IN SELECT THEATERS OCTOBER 28TH – Although Henry Selick does a damn fine job of directing what is one of the most entertaining stop motion animated films, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has Tim Burton’s stamp all over it. It’s about an outcast, a love for the Gothic and Halloween, and it’s unabashedly menacing. Though Henry Selick’s animated movie was originally touted to kids, the film is very much a dark and harrowing narrative about monsters from the Halloweentown infiltrating the Christmastown, and using the traditions and rituals to terrorize random victims. One montage even features kids getting very creepy presents like a shrunken head, and a snake. Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king who is the anti-hero that finds himself restless with Halloween and accidentally becomes the villain when he falls in love with Christmas.
Though Jack Skellington is essentially tired of the monotony of celebrating Halloween all the time, he begins to lose sight of why he fell in love with it in the first place and begins to inadvertently wreak havoc in Christmastown. Chris Sarandon is nearly unrecognizable in his role as the valiant and weird character Jack Skellington. Crafted very much out of the mold of Tim Burton and Edward Gory, Skellington is a skeleton with an arachnid-like physique that uses Halloween to express his skills for scaring. Drifting off one night to think about his position in the town he lives in, he finds Christmastown and is taken with the bright colors, festive mood, and rituals like gift giving.
Before long he’s taking over for Santa Claus, while a trio of minions named Lock, Stock, and Barrel, kidnap Santa and turn him over to the dreaded Oogie Boogie. Along the way, the beautiful rag doll Sally (brilliantly voiced by Catherine O’Hara), falls in love with Jack and tries to undo the damage by Jack and the people of Halloweentown. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is such a remarkable and oddly beautiful film. It’s not difficult to figure out why so many people have fallen in love with what Burton and Selick have created, as the mythology is so wide in scope and intoxicating. Not to mention there’s just so much imagination in Halloweentown, you not only love to see what Jack Skellington is up to, but you want to actually love in this world. You want to get to know everyone, including Jack’s ghost dog Zero, whose nose is a glowing Jack O Lantern.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” works as a Halloween and Christmas movie, conveying a wonderful sense of whimsy, Gothic charm, morbid beauty, as well as a ton of Burton’s trademarks. Burton gives the audience his kind of children’s film, and it’s absolutely stellar.