Sunday, October 19, 2014

Family Movie Night: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Title: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Director: Henry Selick
Original Release: 1993
Choice: Purple Penguin's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
At its heart, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a very simple concept: what would happen if Halloween took over Christmas?  From that premise, a rich, textured universe was created in which each of seven different holidays inhabit a world all their own.  Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon, sung by Danny Elfman) is the superstar of Halloween Town.  Despite the worship-level appreciation he enjoys in his own realm, he longs for more.  He hatches a plan to kidnap Santa Claus and deliver Christmas presents in his place. 

This has long been one of our family favorites.  We own a DVD copy and there was a stretch a few years back when Purple Penguin was watching it daily.  As it was frequently on in the background, I know the sounds of the film better than I do the sights.  So there are a few details I had missed before this most recent viewing - particularly the door with the fire cracker!  There is a circle of trees in the woods, each with a door leading to a Holiday Town: a pumpkin for Halloween, a tree for Christmas, a heart for Valentine's Day, a shamrock for St. Patrick's Day, an egg for Easter and a turkey for Thanksgiving.  (Rather USA-centric, isn't it?)  I'd thought that was it.  Au contraire!  There's a door with a fire cracker for Independence Day.  Well, what do you know?

One has to appreciate the marketing genius of a movie suitable for both Halloween and Christmas, the two biggest consumer holidays on the calendar.  My favorite scene is at the very end of the trailer:

I can't help being curious about the other Holiday Towns but Tim Burton, the genius behind the whole concept, has always been very protective of this story and resistant to the idea of sequels.  If it ever does happen, I certainly hope Elfman will be brought along for the ride.  Danny Elfman, former front man for Oingo Boingo, has carved out quite a niche for himself in the worlds of film and television.  He has scored nearly all of Burton's films and has worked on many others as well.  He has been nominated for four Oscars.  For all of his success on the big screen, his strongest legacy may be The Simpsons theme song.


My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. I'd like it better if it wasn't just another variation of Edward Scissorhands.

    And I'm pretty sure the trees with the doors were stolen right out of Narnia.

    1. I must respectfully disagree with you on both of these points. While there are thematic and atmospheric similarities between Nightmare and Scissorhands, the basic stories are different. Edward is the social outcast trying to find a place in the world. Jack is the restless prince.

      Also, the media are different. Stop motion animation is a tall order. I'll take Nick Park's work over Burton's any day but it's still impressive.

      Also, C.S. Lewis most definitely did not invent the portal to another world idea. That one's up for grabs.

  2. I am not a fan of Tim Burton's movies. I turned this one off.
    I always assume I am the only person in America who is not enthralled with his work.
    I would give this movie a 2

    cheers, parsnip

    1. I'm not enthralled with his work. He's been making, basically, the same movie over and over again ever since Scissorhands. And it's even worse when he strays from that, like with his Planet of the Apes.

    2. I don't like all of his movies. Pee Wee, Batman, Big Fish... meh. But I like this one and I have a fondness for the absurdity of Mars Attacks, too. I prefer his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the older film, too, as it sticks closer to the book - apart from the whole evil dentist father thing, that is.

  3. Love Tim Burton's work, and this movie was magical ... in a dark, dark way. ;)

  4. I loved this movie and I'd like to watch it again.

  5. I'll defend Burton's right to have a defined style. I like Nightmare Before Christmas, a breakthrough in modern culture's knack for integrating various themes (which I think is half the reason super heroes are so popular at the movies these days).

    1. Many of the themes are old but the basic premise is quite original, I think. Burton definitely has an unusual creative vision. Sometimes it works for me. Sometimes it doesn't. Nightmare works.

  6. I like this movie. I think Tim Burton is brilliant. One year The Hurricane dressed as Sally for a Halloween party. Her costume was excellent.