THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a brilliant, eye-popping visual achievement, 72 minutes of the most amazing stop-motion animation ever filmed. Unfortunately, it is also much more focused on Halloween than Christmas, and in doing so, fills the screen with comic but highly intense visions of spooks, bogeymen, bats, bugs, and spiders. The film sets up a poignant allegory about the inability of those steeped in darkness to comprehend light, only to squander it on a hyperkinetic finale.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS opens with the fantasy premise that in some far-off forest, in a small grove of trees, one can enter lands which generate the festivities of various holidays. We soon find ourselves in Halloweentown where Jack Skellington reigns as king of the assorted, dark, evil-looking creatures of Halloween. Tired of Halloween, Jack discovers Christmastown and tries to bring it to Halloweentown, although he doesn’t understand Christmas and thinks Santa is Christmas. In the hands of Jack and his cohorts, Christmas becomes distorted and evil and is in danger of being lost.
From a visual and technical standpoint, the film is brilliant. Filmed in frame-by-frame stop motion by an army of inventive and patient puppeteers, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS becomes eye-popping, jaw-dropping entertainment. Regrettably, the film focuses much more on Halloween than on Christmas and the screen fills up with intense visions of spooks, bogeymen, bats, bugs, and spiders. As a result, it is far too intense for younger children and anyone who has been ensnared in the occult. The film sets up a poignant allegory about the inability of those steeped in darkness to comprehend light, only to squander it on a hyperkinetic finale. How wonderful this film might have been if Jack had stumbled upon a Nativity scene in Christmastown.
(VV, O, B) Cartoon-style, slapstick violence throughout, involving a huge collection of Halloween creatures, witches, bogeymen, spiders, bugs, etc.; while the intent is comic, many images are far too intense for children under age 10; and extreme caution advised, especially for any who have been involved with, or abused by, the occult although there is a redemptive conceit that runs throughout the movie.