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The Nightmare Before Christmas


Year: 1993 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 (Wide) 
Certificate: BBFC PG Cert – Parental guidance 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Henry Selick 
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara  
An image from The Nightmare Before Christmas

The visual feast of an opening number bursts across the screen with witches, ghosts and monsters dancing and singing within the swirling spooky setting of ‘Halloween Town’. However, for the pumpkin king, Jack Skellington (voiced by Johnny Depp), Halloween has lost its sparkle and, seeking something more, he discovers the jolly and warm delights of ‘Christmas Town’. Jack tries to take some of the festive magic he has discovered back with him, hoping to get his gang of ghouls to help him take over next Christmas and get involved in all the fun. Unsurprisingly, this is a disaster and Jack must attempt to rectify the mess and prevent the Boogie Man from ruining Christmas forever with the help of the equally melancholy humanoid rag-doll Sally (voiced by Catherine O’Hara).

However, it is the inspired wickedness and frightful fun of the movie and not the plot which makes it so captivating. Tim Burton’s wacky imagination is let loose in this weird and enchanting picture as we are invited to explore haunting new original landscapes alongside charming characters brought to life by Henry Selick’s stop-motion animation expertise. The brilliant energy and attention to detail of the film is reflected in the clever lyrics of Danny Elfman’s skilful musical accompaniment

By providing a new perspective on our well-loved holidays The Nightmare before Christmas both celebrates the joy of a good scare and deals with the repercussions of being misunderstood, thus creating an endearing and thoroughly enjoyable classic.

Alice Saunders

Perhaps Tim Burton’s most famous film, The Nightmare before Christmas is the grizzly yet festive tale that has captivated audiences for many years. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is renowned for being the best at creating a horrifying Halloween. Yet when he finds a doorway from his home Halloween Town to the magical Christmas Town, Jack becomes entranced by his discovery. Bored of the annual repetitiveness of Halloween, Jack seeks to introduce “Christmas” to Halloween Town, without fully understanding what Christmas is.

The movie is beautifully animated using stop-motion techniques, and is a delight to watch. The character designs are unique and iconic, while the soundtrack (composed by Danny Elfman) is sure to get stuck in your head.

Although the movie is rather dark (typically of its writer, Tim Burton) it is not alienating or depressing; in fact, Jack’s attempts to embrace true Christmas cheer are often, in his own somewhat skeletal way, rather jolly. The film is able to perfectly balance a dark edge with a family-friendly, uplifting tone without becoming too gruesome or too cheesy.

A wonderful film which introduces the perfect antithesis to the more “traditional” Christmas movie while maintaining the feeling of festive cheer. Jack’s misguided enthusiasm is sure to warm the hearts of all movie-goers towards him as he attempts to embrace what is perhaps the most well-known feeling to us all.

Although the film is very short, it is a captivating and imaginative tale from start to finish which is sure to leave you feeling festively chilled.

Charlotte Dart 🎄

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Screenings of this film:

1994/1995 Summer Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Summer Term (35mm)
1998/1999 Autumn Term (35mm)
2017/2018 Autumn Term (digital)