Tag Archives: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Fright Club: Best Animated Horror

Cartoons can be scary. Scooby Doo knew it. You can paint a nightmare in a way that no amount of CGI or practical effects can really execute. Animation frees a filmmaker from the constraints of the concrete world, allowing for more imaginative storytelling. Here are our favorite animated horror gems.

5. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

Feature length, R-rated anime is so often a simple excuse for fantasy fulfillment aimed at stunted adolescents of all ages. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s 1987 film Wicked City certainly is that.

But in 2000, working from a story based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel, Kawajiri executed the near-impossible. He made a sequel that was better than its much beloved predecessor (1985’s Vampire Hunter D).

Gothic and futuristic, beautifully drawn and nicely paced without losing the energy of the genre, Bloodlust delivers a gorgeous, bloody time.

4. Perfect Blue (1997)

This psychosexual thriller might feel garden variety if it had been made into a live action film. A young woman trades in her innocent image to take on more suggestive roles as an actress, only to find her fans turning on her in violent ways. Or is it an internal conflict over the way men and the media need to sexualize her that’s fragmenting her own mind?

In director Satoshi Kon’s anime vision, those familiar thriller tropes take on an unseemly dreamy quality. The animation style suggests more about the way mass media consumes a sexualized idea of innocence than any live action film could muster, and the hallucinatory quality achieved in the film would never have played this well in any other style.

3. Seoul Station (2016)

An animated side story to writer/director Sang-ho Yeon’s blistering zombie flick Train to Busan, Seoul Station gives us a chance to see what’s happening in other parts of Korea while Soo-an and her dad try to make it off the train alive.

A gripping story of people on the fringe, Seoul Station also boasts some incredibly imaginative animation. Scenes teem with slaughter, salvation, and social anxiety in a film that takes anime into reaches unsought before.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burton penned and produced, directed by Henry Selick (Coraline), this tale of the Halloweentown/Christmastown mash up became an instant and unbreakable Goth favorite. Jack Skellington (“What’s happenin’, bone daddy?”) just doesn’t feel the same kind of love for Halloween that’s kept him motivated lo these many years. A little melancholy, he heads into the woods, only to take a wrong turn and find himself in the land of Christmas. Naturally, he and his fellow ghouls – meaning no real harm, you see – decide to kidnap Santa and run Christmas themselves… just this once.

The story, the music (by Danny Elfman, natch), the inspired stop-action style animation, and that sweetly macabre sensibility that Burton brings to every project spoke to the Nineties generation and continues to speak to outsiders, monsters, and lovers of animation everywhere.


1. Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)

A French import perfectly suited to a dark and stormy Halloween night, the film brings together some of the top graphic artists in Europe and America to present six animated vignettes that showcase some of the mind’s deepest fears.

The human mind is always more capable of true horror than any teenage slasher movie, and that is what this film is interested in exploring. shorts delve into social anxiety, sexual insecurity, sociopathic tendencies, needles, dismemberment and the good old fashioned fear of the dark to achieve an overall feel of impending doom. You’ll get goosebumps without really knowing why.

A Guide to Family Friendly Scares

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

It’s nearly Halloween, and it turns out that children’s hunger for age-appropriate scares rivals their taste for those elusive, full size trick-or-treat candy bars. Mmmmmm … chocolatey age-appropriate scares. Well, we’re here to help stave off starvation with these new- and old-school viewing options.

For the Very Young

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Hayao Miyazaki – often called Japan’s answer to Walt Disney – shares the sweetly magical tale of a budding young witch. Fun adventures befall the little witch-in-training, who becomes a baker’s courier to gain broom-flying skill. Kids will like the holiday feel, the cat and the hijinks with no worry of big scares.

For the Still Quite Wee

Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

This film is so utterly enjoyable, charming and silly that you almost miss the true ingenuity and craft in the animation itself. British placticine duo Wallace – inventor and cheese lover – and his silently worried dog, Gromit, take on the bunnies upsetting town gardeners. But things go all Halloweeney on them. This is the kind of film that begs to be scanned for its clever details (the town barbershop is called A Close Shave, for instance), but it’s the unselfconscious, innocent comedy and remarkable animation that make the film a stunning success.  Wallace & Gromit belong in the highest echelon of doofus and silent sidekick comedy teams, and everyone in your family has reason to see their first full length feature.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

A couple of best buds living in Monstropolis have to keep it under wraps that a child has infiltrated the city. She’s a serious risk of contamination – this is a real danger, actually, because children are filthy germ bags. And they’re often quite sticky. Pixar knows this, and alerts us to the potential epidemic via fuzzy monster characters. The animation is stunning. (Who doesn’t, right now, want to have a fuzzy blue Sulley doll?! You? What are you, a sociopath?)


Frankenweenie (2012)

In stellar black and white, Tim Burton animates the tale of a quiet young scientist and his undead dog. Odes to the classics of horror will entertain the parents (maybe even grandparents) in the audience, but the lovely boy/dog friendship, quirky school kids, and science-related peril will entertain the kids. Plus, Mr. Rzykurski (Martin Landau) is the most spectacular science teacher ever, as depicted in his speech to parents at the PTA meeting: “Ladies and gentlemen. I think the confusion here is that you are all very ignorant. Is that right word, ignorant? I mean stupid, primitive, unenlightened.”

For The Not Too Wee

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Back in 1993, Tim Burton produced the classic goth holiday extravaganza The Nightmare Before Christmas, having handed over his own sketches and story to director Henry Selick and the world’s coolest stop-action animators. Burton’s team, including Danny Elfman on tunes, assembled a lightheartedly macabre fantasy that artfully yet cataclysmically mixed America’s two most indulgent and excessive holidays. It was inspired.

Corpse Bride (2005)

The first animated film Tim Burton directed himself is equal parts wholesome and gruesome, somehow effortlessly combined. A nervous groom practices his wedding vows in a forest, unwittingly awakening a bride murdered on her wedding night. She misunderstands and accepts his promise of love. The reluctant groom is ushered into the afterlife, which is more like a cool blues club than a cloudy resting place, where he is welcomed by a delightfully grisly cast of characters.

The comedy is clever, the bride’s heartbreak is often genuinely poignant, and the rotty flesh is just as natural as the pre-wedding jitters. It’s no Jack Skellington, but it is close.

Monster House (2006)

This one is likely to scare little ones, what with its super creepy sideshow circus backdrop, scary old man and a house that actually eats people. Loads of endearing and interesting characters fall upon the kinds of everyday scares that bloom in a child’s imagination. Well written, honestly spooky, and eventually quite heart tugging, Monster House was a surprise Oscar nomination back in ’06, and is still an underseen Halloween gem.

Coraline (2009)

Coraline is a two-sided cautionary tale. For kids wishing for more attentive parents, be careful what you wish for. For parents disinterested in their tweens, danger lurks and lures your girls. Adapted for the screen and directed by Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas), Coraline offers darkly magical visuals, quirky and creepy characters, and a surprisingly disturbing storyline. The film is clever and goth-gorgeous, but may be a little too creepy for kids under 10.

ParaNorman (2012)

“I see dead people” takes on new legs with this animated tale of the supernatural. ParaNorman celebrates cinematic horror with the story of a little boy whose closest buds are the goofy new kid and his own long-dead grandma. But Norman’s gift of seeing ghosts proves pretty beneficial when some witchy chicanery threatens the whole town. Plus, big props for including a gay couple in a family-friendly flick.


Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (2018)

The humor is silly but not stupid, the frights won’t bring nightmares, the town bully isn’t really that mean, and the town does Halloween like no place you’ve ever seen. It makes for an inviting setting, and once all those costumes and decorations come to life, there is plenty of lower-budget visual pop.

Goosebumps 2 has style, a winning cast, and winking nods to horror classics such as IT and Frankenstein. Plus, it makes books and science seem cool, and gets it all done in under 90 minutes. That adds up to one “fun-size” Halloween treat that doesn’t disappoint.

Now, pass the popcorn and…Happy Halloween!