REVIEW: ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas:’ Halloween or Christmas movie?

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Photo by Lily Werner

Is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” a Halloween or Christmas movie?

Yes.

From Oct. 1 to Dec. 25, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” shows up on my TV.

This 1993 stop-motion film opens with Jack Skellington wrapping up a successful Halloween. As Halloween Town’s mayor announces that there are only 365 days until the next Halloween, we learn the lead Jack is bored of the Pagan holiday.

During a walk, Jack discovers a circle of trees with little decorative doors that signify a different holiday. One door, shaped like a fir tree with glitzy ornaments, attracts Jack. When he opens the door, he’s whisked into Christmas Town. Accompanied by an upbeat number, Jack’s elongated, skeletal frame trapezes around elf-filled, cozy cabins.

Despite the chill, warm Christmas cheer inspires Jack to wrap his macabre lifestyle in tinsel. Just as trick-or-treaters pull on the sleeves of costumes, Jack transforms himself from the pumpkin king of Halloween Town to the jolly “Sandy Claws.”

With a thin, white beard and an oversized, red coat, Jack takes over Christmas.

Seasonal movies can be a financial bust; movies corresponding with specific seasons or holidays are unwatchable if snow or leaves aren’t falling. It’s why Hallmark plays reruns of similar Christmas movies under the guise of “Christmas in July” and why Disney used to show Halloween Disney Channel Original Movies as a “Halfway to Halloween” special.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” begins solely as a Halloween movie. We’re introduced to vampires, witches and ghouls of all kinds as the camera explores Halloween Town. In the words of the soundtrack, “This Is Halloween.”

Then, as suddenly as Jack stumbles into Christmas Town, it becomes a Christmas movie too. It’s not called “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for no reason.

“What’s This?” It’s Christmas.

Other articles have argued this film is strictly Halloween. But just look at the time. The entire plot occurs after Halloween since the film begins Nov. 1. The film’s climax happens on Christmas Eve.

This isn’t to say that the movie is only Christmas though. Jack’s version of Christmas definitely has a ghastly twist. His sleigh is pulled by skeletal reindeer and his gifts terrorize, rather than exhilarate the children.

While the director Tim Burton says it’s a Halloween movie, Disneyland Resort does not agree. When it transforms its Haunted Mansion ride to be themed “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” this transformation lasts from September to December.

Overall, this movie is difficult to corner into one box. It’s a Halloween/Christmas hybrid; it’s a musical; it’s stop motion.

Is it the best musical? No. Not even the best Halloween musical. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is right there.

Is it the best stop motion? My heart belongs to “Wallace & Gromit.”

But it is the best Halloween/Christmas hybrid.

This story was written by Randi Haseman. She can be reached at [email protected]