Every single year, right around the end of September, something very special starts to happen on T.V., social media and the internet. Thousands of ads for Halloween-themed products, movies and shows almost subconsciously float into the minds of millions of Americans with all the grace of a precariously placed cartoon anvil. While this overload of Halloween-tinged stimuli may berate your senses, there may just be one particular subset of movies or a singular movie in this case, that appears time and time again during the month of October that you just never get sick of. For me, the movie that I rewatch every year is Tim Burton’s "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
Just as a disclaimer to start: I have no nostalgic attachment to this movie whatsoever-- in fact the first time I watched it from start to finish was in 2014, so everything I have to say about "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is coming from a genuinely nuanced and “mature” place.
1. The Visual Style
Tim Burton’s work is usually visible from a mile away; if you’ve ever seen any of his movies, you’re likely intimately aware of the macabre stylings, grotesque character designs and gaudy neon colors that permeate his worlds. What makes "Nightmare" so different from Tim Burton’s other films is just how masterfully those simple elements are fused together. Halloweentown is spooky and definitely a little weird for a supposed kids’ movie, but something about it is just so wildly charming with its frightening denizens which harken back to the classic era of movie monsters. Conversely, Christmastown is beautifully realized through clean, varnished colors and simple yet cute elf citizens. Simply put, this movie is wonderful to look at.
2. The Soundtrack
Charming doesn’t even begin to describe just how great this movie’s score truly is. While not nearly as complex in comparison to say, a Sondheim musical, the instantly memorable music that accompanies many of the film’s equally memorable scenes captures both the spirit of Christmas and Halloween in one fell swoop. Danny Elfman’s score elicits joy, wonder, terror, energy and discovery all while being catchy to boot. Take “What’s This?” for example: this track in particular is excellent for so many reasons. In this song, Jack is finally experiencing true happiness after being in a slump for so long and every single part of the song echoes this feeling of wonder in its purest form.
3. The Animation and Characters
While this could be in part again due to Tim Burton, the characters in this film are sincerely fantastic but not simply because of their actual personalities but rather how they interact together. Henry Selick, the director of this film, is an expert in stop motion and it really shows the more you actually watch the film. While the characters themselves are interesting looking and beautifully realized, the true magic of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is just how the characters move and emote. Selick’s masterful command of the puppets makes them seem very lively and in a way, much more human than other movies shot in a similar style. From Jack’s gangly, skeletal swagger to Sally’s gentle stride to Oogie Boogie’s ethereal and cocksure gait, this film’s characters are expertly animated.
If you’ve never seen "The Nightmare Before Christmas" take the hour and a half and do yourself a favor. Go and watch it, please. For a film that’s nearly twenty two years old, you’ll never believe your eyes or maybe, your eyes will be delighted again to see such a wonderful film.