Hello, Spongey here.
Merry Christmas, everyone! As per tradition these days, we’ve got a good movie to cover for our big Christmas review. But because 2018 is such an offbeat year, we’re doing an offbeat movie.
It’s one that doesn’t even really need an introduction because of how big it is. What started as a mildly successful 1993 stop motion movie became a huge phenomenon and a fixture of two holidays at once!
That means plenty of people do question what is so special about it, but generally people just enjoy it. And of course we’re go through it, makes jokes, and see how it holds up.
I did watch a fair bit as a kid but I haven’t seen it a while so we’re see if it’s truly great or just simply fun. Even though Tim Burton come up with the idea (which is enough for promotional stuff to slap his name over the title), directing duties went to Henry Selick, who would later go on to do Coraline.
And also Monkey Bone but we’re forgive that one. But seriously, where did we go? He’s great, I want him back. Anyway, the writer wrote a few of Tim’s movies like Edward Scissorhands,
She also wrote Welcome to Marwen so this is an unintentional tie in to that.
So how well does this nightmare hold up? Let’s dig in. And also see why it’s totally a Christmas movie and not a Halloween movie, don’t @ me.
This, is The Nightmare Christmas
The movie opens with narration telling us about holidays.
“You probably wondered where holidays come from?”
Certain people and cultures who came up with the traditions that eventually morphed into holidays?
But nah, in this movie holidays come from these worlds in these trees. How did the real world get the holidays from here? Doesn’t matter, let’s just go into the Hallloween world known as Halloweentown, where Marnie is nowhere to be found. 0/10.
Instead we get our first song, This is Halloween where introduces us to the crazy citizens of this world. I love it because it’s very catchy and shows off the movies amazing and creative visuals, but I hate because it’s the best song in the whole thing and now all the other songs feel weaker as a result.
This big routine was part of a show they put on every Halloween, lead by Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King. It went quite well as you can tell from their reactions.
“You make wounds ooze and flesh crawl!”
These guys must have some weird kinks.
Jack is a bit less enthusiastic as he’s had to do this every year for god knows how long, so he goes off to sulk. And sing about it, of course. Jack’s Lament has Jack giving us a more proper introduction to him as he goes into what he does but also why he’s getting tired of it all.
It does a good job at doing all that, not much to really say. Except that Danny Elfman sings for him and he’s good at it.
So we’re not that far in and we’ve already got all this dumped on us with two songs. Not the best pacing ever but the songs do a pretty good job at filling that time so things aren’t TOO rushed, even if they are compared to most movies.
But for a musical this generally works. Anyway, this song is being watched by a woman named Sally, voiced by Catherine O Hara, who is a rag doll person who lives with an evil scientist dude named…Evil Scientist. Creative.
We saw a brief bit of her a tad earlier as apparently some “deadly nightshade” she slipped him wore off. Nothing says perfect family entertainment like attempted murder in the first 10 minutes!
The best part is she’s done this before, nice. Much like Jack she’s tired of her situation and wants more, because this is still a Disney movie after all.
Speaking of which, Jack keeps sulking until he stumbles upon the Forrest of holidays doors. But wait, the opening showed us the full forest with the Halloween door in it, so shouldn’t the Halloween world only show their door which will take to this hub? How is the hub in both places?
Jack opens the Christmas door which takes him straight to the snowy wonderful world of Christmastown. And now this is officially a Christmas movie with some Halloween bits, not the other way around. Again, don’t @ me.
This gives our next song, What’s This?, which has Jack exploring the town and all the wonders it has to offer. It’s very fun and shows off more of the creative visuals and catchy tunes.
But while he’s having fun, the residents of Halloweentown are freaking out because he’s gone missing. I love how pathetic the mayor is by the way, he even says as an elected official he can’t make decisions by himself. Insert your own witty political joke here. Oh and Sally tries to murder her “dad” again, perfect family entertainment.
Jack returns from his trip and calls a town meeting to tell everyone where he’s been. This leads us into a song where e goes into everything he saw. It’s one of the weaker songs due to being just exposition rather than a real song but it’s still fun due to the lyrics.
They like the idea of Christmas, mostly because Jack sells Santa as some sort of fearsome red king. Jack then tries to look further into Christmas to find the deep scientific meaning of it. And also Evil Scientist locks Sally in a room but she escapes.
Yeah, there really isn’t much to say about these scenes. Except that the music itself, even outside of the songs, is quite good and tells the story a bit better than the writing does.
Jack gets cooped up in a tower doing his work, which causes the citizens to start up the next song where they question where he is and Jack sings about not having the “key”.
“Or perhaps it’s not as deep as I’d been lead to think”
Nah, you just don’t have a high enough IQ to-…nah, that joke is dead. Anyway, the song itself is good, not much to really analyze. So back to recapping: Jack decides that the folks of Christmastown shouldn’t have all the fun, and that he should run things.
“This year, Christmas will be ours!”
Oh boy. It is interesting how in most stories that start with someone becoming tired of a routine, it doesn’t quite lead to them so over their head that all this upcoming craziness happens. He had the right idea until he decided to just take it over.
Meaning he’s almost kind of a villain here and likely would be if not for someone we’ll meet soon. Jack calls upon 3 keeps named Lock, Shock and Barrel to kidnap “Sandy Claws” which of course leads to a song about it.
It’s sort of a villain song so of course I love it. Very catchy and fun in a messed up way. I like the part where they say they think if they fail Jack will beat them “black and green”, just more wholesome family fun.
A bit later, they bring Santa to Jack but it turns out they got the Easter Bunny by mistake. Okay, I really wanna see Nightmare Before Easter now. They made this mistake because Jack just told them to “go through the door” and didn’t tell them there was more than 1. Or what Sandy Claws looks like. Yeah, this is all on you, buddy.
The kids leave and the monsters start to really gear up for Christmas, with a song of course. It’s another fun little song, nothing deeper to look into. Don’t worry, the next one will stand out much more.
After the song, the kids get it right and bring Santa to Jack. I love how he’s being all nice and trying to make sure he’s comfortable, even while he’s having him kidnapped so that he can take over his role.
But Santa won’t be too comfortable as Lock, Shock,, and Barrel take him to their master, Ooogie Boogie. He’s this creepy green sack dude, voiced by the Bigged Lipped Alligator himself. And with him comes our proper villain song, which is amazing.
Not only does Boogie have a great design they take full advantage of, but Ken Page is really having fun here as he has horrible things cooked up for Santa. This guy who clearly loves doing horrible things and they have tons of fun with It. There’s also some really fun lighting here.
It’s weird that it took well over 40 minutes to meet the villain but at least he makes a grand entrance. Once he’s made it, Jack heads out which makes Sally sad as he’s ignored her warnings.
This makes her break into her song, which is our slow song. It’s fine but it’s always been my least favorite one, just cuz it’s more “nice” than anything special. That and the romance angle with Sally is the least interesting part of the movie, especially compared to everything else.
After she belts her heart out, Jack makes his rounds which of course involve giving horrible creations that end up attacking the kids and It leads to some fun mayhem.
It doesn’t take long for the freaking military to be called to take him down, because they work weirdly fast. During all that, Sally goes to Boogie’s place and distracts him with her sexy leg.
Seriously, that’s exactly what happens. She even leaves her leg there as Oogie tickles it. I’m not kink shaming but geez. Jack is shot down and one totally clever joke about the movie being over later, he is left for dead. Well, deader.
He’s not deader though, as he’s just a bit hurt but feeling good enough to sing a tragic song about how everything’s gone wrong. It really works well as a sort of “fallen hero” song, especially when it kicks up as Jack cheers himself up again.
It’s very effective and enjoyable. Although I have to mention the part where he says “My god” which raises so many questions. But anyway, he leaves to go rescue Santa.
“You were dead! You must be double dead!”
Eh, deader sounds funnier.
This leads to a really fun climax in Boogie’s lair where Jack is quite the badass. It is a tad too short though as it doesn’t take long for Ooogie Boogie’s sack to full, revealing that he’s made of bugs.
And I guess that’s enough for him to run away and then die. I love how no one reacts too much to this and it just cuts right to Jack asking Santa for forgive-nesss. Yeah, the pacing isn’t great.
“The next time you get the urge to take to take over someone else’s holiday, I’d listen to her!”
I love how much of an asshole Satna he is. Can’t say I blame him with all that he’s been through. Santa goes to fix things, and our heroes head back home. Jack’s return comes with a few reprises that nicely start to wrap things up.
Santa makes it snow in Halloweentown which makes them embrace Christmas without almost killing any kids. And also Jack and Sally have a moment on his hill, which is quite nice I guess.
It makes for a great final shot at least. A great final shot too as the credits roll right after that. It’s been awhile since I complained about a rushed ending, huh? Well, it works emotionally at least but it could have been better.
(But seriously, that wasn’t even 75 minutes without credits, dang)
That held up pretty well. I wouldn’t call it an amazing movie by any means but it is a lot of fun. It’s biggest problem is the short runtime, which causes some aspects to feel rushed.
The romance, while a bit nice, feels slapped on and Oogie enters the story a bit too late. And of course the ending is rushed. They generally do a good job using the songs to fill the time but it still could have been longer.
But despite that, this manages to be really good. Of course the animation is incredible with tons of imagination when it comes to the designs. This is Halloween alone feature more creativity than most movies have in their entire runtimes. The songs help a lot being very catchy and telling the story in solid ways. Even the score itself is strong.
The story is pretty simple but it is a decent one, as there’s a fun angle with how Jack ends up ruining Christmas while simply being inspired by it. It could have been longer to go a bit deeper into certain songs but what we have here does work.
The movie is so much fun it manages to overcome some of the little issues I would usually be more bugged by. Moments like the Poor Jack song so through a simple progression in a solid way.
But yeah, it can feel rushed so I wouldn’t blame people for liking it less. It’s a movie where the highs are good enough for me to forgive that. I wouldn’t call it a great film due to those flaws but it is a really good one and I can see why some do call it great.
It works as a rather twisted Christmas movie. And also a Halloween movie if you wanna be like that. Either way, it’s good fun.
Rating: Very Good
It flip flopped a fair bit but eventually I decided I enjoyed it enough for that. Definitely holds up better than Elf and The Santa Clause as far as good Christmas movies go.
Merry Christmas, my friends. This was a good way to end our 2018 Scene by Scene reviews. How will the 2019 ones start? Well, we gotta start with a bang. Something I frankly should have done sooner but sadly couldn’t.
Oh boy, that’ll do.
See ya, and Merry Christmas!