Saturday, October 17, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 17 - Movie 1

I had planned to conclude "A Nightmare On Elm Street" week with "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" (1994), a movie whose self-referential post modern handling of the film series appealed to me. However, when I opened the case in my box set, I discovered that it had the wrong disc, making it impossible to watch until I can somehow get that replaced.

Instead, I opted to watch two movies instead. While not an "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movie, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) has a somewhat similar sounding title. In this movie, the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, ruler of Halloween Town is bored with organizing Halloween year after year (about this time of year, I can start to understand his feelings). Looking for something new, he accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town and dazzled by what he finds there, decides that this year, he's going to handle the duties of ushering in that holiday. Of course because he, and the fellow residents of Halloween Town, can only see Christmas through their Halloween oriented eyes, they make a mess of Christmas.

This is where I make a confession which surprises almost everyone whenever I let it be known. I don't really like this movie.

I have a lot of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" memorabilia, several large storage bins worth and then some. I love the design of the characters, I like the look of the movie, and the artistry that it took to bring the characters to life. I even think the story itself is a good one. I don't care for the execution of that story. I find the screenplay limp, the dialogue sub par, and the characters themselves really bland. The songs are okay, but not great. Whenever Oogie Boogie appears, I start to tune out, and only manage to remain interested a slight bit more when Lock, Shock, and Barrel enter the movie, which I think is overlong by about twenty minutes.

When this movie first came to theaters, I sat through two showings in a row. I watched it a second time because I couldn't believe that a movie I'd been looking so forward to, that should have felt like it was made just for me, left me so cold. I've watched it many other times, trying to figure out why this movie connects with me on such a superficial level, but fails in any way that's meaningful. I still don't have an answer.

I know this much. I think "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is far more successful at conveying Christmas and the warm feelings of Christmas, than it is at depicting Halloween. In fact, I think it fails spectacularly at getting across a sense of Halloween. The limited grey and white palette, the architecture, the monsters themselves, while being really cool, simply don't suggest Halloween itself. Where's the oranges and greens of the die cut paper decorations of the 1960s? Why aren't there jack o'lanterns everywhere? Where's the crisp fall air and Autumn leaves? Why is the opening montage of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" so much more successful in invoking the feelings of Halloween than a movie set in Halloween itself?

Having said that, I found myself enjoying "The Nightmare Before Christmas" much more this time than any previous time.


thecadaver said...

Oh god, you're a freak!
Well no, not really. I happen to love the movie, so therefore don't necessarily agree with you on this one, but I would say that TNBC is definitely a Christmas movie as opposed to a Halloween one. It's more about Jack discovering Christmas than it is about Halloween and Halloweentown.
Although I would like to stab Sally in the face. Just saying.

Dane said...

I love everything about this movie but the movie itself, just like you. For me, it's that Halloween and Christmas - two of my favorite month-long holidays - don't belong together. Not at all. This isn't peanut butter & chocolate for me, it's more like say, pepperoni and chocolate, two great tastes that don't belong anywhere near each other.

Steven A. said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who feels that way about this movie. I'm always a bit embarrassed to admit that I don't like it all that much and for pretty much the reasons that you point out. It just doesn't hit the right 'Hallowe'en' notes for me. Hallowe'en to me is the look and colors of old Beistle decorations not the monochromatic abstractions of this movie. It does look cool, just not 'Hallowe'en cool'

By the by, the new-to-DVD movie 'Trick 'r Treat' is a little bit dissappointing in the story department, but has some great Hallowe'en ambiance. You've probably already checked it out, but if not then do so soon!