To celebrate the spookiest month of the year, the staff at Nerds and Beyond are revisiting their favorite horror movies this Halloween to bring you the very best moments from each of their favorites each day for the month of October.
Our next film is another classic: Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.
The month of October and the spooky times of Halloween would be nothing without the works of Tim Burton. From the classic Nightmare Before Christmas — which I watch all October, November, and December — to the live-action masterpieces Beetlejuice, Big Fish, or Sleepy Hollow, his movies capture a love for the macabre, romantic gothic themes and classic spooky stories, with a unique cinematography and musical basis.
The movie I would like to recommend as one of my favorite Halloween movies is the 2005 stop-motion creation Corpse Bride. Written by John August, Caroline Thompson, and Pamela Pettler, it tells the story of a shy, young man who on a nightly walk meets and accidentally marries a dead woman. The film was directed by Mike Johnson and Tim Burton, and stars the voices of Tim Burton dream-team Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. It also features the voices of Emily Watson, Christopher Lee, and Albert Finnley.
Corpse Bride, much like Nightmare Before Christmas, is a unique film made with the highly time-consuming and artistic technique of stop-motion, meaning the characters in the movie are not animated with the help of computers, but by taking hundreds of pictures of figures in action and adding them together to create a moving sequence. I’ve been a fan of Tim Burton movies for almost my entire life, and I had the pleasure to see an exhibit with the original dolls and characters from his most famous works, which are surprisingly tall and uncannily life-like. Watching these figures who had been moved into some of my favorite pieces of media is something I will always remember.
Like every Tim Burton movie, Corpse Bride creates its spooky, eerie, and suspenseful atmosphere not only with the help of its character and set designs, but also with its music. And like almost every Tim Burton movie, the music is composed by Danny Elfman, who manages to create the typical sounds unlike any other, moving songs and themes that are essential to the typical mood these movies need. In Corpse Bride, there are not only beautifully created instrumentals, but also original songs sung by the cast that are among my favorite soundtracks ever.
I could probably go on for another thousand words without having said anything about the plot or actors, just by talking about the cinematography and theory behind it. But I’m aware not everyone is as much as a gothic nerd as me. Which is why I will tell you a bit more about this film, and why it is, in my opinion, essential to any good spooky movie marathon.
Corpse Bride is, of course, a PG-13 family adventure, meaning you won’t be seeing any blood-splashing or blade-slashing, but you will be in that Haunted Mansion mood of feeling the tingles and goosebumps, enjoying a movie with dark colors, mostly set in the dark, and with perfectly created characters that check every box of a good spooky story. You have these pale characters with dark circles under their eyes and clothing reminiscent of a Victorian era. You have extremely thin and extremely big characters creating the much sought after sublimity of a good gothic tale. What I love about this movie is the attention to detail that goes into creating every individual character, not just the main ones. When Victor goes into the underworld and sees a band of skeletons, a group of zombies, or even strangely wriggling insects, they all have their characteristics and traits that make them unforgettable.
Plot-wise, the movie is based on a Russian-Jewish folktale in which a young groom slips his wedding ring on the fingers of a corpse, reciting his vows and the corpse rises, exclaiming “My husband!” In the original tale, the “corpse bride” is brought before a rabbi, who annuls the marriage and the corpse collapses into the ground in a pile of bones. Now, the movie version is slightly different but shows definite similarities. Victor, too, slips a ring unto what he thinks is a branch of a tree but turns out to be the finger of a deceased bride. Drama ensues when Victor is first brought to the land of the dead and then returned to the land of the living, torn between helping his accidentally betrothed dead bride and his promised wife, Emily. The movie develops into a race against time and a few mix-ups about who is supposed to marry whom, but of course, has a happy ending.
Next to the music and character design, I especially love Corpse Bride because it is more than “just a kid’s movie.” It’s a beautifully crafted tale of love, loss, and doubt, as well as the struggle of forgiveness and guilt. There are classic themes of gothic fiction, like labyrinth mansions, shady families and their history, a young, helpless and sensible character striving for happiness, and of course, the right mixture between terror and horror. While this might not be a gory, frightening adventure that keeps you up at night, it is certainly a lovingly created escape from reality, something to watch with a cup of tea with the lights off, something that leaves you in the right mood on a brisk October night.