Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer
If I say the words, black and white, spirals and stripes, quirky girls and weird outcasts, who’s the first person that comes to mind? Well if your answer was Tim Burton, you’re my kinda people and I would give you a big hug if we ever met, or at least a really hearty elbow bump (damn Covid19).
Being a youngster and loving horror usually meant you had to sneak-a-peek to feed your ghoulish appetites. But thanks to Tim Burton weird kids and teens everywhere had a cool loophole they could exploit by telling their parents “It’s rated PG!” The wizard of wonderfully weird has made a name for himself with some truly memorable movies under his belt. And while his recent releases haven’t quite lived up to expectations, there’s a whole slew of his flicks to choose for us fans who enjoy stepping into twisted fairytales, fantastical worlds and stories where Johnny Depp was totally awesome.
Here are my TOP 5 FAVOURITE SPOOKY TIM BURTON MOVIES:
#5 Corpse Bride
It goes without saying, The Nightmare Before Christmas is tops in stop motion animation and as a Burton (produced and conceptualised) movie. Frankenweenie was a wonderful throwback to the classic black and white horror movies of the 30s and 40s but didn’t quite have the energy to make it truly memorable. Corpse Bride on the other hand sits squarely in both places for me as both a great horror movie and one of the best stop motion animated movies I’ve ever seen. Heavily inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, it tells a sweet but spooky tale of a shy groom-to-be who inadvertently proposes to a dead woman. So she rises from the grave assuming he has married her.
From the colour choices to the songs and the stellar voice acting of Burton alums Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (just to name a few) Corpse Bride is at its best when focused on themes of bucking societal norms and depicting a version of the underworld almost more vibrant than the living one itself. So if anyone ever tells you Coco was the first movie to do this, feel free to correct them in your favorite faux British accent, while sipping on a cup of Earl Grey.
#4 Mars Attacks!
If there was ever a list for the most underrated Burton movies, Mars Attacks would easily make the Top 3. I think it’s because aesthetics-wise it’s so different visually from most of his other movies, but this in no way makes it a bad one.
This quirky send up to science fiction B-movies (the kind the cast of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 love to rip on) Mars Attacks has a simple premise of an alien invasion and how the modern generation (or in the timeline of the movie, Generation X) deals with it.
Filled to the brim with Hollywood stars, that all seem to be having a ball, the movie unapologetically embraces the mass destruction caused by these little green men in a way Independence Day didn’t. Yes, it was a flop upon release. No, it’s in no way a bad movie and deserves to be revisited by any fans of both Sci Fi and Tim Burton’s work alike.
#3 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
I’m not a fan of musicals. But throw in a ton of the red stuff, Tim Burton’s flair for the gothic an, of course, his go-to guy Johnny Depp as a barber who enjoys taking “a little off the top” to the extreme, and you had me at the first melodious note.
I remember watching this in cinema and my reaction to it matched everyone else in the room. Holy Crap! This is a musical?!!
By far the darkest of Tim Burton’s movies, Sweeney Todd aka The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is basically a story of bad people doing bad things, yet the actors manage to charm you with their songs and their passion for the roles into following them down the darkest of paths. So even though the singing might not be the best ever brought to a musical adaptation turned movie, you can easily overlook it and enjoy a body count and bloodletting high enough to rival nearly any slasher flick out there!
#2 Sleepy Hollow
Okay, I’m grinning like an idiot now because I really love this movie! It is based on one of my favourite storybooks growing up (I was a weird kid, by now this shouldn’t be a surprise to my readers) and tells the tale of the original Sheldon Cooper, Ichabod Crane, who in the movie version is an investigator sent to the small town of Sleepy Hollow to figure out who’s the culprit behind the decapitations of some townsfolk.
Once again adding his special brand of weird to the mix, Johnny Depp plays Crane in a delightfully oddball manner. But the entire cast here is entertaining and of course Tim Burton’s unique style is heavily on display here, as well as his love for classic horror movies like Frankenstein and The Wolfman.
The cinematography, the costume design (The Headless Horseman looks and moves like a dream) as well as the perfect blend of horror and comedy, Sleepy Hollow is one of those Burton movies you can watch time and time again and always come away feeling entertained.
Honourable Mention: Batman Returns
Everyone sings praises to Nolan, but for this fan, Tim Burton’s take on The Dark Knight will forever be iconic and memorable in the best ways. Batman was fantastic, but for this horror loving fan Batman Returns was just a little bit darker (and a lot more fun) which is just the way I like ‘em! Yes, it’s no horror movie, but Danny DeVito as The Penguin was the stuff nightmares are made of, and that alone qualifies Batman Returns on this list for me.
Say it three times, I dare ya! Beetlejuice (or geuse, if you’re feeling fancy) is the horror-comedy all other horror-comedies are judged by. It’s also the movie most associated with the name Tim Burton where even non-fans have probably seen and enjoyed it.
For the two people in the universe that somehow have no clue what this is about, Beetlejuice tells the story of a newly deceased couple who have to contend with an unbearably annoying family who has moved into their home. So they hire a malicious (and hilarious) spirit to drive them out.
I honestly have to wonder if this movie would’ve worked as well without the off the-wall energy and crazy comedic stylings of Michael Keaton, who doesn’t just chew the scenery, he damn well devours it! Then again, the entire cast is wonderful, with Catherine O’Hara nailing every single moment she’s on screen and Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis perfectly encapsulating what it must be like to be clueless in a world they have no idea how to navigate.
Then we have the set pieces, which are so memorable, you can picture most of them without even revisiting the movie. Burton’s vision of what is basically a poltergeist story has some of the most wonderfully kooky scenes, like the first time they summon Beetle- NO NO! YOU THOUGHT I FORGOT DIDN’T YOU! As I was saying, from the scene where they summon, THAT guy, to the wonderfully unique look of the house and my personal favourite, the visits to the Afterlife (I love how the spirits look exactly the same as how they died) nothing feels wasted. Burton even manages to up the horror ante, with the final act having some truly scary moments (or at least, scary for kiddies watching) like when the poor deceased couple start to decay or the handrail turning into a snake. Yes, this is horror comedy at its finest.
So while there are admittedly darker and more horrific Tim Burton movies out there, I have to acknowledge the fact, none of them are more memorable, more entertaining or more iconic than Beetlejuice.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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