Holiday-themed films usually aren’t the best fit for the dark, emo, or macabre. Thank goodness someone took note of this and realized that sometimes, even those of us who love the darkness would occasionally enjoy dabbling (and dancing) in red and green coloured lights. Which is why The Nightmare Before Christmas might be one of the most ingenious Christmas films in existence.
Tim Burton’s brainchild is a film about a “monster” who just wants to have fun, but it also reveals the very real stress of being someone who doesn’t fit the mold of perky, bright, and cheerful, yet still wants to indulge in the Christmas season. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon-speaking, Danny Elfman-singing) is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, a village brimming with ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, among other creatures of the night. While Jack enjoys Halloween, he’s over the monotony of that particular holiday and while searching for something new, he stumbles upon portals to other holidays and finds Christmas Town.
Jack becomes fixated on Christmas, determined to bring the holiday home with him, but the people of Halloween Town don’t understand this foreign holiday. Because he cannot get his people to get into formation, Jack decides to kidnap Santa Claus and take over the holiday for the people of Christmas Town instead, forcing the residents of Halloween Town to go along with his half-baked plan. The Nightmare Before Christmas is many things, but one thing that was quite obvious to me but which I haven’t seen anyone else point out yet is that it’s a tale about the dangers of colonialism, appropriation, and forced assimilation.
The people of Halloween Town were perfectly happy with their traditions, but Jack’s boredom led him to “discover” a preexisting civilization and took it upon himself to try to colonize the citizens of Halloween Town into celebrating a holiday that they knew and cared nothing about. When that didn’t work, he opted to appropriate the role of Santa Claus and force the people of Christmas Town and Halloween Town alike to assimilate to his Christmas vision. Ultimately, Jack is able to repair the damage he’s done, and learns that different cultures can coexist peacefully if and only if there is mutual respect and respect of boundaries, but of course, being a man in power, he did whatever the fuck he wanted first, and only learned this lesson as a consequence to putting the people he was tasked to lead through hell first.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is lively, entertaining, dark, whimsical, and hilarious. Best of all, it’s a film that can be seen from various angles, and therefore seems to target multiple age demographics. This film is definitely one of the best animated films of any genre. I give this one 4.5 stars.