‘Tis may be the season for romantic comedies set in idyllic English cottages or whimsical tales of elves lost in New York, but if you’re in the mood for something a little more gory, we’ve got your back.
We guide you through 14 days of Christmas Horror. Today, we’re arguing The Nightmare Before Christmas is, in fact, a Christmas film.
Is it a Christmas film? Is it a Halloween film? No one can seemingly agree whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is appropriate to be watched at the end of October or perhaps during the festive season.
I say, live your best life and watch it during both holidays. The story of the Pumpkin King falling in love with Christmas is certainly appropriate watching any time of the year, but it’s so filled with Christmas magic, we’d argue it’s more of a Christmas film than anything else.
Is it a horror? Perhaps not, but it’s freaky, unsettling imagery is enough to warrant it a place here. Jack Skellington, our beloved Pumpkin King, was the number one source of nightmares for me as a child when I spotted the ‘What’s This’ clip at the very end of my The Lion King VHS tape. His ghoulish, empty eye sockets and skeletal appearance combined with the movements of stop-motion animation are still a tad disturbing even to a 31-year-old me.
And then there’s Sally. A rag-doll creation by Dr. Finkelstein, Sally’s numerous stitches around her body suggest a healthy amount of body horror. Was she conscious and self-aware while she was being put together so crudely? Are the extra stitch lines on her face from cruelty or an attempt to make her more beautiful?
Not to mention, Jack’s dog Zero. He’s a ghostly apparition, floating in the air with a white, sheet-like body and the same empty eyes as Jack has. Are all the residents of Halloween Town dead? They’re all some sort of monsters or ghoulish beings, like Oogie Boogie, the sack-like monster.
Much like Gremlins, The Nightmare Before Christmas also provides shocks and thrills for a younger audience, but since its premiere in 1993, it’s mostly a now-adult audience who looks back on it with nostalgia.
But the question remains; is this a Christmas film? While many argue it’s not due to its setting in Halloween Town, the song ‘This is Halloween’ and we also tend to associate scary things with Halloween.
Ultimately though, The Nighmare Before Christmas is all about the Christmas spirit. Jack falls in love with the magic of Christmas and wants to celebrate it. Sure, he kidnaps Santa Claus (or Sandy Claws as he mistakenly calls him) and very nearly ruins Christmas for everyone, but he has the very best of intentions.
After all, what is Christmas if not the time to forgive? After Jack understands his mistake and frees Santa Claus, he apologises and Santa assures him it’s all good and they engage in a playful snowball fight. Jack and the people of Halloween Town have finally found and understood the true spirit and meaning of Christmas.