So here we are: the final week of the Halloween season. It’s almost bittersweet — and in this, our last seven days together, it’s time to bring the Halloween goodies fast and furious. We’re gonna get real scary over the next week, so before we do that, let’s take a breather and enjoy a Halloween flick for the whole family: Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s stop-motion classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.
There’s nothing new about a film hitching something sinister to the iconic imagery of the Christmas season; Bob Clark practically invented the modern slasher with Black Christmas back in 1974 (and his landmark A Christmas Story introduced a thin vein of subversion to the cheeriest of holidays), and the ridiculous Silent Night, Deadly Night series explored the terrors of a murderous Santa Claus. But The Nightmare Before Christmas is a different beast entirely: an optimistic, ultimately sweet movie, it combines the most heartwarming qualities of both holidays into one glorious spectacle, friendly for kids and imaginative adults. Given the tendency of straight-up horror movies to turn the mundane sinister (The Ruins: “The plants… are EVIL!”;Pulse: “Technology… is EVIL!”;Devil: “Elevators… are EVIL!”), it’s nice to have a seasonally-appropriate movie that still manages to keep your childhood glee for the most enthusiastic of holidays intact.
The eternal debate, of course, is whether or not Nightmare Before Christmas qualifies as a Halloween movie or a Christmas one, and as such, when is appropriate to watch it. Since this seems to be the topic of much discussion, I will now offer you the definitive answer: both. The answer is both.
Scary monsters. Solemn, opining skeletons. (Jack Skellington really is a thing of beauty — his clipped, soliloquy-prone speaking voice and sonorous, Danny Elfman-provided tenor perfectly fit his debonair gait and sharp, angular choice of tuxedo perfectly.) Portly Santas, jolly elves, a blanket of snow; spiders, ghouls, creepy-crawlies. Everything you loved as a child about these two holidays is lovingly represented; it’s either a Halloween flick for softies or an edgy Christmas one, but either way, it’s a gorgeously-animated, lovingly-crafted representation of all the wonder the holiday can hold.
Extra Credit: For another kid-friendly – yet awesome – take on Halloween, look no further than Gil Kenan’s perfect Monster House. It’s a relatively-innocent haunted house story, but Kenan gets all the particulars – the autumnal atmosphere, the jump scares, the childlike sense of adventure – just right.
More 31 Days of Halloween:
Day 1: May
Day 2: The Night of the Hunter
Day 3: The Descent
Day 4: Night of the Demons
Day 5: Them
Days 6 & 7: Night of the Living Dead // Dawn of the Dead
Day 8: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Day 9: A Tale of Two Sisters
Day 10: When a Stranger Calls // Amusement
Day 11: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Day 12: The Orphanage
Day 13: I Know What You Did Last Summer
Day 14: Dressed to Kill
Day 15: Deep Red
Day 16: Jeepers Creepers
Day 17: Black Sabbath
Day 18: V/H/S
Day 19: Sleepaway Camp
Days 20-22: The Mist, The Shining, & Silver Bullet
Days 23-24: Splinter & The Host