How The Nightmare Before Christmas Saved Halloween
Copyright © 2016 Jonathan Janz
The most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced—in addition to being a husband—is being a dad. In some ways fatherhood is gloriously simple: You love your children, you spend time with them, you help them in any way you can. At other times parenting is extraordinarily difficult: You can’t always help your kids the way you wish you could, and you aren’t always the person you wished you could be. Complicating matters further is the small issue of how your own past affects your interactions with your kids. For me, my childhood—basically everything involving my father—makes me draw closer to my kids in an attempt to love them even more. But the past also opens wells of pain that take you by surprise and threaten to make you cling to your children too tightly.
So what does this have to do with Jack Skellington?
Admittedly, not a lot.
Admittedly, not a lot.
Except it sort of does. See, I want you to know that being a dad means everything to me, and I need you to understand that my life consists of only four pursuits: being with my family, teaching, reading, and writing.
And I’m incredibly happy doing these four things.Sure, I take part in a few other activities, like lifting weights, but even when I’m doing that, my kids are with me watching the Cubs or Classic Mickey Mouse on our weight room TV.
Are you picturing my life?
If you are, you’ll realize that I simply don’t have the opportunity to watch horror films.
Why not watch them with your wife? you’ll understandably ask.
Well, my logical friend, the reason that doesn’t work is because my wife hates horror movies. Oh, she’s not dismissive or judgmental of them—she’s simply terrified of them (which, to me, implies a healthy respect).
But it leaves me with a horror movie gap. If I’m alone, I’m writing. And when I’m with my wife, I can’t watch horror, and when I’m with my kids (who are still pretty young), I can’t watch horror, and this isn’t a bad trade-off because I love my wife and kids more than horror movies, but, but, but…
I still want to watch horror movies.
And this is why Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is so incredibly dear to me. It’s the one Halloween film that won’t scar my five-year-old for life, the one “horror” film my wife likes to view over and over.
Thankfully, it’s an awesome movie.
Why do I love it? The first reason that springs to mind is the aura Tim Burton creates, the cozy-yet-dangerous atmosphere I associate with the Halloween holiday.
And it all begins with the eerie, iconic song “This Is Halloween.” Sung in sometimes hushed, semi-chanting, wildly varying voices, the number is hypnotic, creepy, dangerous, and oddly beautiful, like the holiday itself. The visuals of the sequence feature a “greatest hits” of monsters and sinister creatures. Underlying the insidious elements is an irrepressible glee, which again, perfectly encapsulates Halloween. You’re scared, but you’re delighted to be scared. You revel in your shivers, you nervously laugh as you glance over your shoulder.
And amid all this shuddering and chortling, one figure emerges from the haze:
Perfectly voiced, beautifully constructed, the star of Burton’s masterpiece conveys every single emotion we Halloween lovers experience as the glorious day draws closer. He approaches the holiday with respect, with adoration, with a macabre embrace of its shadowy depths. He is a gaunt, leering poet, an eloquent ghoul. A saint and a demon, a defender of tradition and an innovator of fresh approaches.
My children love him, even if they’re slightly frightened of him.
And as the five of us watch the film unfold, often huddled together in a cluster of blankets and popcorn, we smile, tremble, and even sing together as the nightmare unfolds.
There’ll be a point when I’ll feel comfortable showing horror movies with more bite to my kids. But for now, my permanent horror movie addiction is mostly satisfied by our yearly viewings of Burton’s film. And when my kids are old enough to watch The Exorcist, Halloween, and Dog Soldiers?
Look out. There’ll be three new horror movie fans in the world.
Maybe I’ll even convert my wife.
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Will Burgess is used to hard knocks. Abandoned by his father, son of a drug-addicted mother, and charged with raising his six-year-old sister, Will has far more to worry about than most high school freshmen. To make matters worse, Mia Samuels, the girl of Will’s dreams, is dating his worst enemy, the most sadistic upperclassman at Shadeland High. Will’s troubles, however, are just beginning. Because one of the nation’s most notorious criminals—the Moonlight Killer—has escaped from prison and is headed straight toward Will’s hometown. And something else is lurking in Savage Hollow, the forest surrounding Will’s rundown house. Something ancient and infinitely evil. When the worst storm of the decade descends on Shadeland, Will and his friends must confront unfathomable horrors. Everyone Will loves—his mother, his little sister, Mia, and his friends—will be threatened. And very few of them will escape with their lives.
Jonathan Janz grew up between a dark forest and a graveyard, which explains everything. Brian Keene named his debut novel The Sorrows "the best horror novel of 2012." The Library Journal deemed his follow-up, House of Skin, "reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Peter Straub's Ghost Story."
2013 saw the publication of his novel of vampirism and demonic possession The Darkest Lullaby, as well as his serialized horror novel Savage Species. Of Savage Species Publishers Weekly said, "Fans of old-school splatterpunk horror--Janz cites Richard Laymon as an influence, and it shows--will find much to relish." Jonathan's Kindle Worlds novel Bloodshot: Kingdom of Shadows marked his first foray into the superhero/action genre.
His primary interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children, and though he realizes that every author's wife and children are wonderful and amazing, in this case the cliché happens to be true. You can learn more about Jonathan at www.jonathanjanz.com. You can also find him on Facebook, via @jonathanjanz on Twitter, on Instagram (jonathanjanz) or on his Goodreads and Amazon author pages.