What’s this?

In 1993, around Halloween, Buena Vista Pictures (now known as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures), released The Nightmare Before Christmas. The film was a stop-motion musical, taking on complex themes and blending Christmas cheer with Halloween fear. The film went on to become a success both with audiences and critics, and became a staple for two end-of-year holidays. Directed by Henry Selick, who directed the fabulous horror film CoralineThe Nightmare Before Christmas is most associated with Tim Burton. Burton only wrote the poem the film is based on, and he created the characters.

The Nightmare Before Christmas stars Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, and Paul Reubens. The film is written by novelist and screenwriter Caroline Thompson. I watch this film about once a year, but the question remains: is this a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie?

Jack Skellington aka The Pumpkin King (Sarandon) is a resident of Halloweentown. He’s bored with the same-old, same-old in his village. When he gets displaced to Christmas Town, he is overjoyed at the Christmas cheer, and tries to bring those traditions to his town, with disastrous results.

The Nightmare Before Christmas manages to bring together two disparate holidays into one movie. The film celebrates Christmas traditions, but with a horror-tinged twist. The joy of Christmas doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from the mischief of Halloween. That’s what I like about this movie, or at least one of the things that makes me return to it year after year.

Nightmare Before Christmas

Stop-motion animation always looks timeless. The aesthetic looks like an old dream. The Nightmare Before Christmas looks so beautiful, even today. The design of the film is dark and mysterious, but still whimsical. I can see why people think of this movie as a Tim Burton movie; the Burton style influences the film. But Selick’s contribution should not be discounted. As seen with this later works, especially Coraline, Selick has the ability to create worlds that feel different and similar all at once. Christmas Town might be Jack’s ideal, but it’s not too different from Halloween Town. It’s just the decor that’s different.

I think the movie can be a little scary. I definitely had nightmares when I was kid watching this movie. The Oogie Boogie is dark, almost too dark, but he’s a crucial part of the story.

One of the most memorable parts of The Nightmare Before Christmas is the soundtrack. Musical numbers like “What’s This?” (my favorite), “This is Halloween,” and the scary “Oogie Boogie Song” are memorable and imaginatively filmed. Danny Elfman’s music just fits so perfectively into this half-whimsical, half scary world. The voice cast is wonderful too. Catherine O’Hara, known for her work in comedies, brings a sweet sentimentaltiy to the film. But Chris Sarandon is a knockout in the lead role; Jack is a compelling character. He’s full of longing and engaging in his search.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic, regardless of which holiday you watch it on. It’s really joyful, with an inventive look and some amazing songs. This story is simple, and sweet. The Nightmare Before Christmas is an awesome movie, one that brings back so many good memories from my childhood but still stands on its own without nostalgia. The film is currently streaming on Netflix.

Retro Review: 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is a Dual Holiday Classic
Whether you watch it in October or December, 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is a film to cherish.
  • Gorgeous animation
  • Excellent voice cast
  • Memorable songs
  • It might be too scary for kids
9Overall Score
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About The Author

Manish first came to love horror through Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Roman Polanski's Repulsion. He still sometimes has to sleep with the TV on after catching the latest scary flick. Manish loves ghost stories, psycho-thrillers and gory horror-comedies. You can check out more of Manish's writing at his personal blog "Mathur & the Marquee" or on twitter @hippogriffrider.