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The Nightmare Before Christmas – Movie Review: Christmas Meets Halloween in Tim Burton’s Classic Animation

Published by Willis Fesenbek

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Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas occupies a very specific niche in the film market for Christmas horror animation. Now in 3D, the visual impact will be even greater. The Nightmare Before Christmas showcases the best of Tim Burton’s macabre imagination.

The Plot of The Nightmare Before Christmas

Prince of the poltergeists, Jack Skellington, discovers Christmas being celebrated and hears in particular about the revered ‘Father Christmas’. He is so taken with this new holiday that he decides to try to recreate it himself, along with the other monsters. A plot is hatched to kidnap the real Santa and replace him with Jack Skellington, who means well, but has a skewed idea of what Christmas should be about.

The sight of a skeleton with a pumpkin head in a Santa Suit, combining hohoho with a cackling hehehe is humorously sinister. Add to that skeletal reindeer and giving totally inappropriate presents to terrified children and therein lies a Christmas classic. The film is not so much horror as humour, but a wicked sense of humour nonetheless.

While perhaps not suited to a very young audience, this is scary enough for juniors and funny enough for all ages to enjoy it. It is not the feel-good film that Love Actually or Miracle on 34th Street might be, but it is definitely a film for the whole family – especially if that family includes young boys.

The Cast and Crew for The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas has excellent music from composer, Danny Elfman and exceptional charisma, thanks to Director Henry Selick.

The outstanding score from Danny Elfman sets the animation off in a way that very few composers would be able to achieve. The childlike fascination of “What’s This?” compared to the discordant “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” drive the story and give the whole film an edgy quality. The aptly named Elfman even sings as the voice of the poltergeist protagonist.

He has since worked with Burton on The Corpse Bride and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as working on a huge range of projects, including Desperate Housewives and Spiderman 3, but he will perhaps always be best known as the writer of The Simpsons’ Theme Tune.

The animation, directed by Henry Selick, is a class apart from other animations. Visually, the whole film is a treat, with each shot thoughtfully set up and each movement carefully thought through and brought to life. The expressions on the characters faces, some without facial features, capture a deep sense of longing or anger or happiness.

Selick achieved success in 2009 with his animation Coraline, which still bears the stamp of much of Burton’s influence, taking advantage both of 3D and of the characterisation that model animation allows compared to computers. Selick’s next project is Here Be Monsters based on Alan Snow’s best-selling book of the same title, though no release date for it has been announced as yet.

Pick of Christmas Movies

The Nightmare Before Christmas is undoubtedly one of the best Christmas films to watch over the festive period. No other film combines quite the sense of humour, adventure and visual impact that Jack Skellington and his companions capture. It is a fun and dark twist on the consumer Christmas, as well as the consumer Halloween.

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