Okay, I really just need to say it. I do not like Nightmare Before Christmas. There, it’s done. I know that lots of people really love this movie and that saying it’s a piece of crap is going to get me a lot of hate. On the bright side, I have just infuriated every single teenager that shops at Hot Topic, which I admit, is sort of fun! However, I haven’t seen Nightmare Before Christmas in a long time so before I go about bashing it into pumpkin paste (see what I did there?) I figured I should at least re-watch it and give it a chance. It didn’t change my opinion, but I think I better understand why I don’t like this movie.
First off, this movie looks gross. I understand that art and style are subjective, and there are certainly people who like this style, but I have also found many agree with me in saying that Nightmare Before Christmas is an ugly movie.
I think it’s the combination of dark, bland, and de-saturated color palette mixed with the generally ugly character design. There are a few cleverly designed characters (Jack being one of them) but most of the characters seem to be a sort of short, stocky, fat shape with little arms and legs stuck on them. The potato bodies are sometimes mixed with gross giant-lipped duck monsters like the evil scientist and striped monster with snake fingers. They waddle, roll, slither, or otherwise slink around singing down the asymmetrical streets of Halloween Town and it’s just… ugh… I can’t stand to look at it.
Also, why is everything asymmetrical and wrinkled? Like, seriously, everything in this movie is textured to look like a leathery hide covered in raisins. The ground is wrinkled. The gates and streets are black, asymmetrical, and uneven. I don’t think there is a single straight line in the whole film. Even Jack’s coat, which is a pinstriped suit, looks like it has deep grooves in it, leading me to think he’s wearing some sort of wrinkled leather jacket or something. It makes me uncomfortable. This is a Tim Burton thing, and I have generally always hated his style, so maybe it’s just personal taste. Either way, blegh.
Now, the movie was made over 20 years ago but compared to modern-day stop motion like Kubo (which is amazing go see it!) this movie just looks so janky. The motions seem like they’re missing frames, the “tricks” to hide mouth movements aren’t always so hidden, and you can see a lot of the interchangeable facial pieces at work during close-ups of the non-claymation characters.
Another topic I disliked is the music. However, on my recent viewing, I have to admit that it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Most of the songs are forgettable but “This is Halloween” has been stuck in my head ever since I watched it. Maybe it’s the late October spirit in the air, but I do admit to actually liking that song a bit.
The boogie man song is also clever in its voodoo style, but I couldn’t like it very much because: He is another potato body character; He and his lab are wrinkly and asymmetrical; and lastly, and this is the big one, he is getting ready to torture Santa Claus! And Santa just has this terrified helpless look as a literal voodoo doll full of bugs strings him up and sings a song about how he is going to torture him in terrible ways. What the fuck, man?!
In general though, most of the songs aren’t that impressive. The vocals are mostly spoken or sung in a more normal way. There are a few moments where Jack can sign with gusto but for the most part, unimpressive for a “musical” movie.
I am also confused as to whether this is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. My gut says that this is a Christmas movie with a spooky twist to separate it from the overly jolly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer type stop-motion movies. It’s for those too edgy goth teens and scene kids who want an alternative Christmas movie instead of a happy fun time that the little kids want. Which is probably a huge reason I don’t like this movie. It reminds me, at every turn, that Christmas is waaaaaay better than Halloween.
Jack, the King of Halloween, is immediately enthralled with Christmas at first sight and wants to make Halloween Christmas. And well, it doesn’t go so well. An entire premise of the movie is about how Jack basically ruins Christmas by adding Halloween to it and bastardizing it into this failed mess of candy canes and severed heads.
This brings me to the last point I want to make about why I dislike this movie so much – Jack, and the audience, don’t really learn a life lesson about anything. I was hoping this movie had something to do with appreciating other cultures or culture sharing etc. The spreading and adoption of two diverse towns both celebrating two holidays and growing because of it. That would be a great lesson about how diversity and respect can lead to a mutual benefit. But no.
Essentially what happens is that Jack wants his town to be better, steals a perverse version of Christmas to his town, ruins Christmas in actual Christmas Town with his ambitious desires, and then realizes it’s probably best not to mess with other people’s stuff. Christmas Town is left terrorized and angry and (previously tortured) Santa is released to go fix Jack’s mess. Back in Halloween Town Jack realizes his calling wasn’t to be Santa and that he should stick to what he knows. Oh, and Sally, the “love interest” ends up with him in the end for pretty much no reason.
Lesson learned: Don’t bother exploring and respecting other cultures because you’ll fuck it up. Just stick to what you know and like and it’ll all be OK in the end. Not exactly the best lesson for a kid’s movie.
Last quick hate point – Unfortunately, Disney itself didn’t learn this lesson from its movie and insists on ruining The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland from October to January by converting the ride to a Nightmare Before Christmas version of the ride instead. Great idea, let’s take the actual cool and spooky version of a classic Disney attraction and ruin it by slapping a crappy movie theme over it. That way all the people who wanted to enjoy the real thing get a perverse and inferior version instead.
In conclusion, I still hate you, Nightmare Before Christmas; you gross, wrinkly, asymmetrical, potato-bodied, janky, torturous pile of Christmas-ruining “edgy” crap.