The Nightmare Before Christmas

All my former emo kids, get in formation, for we are gonna be talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas. This movie came out in 1993, exactly 23 years ago; a very fine age if you ask me. These were the good years, beautiful babies were born, some of these babies even became writers out there in the world… Okay, let’s be serious now. This week at The Film Queue we are discussing horror films and I am the weakling of the writers for I cannot watch a scary movie without crying and having nightmares for at least a week… So why not dive into the cult movie that sparked the emo fiber in so many of us instead?

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The early 90’s were the prime years for Tim Burton as he was going strong with Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and the two Batman’s. The world was intrigued by his dark and whimsical point of view and his previous work on some short films with Disney gave him the opportunity of producing and writing The Nightmare Before Christmas. What he helped the director Henry Selick create is an animated film filled with clashing imagery. But what the movie is probably most known for is the incredible soundtrack. Danny Elfman not only voiced Jack Skellington, the main character, but also composed the wildly popular songs of the film. The music completes the storyline and makes for a children movie that can also be appreciated by adults. But the question we’ve all asked ourselves time and time again remains: is this a Halloween or a Christmas movie?

At the beginning of the film, we follow Jack Skellington who just triumphed and organized another wonderful Halloween. But he has grown tired of always doing the same thing, always reliving the same frights and creating the same scary numbers. As he’s walking around the forest, feeling angsty and lost, he stumbles upon a few trees who have odd paintings on them. He opens one randomly and falls into a new world filled with wonders he has never seen. Snow, gleeful children and colored lights everywhere. For the first time, he experiences Christmas and is enticed by the idea. As he goes back to Halloween Town, he will try to convince everyone to join him in his quest to recreate the happiness he witnessed.

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In this film, Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s vision mixes the colorful imagery of Christmas with the creepy darkness of Halloween. The movie never becomes fully one genre, it always floats in between, making it appropriate to watch no matter the holiday. The Nightmare Before Christmas is not creepy per say, it stays a children movie with a simple premise, but the iconic songs keep you pulled in. I think that the movie became so wildly popular because of how entertaining it is and also because of Jack’s fight to find happiness and cheer. The outside world can be so dreary and gray, and Christmas seems like such a colorful world. The story becomes a metaphor for how humans always seem to find the grass greener on the other side and it’s something that we can all relate to. 

I also think it became extremely popular amongst the emo culture because of the odd and whimsical world that we discover and because it was an excuse to enjoy both the darkness of Halloween and slowly accept the jolly of Christmas. (As emo kids, we weren’t really allowed to enjoy holidays other than Halloween, as they didn’t involve as much creepiness and/or pieces of black clothing.) Or really, people only loved it because they had this weird crush on Jack Skellington. I don’t know.

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