by Fallon Morey
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Directed by Henry Selick
Buena Vista International
In this town we call home, everybody hail to the pumpkin song.
We open Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) in Halloween Town, where the residents are vampires, monsters, zombies, and other spooky denizens. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is our main character, a tall spindly skeleton in the midst of a personality crisis.
Despite his status as the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, he laments that “year after year, it’s the same routine, and I grow so weary of the sound of screams.” His desires are answered when he discovers a set of doors in the forest, each marked with a symbol. Jack chooses the door with a Christmas tree on it, and steps through into Christmas Town.
Inspired by jollity he finds there, Jack shares his findings with Halloween Town and decides to recreate Christmas with the help of his fellow citizens. Despite warnings of doom from his girlfriend, a rag doll named Sally (Catherine O’Hara), Jack enlists those around him in gift wrapping, singing carols, and other Christmas prep work. The results are predictably horrifying, culminating in Jack’s final misguided effort to kidnap Santa (Edward Ivory)—who ironically everyone thinks is a monster named “Sandy Claws”—and bring him back to Halloween Town. Santa’s captors deliver him instead to antagonist Oogie Boogie (Ken Page).
With no Santa, and Christmas fast approaching, Jack tries to take up the mantle, but the world’s citizens at large are horrified by the Halloweenish take on the gifts. Jack is shot out of the sky by the military, and ultimately Santa is rescued from Oogie Boogie who, it turns out, is nothing than a sack filled with bugs and a snake (shudder). No worse for wear, and only slightly annoyed at Jack for nearly ruining Christmas, Santa sets things to rights across the world, and leaves Halloween Town with a gift: its first snowfall.
Many reading this will likely fall into the camp of those who await the Halloween movie season all year, but we all have that friend (or two) who anxiously wait for Hallmark to start their annual rundown of Christmas films. What, then, could be a better compromise than mix of these two? Tim Burton’s films (Beetlejuice  and Sweeney Todd  among many others) are known for gothic subject material and settings. Burton reportedly wrote the plot of the movie first as a poem, which he pitched to Disney nearly ten years before it was produced. Though The Nightmare Before Christmas has song-and-dance in true Disney style, Disney opted to release this movie under Touchstone, likely due to its spookier elements, and morbid plot points. While not the scariest movie in our 31-day lineup, it’s a delightful mix of the horrific and the whimsical, perfect to break up the other terrifying things you’ll be watching this month.