Claymation really gives me the heebie jeebies. Why would I tell everyone about this? It’s a combination of a lack of creativity and misdirected anger at everyone else. Since I was eight years old (only one or two feet tall at this point), I have harbored an intense fear of claymation movies. I will not be analyzing WHY this is; instead, I hope this article serves as a warning.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” is, in my opinion, more akin to a snuff film than a “fun family movie.” It’s a horrifying cacophony of pain. An anonymous source at Franklin High School described their feelings on “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” saying, “quite honestly, it freaks me out. I haven’t seen it in a while because every time I watch it, I get nightmares.” This is a sentiment which I completely agree with.
The protagonist is a very skinny, very tall, well dressed skeleton fellow, (think Paul Bettany without hair, and even whiter) subtly named “Jack Skellington.” Jack’s plight in the movie is that he is “bored” of the yearly tradition of scaring people in his Halloween themed world (you can really see the subtle approach they’re taking here). Jack eventually decides to accidentally sing and dance his way out of his reality, and slide down a hole in a tree into a Christmas land where everyone is happier. Eventually Jack tries to steal Santa Claus for his nightmare home to make everyone less oily. Long story short, Jack falls in love with a weak-boned muppet, and they all defeat Ken Page’s soothing voice. If the movie SOUNDS like a fever dream, that’s because it is.
The main reason this movie is so frightening is the animation itself. The movie was filmed through stop motion, so that means every time the producers wanted to get another frame, they had time to THINK about what they were creating. The costume and character design in the movie really set it apart. Take, for example, one of the most disturbing characters in all of fiction: The Mayor. The Mayor is the political figurehead of Halloweentown (most likely being elected through some non-democratic process). The Mayor is a stout, coned-shaped fellow dawned in a form fitting suit. The problem is, he has two faces. One for when he is happy, and one for when he is sad, but both of them will give you nightmares. At one scene, early in the movie, the mayor tries to get Jack to come and give the townspeople a good scare. When The Mayor realizes Jack isn’t home, his head does a 180 into a sad-clown frown face, and he tumbles down a set of stairs like a sack of beans. This scene alone sent me into a fight-or-flight response for weeks.
Moving on as quickly as possible from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” into another movie I HATE: “Coraline.” Golly gee. When I sat down to watch this movie for this article, I thought I would be able to shut my brain off for an hour and forty minutes while dream fuel filled my subconscious. Instead, it was like being awake for open heart surgery… I could feel everything. The problem with “Coraline” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is that they have genuinely engaging plots; it’s just the imagery, sounds, feelings, and themes that terrify me.
I don’t think I need to explain the plot of “Coraline,” and I also really don’t want to. There is a certain feeling that normal individuals get when they are watching claymation movies like these. The anonymous Franklin student described their feelings when watching “Coraline” as “a tightening feeling in [their] chest.” They stated “[I feel like] I want to flee.” This is exactly the reaction I have, and the reaction most people SHOULD have when watching it. This movie is obviously filled with scenes that would get under most people’s skin, but for some reason the consensus that I have heard repeated countless times is: “I still really liked the movie.” My response to this is: “how can you love something that makes you feel terrible on the inside?” I am aware that “Coraline” is intentionally disturbing during a majority of its runtime, however the issue is that I feel absolutely zero payoff, and the moments in the movie that are supposed to be genuine only add to my paranoia.
To me, watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Coraline” feels like the characters are reaching out from the TV screen and shoving a mass of panic down my throat. In the beginning of the movie, before Coraline ventures into the creepy glowing tunnels of her home, she attempts to have a conversation with her dad, who is avidly programming. When she tries to talk to her dad, he basically gives her the emotional middle finger and completely refuses to engage in a conversation with her. That in and of itself is sad enough, but when combined with the slimy, off-putting character design of the dad, it makes for a very unpleasurable viewing experience.
The aspects of Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas that most people find “enduring,” I find, for lack of a better description, repulsive and terrifying. I had a terrible time watching these movies, and I will hopefully never have to sit through another claymation film ever again. Overall, I would give this article a 3/10. Most of it was written one day before it was due. Memrich6964@student.pps.net.