Today I watched Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Somewhere in the realms of fantasy there are towns dedicated to all the Holidays and this story focuses on the one christened Halloween Town. In Halloween Town, Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king, which more a cultural title as he helps organize the ultimate scares for their holiest of seasons. But Jack feels a deep discontent lately as the most recent Halloween ends with him suffering an ennui that leads him to wander far out of town. In the grand forest that surrounds Halloween Town he finds a strange copse of trees which each bear a door in the shape of a holiday symbol. Jack falls into Christmas Town and suddenly experiences a joy he has never known. Now he is driven to bring this joy back to his hometown, but the consequences will prove disastrous.
While this film is usually attributed to it’s producer Tim Burton, I think that undersells the director, Selick’s, contributions to the film. While it is certainly Burton material, there is a certain movement and flow to the work that is unlike anything else Burton has worked on, and I attribute this to the director’s focus on briskness and speed. Everything comes very quickly in this movie, there is a certain speed here that is quite uncharacteristic of the musical it is. Yet despite this there is an attention to detain that brings out both the macabre and the jolly.
That unconventional blend of the joyous and the grotesque really is this film’s appeal and the focus of it’s deep wit. The film exists at the crossroads where Dr. Seuss-esque whimsy and harrowing German expressionism meet and it happens to be a rather uproarious place. A shame then that the actual music of this musical is quite repetitive, it is very Danny Elfman all the time and he seems to lack some much needed diversity in his songwriting here. That being said, it is hardly bad music, and does fit the aesthetic. Said aesthetic is really the reason this film has remained in popular consciousness anyways, and is wholly worth the watch. 4/5