The Nightmare Before Christmas


There is a place where different worlds intersect, worlds which revolve solely around the preparation of each major holiday, from Easter to Thanksgiving. Our antihero, Jack Skellington, leads the administration of scares of Halloween Town. It’s understood that the thin, skull-headed ghoul is the best at what he does, but he’s getting bored with it. Screams and darkness can take a toll on a guy, and he longs for something else, something more. One night, his wish is answered as he stumbles upon Christmas Town, which seems to be the opposite of what he’s come to dread: it’s colorful, it’s cheerful. It’s jolly merry good fun! Thus Jack decides to take over that so much more stimulating celebration, even though he and his Halloween friends don’t quite grasp its concept.

Ohmigod. This is AMAZING! Okay, so I’m late on this, but I only “really” watched it for the first time yesterday, between 2 and 4 in the morning (which was a perfectly odd time to do so). I had seen the film around the time it was released, but being only 14 or something at the time, I didn’t quite get it. I found it mostly odd, with too many songs. While, some 7 years later, I still find this to be one mightily bizarre creation, I’m now strongly enamoured of said quirkiness. And the songs. Damn, the music hardly ever stops in the film, but it’s all for the better! Through the years, I’ve grown into a big enthusiast of Danny Elfman’s work, which spans from the bulk of Tim Burton and Sam Raimi’s filmographies to the Simpsons theme and the scores of “Men In Black” and “Good Will Hunting”. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has got to be his crowning achievement, as it boasts not only plenty of his signature creepy, moody music but also bonafide catchy tunes, many of them sung by Elfman himself singing as Jack Skellington (otherwise voiced by Chris Sarandon).

It’s just song after song after song, and there’s hardly a dud among them. Being an animated film (stop-motion actually), some might dismiss it as “for kids”, but it doesn’t take long to see that this is a rather dark, complex film with little patience for family movie platitudes. The musical numbers have less in common with those of Disney cartoons than with the cult tunes from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, with which “Nightmare” shares an affinity for blending spookiness with offbeat humour. The film is adapted from characters and ideas from the wild imagination of Tim Burton, which were turned into a screenplay by Caroline Thompson (with whom Burton also wrote the wonderful “Edward Scissorhands”) and finally brought to life by director Henry Selick and a top team of designers, stop-motion animators and visual effects artists. There isn’t much of a story; besides how Skellington plans and executes his misguided take on Xmas, there’s a thin subplot about how a Bride of Frankeinstein-type girl falls for and tries to help Jack, as well as villains in the form of a wheelchair-bound scientist with direct access to his brains and the disgusting but festive Oogie Boogie Man, but most of it is inconsequential.

Yet that hardly matters, because the film delivers such a relentless flow of visual and musical wonders. The animation, set design and cinematography are endlessly fascinating, and you will still be have the songs stuck in your head for days! “The Nightmare before Christmas” is one addictive picture which you won’t be able to help but watch again and again, just to take in some more of its delightful eccentricities.