website and feel free to add any of your own…
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Here were my two favourite holidays all rolled into one, and whether or not it was in fact Halloween or Christmas was irrelevant. It’s always a good time to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it’s never the wrong time to break into one of Danny Elfman’s quirky tunes. Unfortunately for my family, every Christmas, when the presents are under the tree screaming to be shaken and picked-at, they all receive a rousing rendition of ‘What’s This?!’ as I shuffle my way through them.
What sets The Nightmare Before Christmas apart from other animated classics is its characters. Burton’s vision is the fuel for the film’s fire and stop-motion veteran Henry Selick has managed to manipulate characters so vivid and effortlessly charming that they have seeped into popular culture and consciousness, popping up everywhere from popular song lyrics, to advertisements. As odd as it may seem to the first-time viewer, Jack and Sally are truly timeless characters.
What lies at the very heart of this film is an unlikely love story that is as inspiring and romantic as it is wacky, and a protagonist who craves change and desperately attempts to achieve happiness for all. His methods are misguided, his madness a certainty, but his well-meaning nature ensures that he is an instant hit with both children and parents.
This is the point at which Tim Burton’s unique style became instantly recognisable to audiences, and whilst Henry Selick is often overlooked as director, Burton’s subsequent works have positioned him as the master of the visual macabre. Here is an inspired idea taken to the very brink of imagination and back again, Halloween and Christmas could not be sociologically farther apart, and we learn here that their mixing isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s a refreshingly different look at things for the stressed out parents bemoaning the emergence of Christmas advertising on the morning of November 1st. Light-hearted but never silly, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a cinematic and artistic feat of skewed vision.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a refreshing use of the macabre for children, which never alienates adults, fashioning itself as the unexpected perfect Christmas family movie. The delight children take in what adults abject is evident in their Christmas wish lists, from dolls with various bodily functions to action figures to be dismantled in battle. Here is a film which shares in their odd delights, with just enough nods to the adult world to ensure complete enjoyment. Despite its various oddities, there is something refreshingly innocent about Halloween town and its inhabitants, that leaves us wondering who the ‘bad guys’ actually are.
Thankfully, I have since graduated to DVD, which is a lot harder to wear out. The Nightmare Before Christmas was re-released 3D in 2007, and with the showing of it in theatres each year since, the movie has seen a drastic spike in popularity. Whilst the addition of 3D was somewhat unnecessary, albeit excellently executed and doubtlessly enjoyed by children, here was a welcome return to the big screen for The Pumpkin King and his cohorts. The Nightmare Before Christmas is, for this reviewer, the perfect Christmas film to grow up with.
It’s undoubtedly not your average Christmas film, and that’s why I love it. Normal is often over-rated, and what exactly is normal about a large bearded man in a red suit breaking and entering once a year?
Oh wait, he’s got presents? Carry on fatty! Carry on!