The Nightmare Before Christmas: An essential watch for this spooky season

Brynna Quigley, Film & TV Editor

Critic Rating: 5/5

As Halloween approaches, and everyone gets in the mood to watch their favorite seasonal movies, it’s important that in order to really get into the spirit of the spooky season, people set aside time to watch one of the best Halloween films created: The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas was written and produced by Tim Burton, known for a variety of critically acclaimed films, most of which have darker and spookier themes. Directed by Henry Selik, (also known for his work as the director of the famous claymation Coraline), The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy, released on October 13, 1993. The story takes place in a fantasy world known as Halloween Town, following the adventures of the main protagonist, Jack Skellington, voiced by Chris Sarandon. Although Jack is Halloween Town’s beloved “Pumpkin King”, he becomes bored of his repetitive routine of scaring people in the real world (our world). He ventures out and discovers Christmas Town, which inspires him to infiltrate Christmas by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking his place instead. However, a Halloween town attempting to recreate Christmas turns the joyous holiday into a horrifying catastrophe. 

One aspect that makes The Nightmare Before Christmas as influential as it is, is the creative use of scenery. Tim Burton shows throughout his cinematography his ability to create mystical, elaborate fantasy worlds, and does so perfectly in The Nightmare Before Christmas. In ordinary animation films, characters are drawn. But here, every detail of the scenery and characters are carefully crafted and constructed. You can see the attention to detail; every stick and stone crafted and pasted together to create town squares, houses, and forests. Even the characters’ movements are slightly choppier, with less range than a typical animation, and you can tell the effort that was put in shot by shot to have the film come together as a whole. But not only is the scenery in the film detailed; it’s visually aesthetic as well. Darker tones of black, orange, purple, and green are used to capture the Halloween aesthetic. Even smaller details, like the sun in Halloween town having the face of a typical jack-o-lantern, and the common illustration of swirls (seen on things like Sally’s dress and on the spiral mountain) all come together to capture the essence of what a Halloween Town would look and feel like.

Another aspect to note would be the characters themselves, and the message of the movie, which both portray a deeper and more positive message. Jack Skellington, finds himself bored and suffocated by routine and traditional activities, which contrasts to his enthusiastic and outgoing nature. He ventures out to find something different and finds Christmas Town, where he comes to the conclusion that in order to cure his boredom, he must change his situation to eventually become someone else; in this case, Santa Clause. But in his brave decision to step out of his comfort zone, he fails to listen to and acknowledge the potential consequences to his actions, and it ends in disaster. However, even in the face of adversity, Jack maintains his enthusiasm, acknowledging his mistake, and takes action to correct it. We see his character development in his song later in the film, titled Poor Jack. At the end of his adventure he learns the most important message of the film; that you can improve, but there is no one better for you to be besides yourself. 

Aside from the intricately crafted scenery and the important message, The Nightmare Before Christmas really ties the progression of the plot together with a beautifully composed soundtrack. Aside from the song What’s This, when Jack enters Christmas Town, each song in the film has a spooky, ominous sound, matching perfectly with the film’s visual aesthetic. Even the lyrics themselves include clever puns and play on words to include aspects of humor. All these elements combined make for a truly enjoyable film. Appealing to children, adults, and of course teenagers, The Nightmare Before Christmas is the best Halloween movie to watch this October.