The Nightmare Before Christmas

Image for The Nightmare Before Christmas

Bored with his lot Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, decides to take over Christmas Town, kidnapping Santa Claus and giving Xmas a Halloweeny make-over.


Everything we have come expect from the variable Goth-hued imagination of Tim Burton as presented in stop-motion form: thus it squeals with visual delight, strewn with loveable-morbid creations, ornate Danny Elfman compositions and has a story that runs out of juice halfway through. We are lazily encouraged to just sit back and soak up the rickety gleam of its grotesquery of inspiration — dashing Jack himself is a xylophone-boned, pin-stripped lounge singer-type, his dog, Zero, has a ghostly glowing nose, while his great love Sally is a rag doll who can wilfully unthread limbs — and ignore the deficiencies in its storytelling.

It’s the schizophrenia of Burton, although the main duties of directing slow-slow process of stop-animation went to Henry Sellick, he’s less a Brother Grimm than an Edward Munch. Energy and art abound everywhere, especially in the glorious whirligigging dance scenes, except in the momentum of tale-telling. The characters are cool but limited, just more Gothic filaments for this black gown knitted for kiddiewinks with death obsessions. There’s plenty of smart referencing: German expressionism to Cure videos, but it lacks the warmth, and social detail of Nick Park’s Claymation. Park’s worlds are reflections of reality, Burton/Sellick’s is a lawless sprawl of dreams.

All gothicky, christmassy, romantic and Burtonesque. Worth a look.