For most holiday movies, there is a certain season to which they belong. Love Actually, The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas are all very obviously Christmas movies. Similarly, Halloween, Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, Casper, Teen Witch, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and various other horror films should all be watched in the weeks leading up to Halloween. But, there’s one film that has posed a dilemma to holiday classification: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The cult classic stop-motion film was released in 1993 and has prompted a divisive debate: is it a Halloween or Christmas movie? Looking at the timeline of the story, it begins on the night of Halloween as all the residents of Halloween Town (the creepy creatures in charge of bringing season mischief to Earth) return home to prepare for next year’s holiday. Instead, Jack Skellington, who’s “grown so tired of the same old thing,” decides they should take over Christmas and mayhem abounds as the viewer follows the characters through their twisted version of December 25.
So, in terms of which holiday the movie focuses on, the clear answer is Christmas. But, The Nightmare Before Christmas also has many hallmarks of Halloween films: witches, ghosts, skeletons, a boogeyman named Oogie Boogie, and a generally creepy tone. Perhaps it’s a Halloween movie!
Last month during a Q&A at the Telluride Horror Show in Colorado, Devin Faraci of Birth. Movies. Death. asked The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick where he fell on the holiday debate. He said, “It’s a Halloween movie.” Faraci went on to recount that Selick reasoned it was because the movie is about the people of Halloween Town and “how they react to something like Christmas.”
However, I refuse to believe The Nightmare Before Christmas is simply a Halloween movie; it’s a film for both Halloween and Christmas. Though some may rebel against the idea that it can be both a Halloween and Christmas movie, that feels like the most honest answer. It’s a perfect blend of two holidays that seem so very different, but offer joy to people around the world–albeit, slightly different kinds of joy. Since the whole message of the story is to be true to who you are and find happiness in enjoying different things, the film is suitable for both occasions, as well as all the time in between.
Feature photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.