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  • Writer's pictureJames Hock - MRH Faculty

And to All a Terrifying Goodnight

By Caden K.

The season of terror is upon us, and with it comes the urge to immerse ourselves in the spirit of Halloween through haunted houses, pumpkin patches, and most notably, scary movies. Amongst the plethora of spooky cinematic adventures, one has stood out to me since I was a child: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The brilliant crossover between two juxtaposed holiday’s causes the audience to appreciate the perfect stand-alone power of each individual day of celebration, and effectively sets a scary undertone for the audience to feed off of in preparation for the season of fear. However, it has left many viewers with at least one question: Is it a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie? I’m here to tell you that it is a bonafide Halloween movie, and those who tell you otherwise are going to need a rewatch.

It wasn’t merely my admiration for centuries-old literature allusions and hidden metaphors that sold me on this movie being an excellent Halloween film. For starters, Jack the Pumpkin King remained in Christmas Town for no more than three and a half minutes in the film, and any other showing of Santa Claus’ cheerful land was contrasted with the dangerous, but funny, parallels of the innately evil members of Halloween Town. If anything, even the workers in Halloween Town seemed to be enjoying themselves more than the elves in Christmas Town. The elves seemed to be working in more of a job fashion compared to the H-Town members, who were happy crafting fun, yet vicious, creations in a more hobby-like fashion.

The story doesn’t follow Santa, nor does it even have a true focus on Christmas. It’s true intentions are to highlight the magnificence of Halloween, as it relays the message that joy, cheer, and happiness can be found in even the most terrifying and dark situations. The film beautifully captures the importance of Halloween by implying that the festiveness of Christmas needs not to be given to Halloween, as it is uniquely festive and jolly in its own right.

Jack experiences great trouble in trying to bring joy and spirit to his frightening home, but in a way he does succeed, as much of his home town is excited to participate in “Christmas” and most enjoyed wrapping gifts, stuffing snake stockings, and creating devious toys for the children of the world. By the end of the movie, Jack accepts his role as the Pumpkin King, and realizes that Halloween is what he is meant to embody for the rest of his life, free from the worries of changing things up for personal satisfaction. The Boogeyman, who gave me nightmares as a child, asserts his ominous fright upon many of the townspeople, until Jack eventually defeats him to rescue Santa and Sally, restoring the chances for Christmas to be completed successfully. The majority of the songs were Halloween based, surrounding either a celebration of fright season, an admiration for terror, or even making references to Shakespearean tragedies, namely The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

(Jack the Pumpkin King holding his own head, mirroring the iconic pose used during the famous Hamlet soliloquy)

This classic fall season movie has made its way into the Halloween canon through its award winning score and soundtrack, which have become recognizable seconds after pressing play. It was nominated for “Best Effects/Best Visual Effects” at the Oscars in 1994, and won a 20/20 award, given to movies, actors, and other cinema employees 20 years after their Oscar debut, for “Best Original Score” in 2014.

The Nightmare Before Christmas honors Halloween with its iconic songs, clever characters, and profound underlying metaphors. It can be accessed for free on the streaming service Disney+, or for varying prices on services such as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and YouTube.

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