Tim Burton’s (although directed by Henry Selick) family-favourite The Nightmare Before Christmas, released in 1993, is the ultimate Christmas film and arguably his greatest piece of work. Christmas films come and go, some favourites include Home Alone, Die Hard, Gremlins, and The Santa Clause, but only a few stay with you after the final credits. Nightmare is one of those films.
Set in the fictional world of Halloween town, the film follows the character of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, who every Halloween scares children in the real world to celebrate the festival. However, Jack becomes tired of this yearly endeavour and upon discovering Christmas Town, falls in love with the holiday and decides to turn his attentions to this instead, usurping the role of Santa Claus to disastrous consequences. What ensues if the perfect mix of children’s horror and Christmas cheer.
The stop-motion animation is a delight to watch, as Halloween Town is brought to life, which is both enchanting and haunting at the same time. Jack’s role as both protagonist and antagonist is believable and his child-like naivety makes him one of my favourite children’s films characters. His figure is imposing yet delicate, scary yet wonderful.
Whilst many people may be turned off at the idea of a musical, the film seamlessly moves from witty dialogue into song. The music is just as evocative as the images and the songs will be in your head days after you’ve watched it. You won’t find the Boogeyman singing a blues-styled song to Santa Clause anywhere else.
All the characters, although obviously grown out of children’s nightmares, are endearing and are wonderful to behold. As all good children’s films should, Nightmare is for the adults as much as it is for the children. Whilst the kids will be in awe and inspired by the world in front of them, adults can enjoy the comedy and marvel at the magnificent animations. With more charm than Edward Scissorhands and more substance than Corpse Bride, Nightmare really is Burton’s masterpiece.
Many films may come close to having that key Christmas moment. From Die Hard (Yippee ki yay mother f****r and ‘Now I have a machine gun’) and the The Snowman (With its iconic coundtrack), to It’s A Wonderful Life (The Bridge scene we all know) and Love Actually (Lincoln and Knightley with those cue cards). However, Nightmare has the whole package. Fun, scary, and beautifully made. A true masterpiece.