The Nightmare
Before Christmas


Dir: Henry Selick
Star: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara, Ken Page

As traditional cel animation withers and dies under the onslaught of CGI, one wonders whether this will also be the last, great stop-motion feature. As a work of imagination, creating a world completely outside "reality" - and that's what the best animation is all about - this is virtually impossible to surpass. No denying the effort required here, especially in the attention to detail, which shows Nick Park up for little more than a plasticine pretender. The inhabitants of Halloween Town, led by its ruler Jack Skellington (Sarandon speaking, Elfman singing) discover Christmas and try to take it over - though since their idea of a good toy is a severed head, it's not an unqualified success.

Possibly the gothest movie ever, its mix of creepy atmosphere and black humour is reminiscent of illustrator Edward Gorey. There's a twisted sense of warmth added to elements which easily could be characterised as villainous: kidnapping Santa isn't usually heroic, but Skellington just wants to give the guy a well-deserved night off, and simply loves Christmas too much. Though directed by Selick, Tim Burton's hand can be seen almost everywhere, with regular collaborator Danny Elfman composing his socks off. The end result is barely an hour + credits, and even at that length the story is stretched thin, yet it's one of those very rare occasions when everyone involved in a movie is on exactly the same page.

A-


...and a severed head 
in a pear tree
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