One of the few Christmas movies I’ll happily watch on repeat, The Nightmare Before Christmas captures the wonder of the festive season without making it saccharine sweet. Granted, that is because the majority of the film is set in the grimy town of Halloween. Making its monstrous, toothy, or decaying residents twee would be a challenge to say the least. Yet the songs, whether they’re screeched by the residents, crooned by Jack Skellington, or boomed out by Oogie Boogie, present (no pun intended) Christmas as truly enchanting without making me want to claw my ears off.
See that bit of shattered glass lying on the floor? That’s what happens when I try to sing. Thankfully, one of the things which make most of the songs in The Nightmare Before Christmas perfect for singing along to is the fact that most of them are sung by sentient horrors. Clowns with tear-away faces, snake-fingered creatures, a lagoon dweller with teeth as sharp as needles: unsurprisingly they don’t exactly sound like Adele. For those who can’t hold a note to save their life, finally there are songs which you can just belt out and, if anything, your horrible voice will make most of them sound better. Anyone can sing along to The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The lyrics don’t fade from memory easily, either. Songs in musicals have to push the plot forward so by their very nature they’re clear, simple to understand and hard to forget. So after watching Nightmare Before Christmas once you’ll know most of the songs at least vaguely well. No case of diminishing returns here: the more you watch the movie, the more you’ll be able to scream along to the music and feel like part of the story. Content-wise the Halloween Town ones are gruesome enough (in a PG-12A kind of way of course) to ensure you don’t need to take a bath afterwards to wash the sugary-sweetness off.
'What’s This?' is quite possibly the only song explicitly about Christmas that I’ll belt out. Brilliantly expressing the potential of the festive season to be a tender time of goodwill and joy, Jack’s astonishment makes me remember how I used to feel about Christmas when I was younger. He isn’t jaded, jaundiced, or full of contempt despite the fact that he lives in a town bursting with twisted neighbours. He’s delighted at the novelty of everything he sees, and through his eyes (and his smooth singing voice) you see Christmas for the first time all over again.
The finale is a mish-mash of the most memorable tunes; ‘What is this’ and ‘This is Halloween’ pop up briefly in parts. Your ears will thank you for listening to this small final song, as those snatches of familiar music slot perfectly into each other. Culminating in this metaphor, the entire film is summed up in one tune. At the end you realise that the songs always complemented each other. Halloween and Christmas are two sides of the same coin, as you need that ounce of fear to make joy mean something.
At heart, The Nightmare Before Christmas is an unashamedly tender film. Showing that Christmas can be enjoyed by anyone as well as the fact that monsters can be just as compassionate as Santa, its songs encapsulate its affable tone. Accessible to anyone no matter their age or affinity to Scrooge, its tunes are reminders that somewhere inside us there’s still a thrilled child who can’t wait for Christmas.
The Best Bit focuses on the special moments, scenes, and elements of movies and TV that make them worth watching. It arrives every Wednesday at 0900 PST / 1700 GMT. Follow @gamesradar on Twitter for updates.