An Animated Film Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas
By Sean Taylor
Muahahahahaha... good morning, day and evening readers. Kicking off my third animated film review, I bring an analysis of a film which is (I feel) appropriate considering the time of year; Halloween. This means that, in celebration of the holiday, I will be ranting to you more and taking up more of your time than usual. Yay! I hear you exclaim.
Yes, this is the night when everyone dresses up in mostly silly costumes that cost less than a pound/dollar/rouble and knock on doors, begging for moneys and sweeties. As I write this on the 31st October 2011 there are Halloweeners at my door even now, and I have decided to ignore them.
But why, I hear you cry in dismay. I'll tell you why. Although I do like Halloween very much, I don't like it enough to give strangers things for free, especially in a time of recession. Also when I was younger, what passed for a cape was actually a bin-bag – and the Halloween masks were always from last year, meaning they were never comfortable, I suffocated and they often smelled of the attic. Last year I dressed up as the Grim Reaper, and guess what? I didn't dress up the same this year. I actually intended to go over to the old folks' home and whisper in a Granny's ear “Your time has come,” but I concluded it was almost too harsh... almost. -evil smile-
Unfortunately this is also the time where the suited general-store loonies start waving the Christmas flags, and suddenly -whoa- everything is fake snow, Santa Clauses and pine trees. I believe -like so many others- that shops bring out Christmas decorations WAY too early. Perhaps this was the reason for the film I am reviewing tonight. Maybe it is now time to even get on topic. So turn off the lights, close the curtains and light a coal fire – it's time to review, Halloween style.
Tonight it is everyone's favourite Halloween/Christmas crossover, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Steering away from my usual spiel of Japanese anime, THIS epic by Tim Burton really captures the spirit of Halloween and Christmas in one fantastic movie.
As anyone will know who follows Tim Burton's work, he always likes to put a bizarre, gothic twist in his films. I have watched his rendition of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and I enjoyed it thoroughly. There could have been less singing in it though. Huh. That's maybe because it was a musical. Anyway...
The Nightmare Before Christmas goes back to when Halloween was real; that there really were monsters under your bed and witches roamed the sky on a moonlit night. The film sets this scene beautifully with all of Halloween's most prominent characters making an appearance. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a musical, and is a good one at that.
The film follows Jack Skellington, the 'Pumpkin King' of Halloween Town (Danny Elfman/Chris Sarandon) who leads a parade every year on Halloween night. But this year, Jack is tired of it, and seeks something new and exciting. He finds this in an old tree with a tree-shaped door on it, which leads him and his faithful ghost-dog Zero into a completely new world – Christmas Town. After being inspired by the sights and sounds he finds there, he attempts to recreate Christmas in Halloween Town by becoming his very own 'Sandy Claws'.
However trying to stop him is Sally (Catherine O'Hara) which, after receiving a dreadful portent of Jack's failure, believes she is doing it for Jack's own good. While all this is going on Santa is kidnapped, and the toys, the citizens of Halloween Town aren't... well, they're just not Christmassy.
My favourite character by far is Jack Skellington. He just enters the plot in such style! He is constructed in a complex and wonderful way; being torn between Halloween and a Christmas vision only he can see. Also the relationship between Doctor Finklestein (William Hickey) and Sally is fraught with emotional difficulties; if the good Doctor made Sally, does that REALLY make him her father? Sally is discontent with this, and longs to be with Jack. Jack Skellington's evil laugh is amazing. But not as good as mine. Hehehe...
Yes, ok, Jack Skellington was amazingly put together as a character (and literally) but I couldn't help thinking that Death should have been made more of a character. He seems so prominent in Halloween custom. Also the joy of Christmas simply doesn't fit with Halloween, which doesn't sit right with me but I still believe Burton pulled this off with aplomb.
The little musical number with which the film opens, 'This Is Halloween' introduces most of the characters which I thought was brilliant and the storyboard was seamless. Also, I write with great satisfaction that Marilyn Manson covered the song to celebrate the movie's 13th anniversary from its humble beginnings in 1993 (I couldn't believe it was 18 years old!). It is much heavier and less jaunty than the original, but I prefer it. This being a musical, the other songs were great, too but it was really this one which caught my eye (or ear).
To cut the head off the body of this review, The Nightmare Before Christmas was truly a wonder to behold. Stop-start motion films usually creep me out big-style (I don't know why) but this really hit the spot.