Gothic Genre Explored in Tim Burton's Films

Categories: ExploreTim Burton

This is often ignited by key scenes that feature macabre, supernatural, fantasy or science fiction. This is evident in the various scenes within each of Tim Burton’s Films. Tim Burton incorporates the style of Gothic elements such as Gothic style architecture and prominent dark lighting in the film, Edward Scissor Hands (1990). Through these film techniques, Burton thus is able to explore the the dark and damaged world of the suburbia.

These techniques include the bright lighting within the suburbia residences, which often emphasizes the contrasting dark lighting from black shades implemented by the hand made metal structures that is prominently used within Edward’s Victorian styled manor/home.

Such discrepancies between bright and dark lighting is evident in the scene where Pegg decides to visit Edward’s isolated mansion in hopes to sell her Avon products, despite her failure from her seemingly welcoming suburbia.

Pegg’s exclusion implements the idea that the suburbia is the damaged world, which is evident in the scene whereby many residences such as Joyce impolitely ignores Pegg from entering her house while selling her Avon products.

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This juxtaposes the seemingly warm-hearted suburbia, which in fact is not. However Edward’s home provides more warmth than the suburbia. Tim Burton also contrasts the general suburbia and the Gothic styled architecture of Edward’s Victorian style manor. The conformity of the suburbia is evident in the scene where residences of the suburbia robotically leave their picture perfect houses with clean cut lawns to work.

The dichotomies of light and dark lighting, the suburbia’s commitment in submitting to conformity provides a sense of uneasiness and a sinister atmosphere for the audience, because the audience is challenged to reason that the Suburbia is actually the damaged world, despite the eerie aura that Edward’s home project through its dark lightning and threatening appearance.

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Through Burton’s exploration of the damaged suburbia world, he has successfully fused gothic elements such as light and dark lighting complimented by gothic styled architecture and structures, in effectively creating the horror film, Edward Scissor hands (1990).

Similarly in the film, Nightmare before Christmas (1993), Tim Burton also integrates dark lighting and unconventional style of architecture, in the gothic setting of Halloween town. Tim Burton aims to depict Halloween town as the damaged world by portraying its setting with harsh and direct lighting complimented with monochromatic tones. This is evident in the opening musical scene of the film, whereby the buildings and the residents of halloween town is depicted in various panning and establishing film shots.

Burton also explores this damaged world through Halloween town’s set such as narrow based structures, mythical organic structures, elongated silhouettes, bone like trees, deep shadows and textured woods. This is evident in the scene, when protagonist Jack Skellington wanders aimlessly in the deserted forest, after the previous Halloween event celebration was finished. The dark and intense lighting implemented by the unusual geometrical structures and architecture of Halloween town fabricates an unnatural, creepy and an uneasy atmosphere amongst the audience.

The effect on the audience perspicuously demonstrates the expected reaction based on the standards of horror films. Therefore through Tim Burton’s employment of the gothic elements such as dark lighting and gothic styled architecture, Burton successfully explores Halloween town as the damaged world, thus fabricating an effective horror film. In the film, Sleepy hollow (1999), Tim Burton also integrates various Gothic elements such as Dark lighting and Gothic styled architecture, to emphasize the damaged world of Sleepy Hollow, in efforts to achieve a successful horror film.

Tim Burton continuously present the town of Sleepy Hollow under monochromatic tones and shadows, under the principal influence of film noire, a style that highlights the macabre and haunted aura of Sleepy Hollow, through an abundant use of black and white tones with splashes of red. Burton also uses sets in the film that feature dense forests of skeletal trees, rotting and gothic styled houses with prominent exaggeration of key landmarks such as the detail and seemingly animate structure of the ‘Tree of the Dead’. This is evident in the scene whereby, Ichabod Crane with his fellow associates Katrina

Vangareth and Young Jonathan Masbeth, come in contact with the ‘Tree of the Dead’, within the haunted “Western Woods”. In attempts to discover what lies inside the ‘Tree of the Dead’, Ichabod Crane is forced to cut his way through its wooden flesh while fighting to repel the showering red blood, only to see a collection of rotting and blood-soaked heads (from the victims). Burton’s emphasis on the film noire style with splashes of blood-red colours and the gothic styled and animate architectures of Sleepy Hollow, play a significant part in creating a morbid and terrifying character of the damaged world of Sleepy Hollow.

Through the incorporation of gothic elements such as dark lighting and film noire implemented by gothic styled architecture, Burton successfully explores Sleepy Hollow as a damaged world and thus effectively create the horror film,Sleepy Hollow (1999). Tim Burton successfully uses gothic elements in creating the horror film, Edward Scissor Hands (1990), through the interpretation of Edward as the flawed hero.

Burton delineates Edward as the flawed hero through his physical abnormality and structure considering that he has hands for scissors and that he is an imitation of life considering that he was constructed by a creator not by the normal cycle of human birth. The audience can recall that Edward’s perception of what is good and bad is seemingly altered or underdeveloped since his creator a. k. a. father died without teaching him the extensions of social etiquette and laws including his unfinished hands.

Burton emphasizes Edward’s incomplete hands as it plays an important role in allowing the audience to understand Edward’s flaws and limitations to experience the normalities of being a human being which include interactions such as merely shaking hands or to touch another. An example of this is evident in the key scene whereby Edward is questioned by Kim to hold her, however realizing his physical constraints, Edward replies melancholy, “I can’t”. Burton also includes a key scene that highlights the flaws of Edward’s knowledge beyond than that of his naiveness and basic desire for goodness.

This feature scene highlights how Edward is questioned by Kim’s father during Dinner after being arrested for trespassing Jim’s home. Kim’s father motions Edward to answer a simple question of wether to give a lost brief case full of money to the police or use the lost money to buy gifts for their loved ones, however Edward fails to answer correctly, quoting that it should be “be given to my loved ones”. This demonstrates that his isolation within the confines of his outlying manor/home on the hill has greatly effected his knowledge of lawful conduct within a law-abiding world that does not accept him, understand him nor want him.

Edward’s physical constraints and flaws within his knowledge of social etiquette/manner and lawful conduct vividly provides the audience that Edward clearly has imperfections as a hero and thus this response creates an emphatic yet supernatural atmosphere amongst the audience towards Edward. Overall, through the interpretation of Edward as the Flawed Hero, Tim Burton has successfully used Gothic elements to create the horror component in the film, Edward Scissor Hands (1990).

Tim Burton successfully uses Gothic elements in creating the horror film, Nightmare before Christmas (1993), through the interpretation of Jack Skellington as the flawed hero. Tim Burton explores the flaws of Jack Skellington a. k. a the Pumpkin King considered as the king of Halloween Town, through presenting his true feelings of boredom from the repeated and monotonous arrangement of the Halloween event, his desire to break free from Halloween Town’s conformity and to expand his vision and boundaries of how Halloween should be executed.

Burton puts great emphasis on Jack’s flaws through key musical scenes such as when Jack fails to celebrate joyfully after the previous Halloween event, whereby he wanders melancholy in the cemetery towards the woods in search of better and unconventional entertainment as well as Jack’s utter amusement in his contact with Christmas Land. The audience is challenged in reasoning what jack fails to continue and submit towards the expectations of being the traditional hero, which is one whom does not let his/her inner feelings disrupt the vision of what must always be done.

In this case Jack fails to continue his role as the Pumpkin King to rule the traditional ways of Halloween Town. Through the portrayal of Jack Skellington as the flawed hero, Tim Burton successfully combines this gothic element in the film, Nightmare before Christmas (1993), thus creating effectively a horror film. In the film, Sleepy Hollow (1999), Tim Burton successfully employs Gothic elements in creating a horror film, through the interpretation of Ichabod Crane as the flawed hero.

Burton portrays Ichabod Crane as a mysterious man whom does not submit within the social and scientific field, given that he is not taken into consideration regarding his field as being an inventor and mortician. Ichabod is depicted as a flawed hero due to that he has a disturbed past and unorthodox approach of manner in responding towards his work and associates. This is mainly due to the fact that Ichabod has been orphaned since the persecution of his mother accused of being a witch, which explains his obsession of the truth and his association with the spiritual and supernatural realms.

This is achieved through Burton’s incorporation of key scenes such as the recurrent flashbacks in the form of Ichabod’s nightmare’s, depicting his childhood interactions with his mother and also his witnessing of his mother’s gruesome death by merciless torture and also his unconventional manners as a man who faints in the sight of blood. This challenges the audience’s expectations of what a hero should qualify as being socially acceptable and independently aware to courageously face his fears regardless of their past influences.

However Ichabod Crane is opposite to these expectations, which plays a significant role in creating a disturbed and uncanny feel amongst the audience and are forced to realize that this film qualify to the standards of a horror films. Through Tim Burton’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane as the flawed hero, he successfully integrates gothic elements within Ichabod’s character, in effectively producing a Horror component in the film,Sleepy Hollow (1999).

In the film, Edward Scissor Hands (1990), Tim Burton employs gothic elements to achieve a sense of dread and terror, such as music and motif, costume, dialogue complimented by omens and supernaturals, which effectively creates a horror film. Burton incorporates dreamlike and ethereal music evident in the scenes where Edward is free to express his emotions such as when edward sculpts the angel from pure ice. Busy and fast-phased music parallels the fast-like mainstream of the suburbia society. It allows the audience to experience the true atmosphere which is one of perjury, social ignorance and influences of rumors.

This attributes greatly in shaping the damaged world of the Suburbia, thus creating the sense of dread and terror for the audience. Burton also implements this through Edwards costume, motif, omens and supernatural elements. The dominant idea within this Movie’s setting is the portrayal of Edward’s hands as razor-sharped scissors. It serves as a constant reminder to the audience of what Edward’s hand symbolize to be the drawback of having an artificial life which include the limitations in interacting with people even those he loves.

Edward is the presence of the supernatural since Edward’s jet-black body suit that is fabricated with hand-sewn patches and supportive belts portrays the physical character of Edward as a creation designed and made by man to imitate life. Burton also utilizes a style of dialogue that is concise and reservedness evident in Edward’s speech phase,which emphasizes the kind, shy and honest nature of Edward. It also indicated his awkwardness with socially interacting with people and also emphasizes the underdeveloped yet good natured knowledge of Edward.

Through these gothic elements the audience is able to experience the mysterious and awkwardness nature of Edward, in contrast to the defective nature of the suburbia. In employing these various gothic elements, Tim Burton successfully fabricates the horror component in the film, Edward Scissor Hands(1990). Tim Burton utilizes gothic elements in the film, Nightmare before Christmas (1993), to achieve a sense of dread and terror, among which include music and motifs, costume, dialogue with fragments of omens and supernatural elements, designed to create an effective horror film.

Their are constant musicals performed by a particular character such as Jack Skellington, Sally, Oggie Boogie Man which Burton uses to emphasize what the characters are feeling the strongest and also their personality. Such as in the scene whereby Jack sings a melancholy song in a cemetery expressing his failure in Christmas. Another example includes Sally’s wishful song expressing for her yearning feelings for Jack.

An example of fast phased, rhythmic and casino like themed music emphasizes Oggie boogie’s nature of being a gambler and also highlights his dangerous and mischievous nature in gambling the victim’s lives he will consume. Burton also incorporates motifs ; omens and supernatural elements. The dominant idea within this film’s setting is the existence of the Seasonal Events such as Halloween and Christmas emphasized though the 5 seasonal portal doors inside the woods which is a portal to it’s seasonal event town such as Halloween Town and Christmas Town.

Other examples include the appearance of supernatural beings such as the residences of Halloween Town such as Jack being a skeleton, Sally a frankenstein creation, vampire and zombie residents etc. , which is bizarre and otherworldly. Burton also utilizes costume that is primarily characterized to suit the nature and status of a character, such as Jack wears a jet-black and bizarre tuxedo which ultimately allows himself to be characterized as a Halloween citizen. However Santa Claus wears the traditional Christmas costume which indicates that he is a citizen of the Halloween Town.

These categorical style of costumes enables the audience to understand what each character plays a part in the story, which also contributes to the sense of eeriness and creepiness. The Dialogue has a fusion of jargon, colloquialism as well as formal language that sustains the intended atmosphere such as during the scene when Sally rummages through her potions of “Frogs Breath” and “Worms squirt” to poison her creator’s soup. The use of jargon sustains an eerie, bizarre and a sense of dread and terrorizing atmosphere for the audience.

Tim Burton’s fusion of gothic elements, enable him to create a sense of dread and terror amongst the audience, therefore effectively creating a the horror film, Edward Scissor Hands (1990). In the film, Sleepy Hollow (1999), Tim Burton creates a sense of dread and terror, which effectively fabricates a horror film, through the various gothic elements within the movie such as music and motifs, costume, dialogue complimented by the influence of omens and supernatural elements.

Tim Burton utilizes dreamlike and ethereal theme of music evident during the scenes of Ichabod’s past childhood memories through nightmares and also when the town elders lie murdered in the church with Katrina unconscious, after Baltus Van tassel was killed by the Headless Horseman. The repetition of ethereal themed music indicates the presence of a supernatural elements such as witch craft in Ichabod’s dream and the murderous bidding of the headless horseman in the church.

The dominant idea within this Movie’s setting is the consecutive appearance of the decapitated head of the victims, murdered by the Headless Horseman. The consistent appearance of the head, signifies the presence of the headless horseman and thus the continuity of the fear and complications kept alive by the residents of Sleepy Hollow. Burton also uses 18th century styled clothing to explore the modern world in contrast with the traditional and ancient supernatural world full of witches, legends and auntings, which in turn implements to the film’s sense of dread and terror. This is also paralleled with Burton’s use of formal and expressive style of dialogue, which effectively sustains the seriousness of the situation, that also emanates a suspenseful and mysterious phase to the story/ film. Last but not least burton incorporates omens and supernatural elements such as the fact the Sleepy Hollow is a damaged world influenced by ancient witch craft both good and evil, the presence of legendary and hellbound avengers which is the headless horseman.

Supernatural elements also includes the inclusion of witches in state of possession as well as Ichabod Crane’s influence within the spiritual and supernatural realms. All of these gothic elements play an essential factor in maintaing a suspenseful and sinister atmosphere for the audience. Through Burton’s incorporation of these gothic elements, he has successfully created a sense of dread and terror , thus effectively creating the horror film, Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Tim Burton is a successful auteur of gothic films, a sub genre of horror. He has a easily identifiable style that creates dread and terror in the hearts of his audience. He repeats his repeated use of gothic elements such as the dark and eerie setting in the films Edward Scissor Hands (1990), Nightmare before Christmas (1993) and Sleepy Hollow (1999), are created through the use of elongated shadows, harsh lighting, stylized gothic sets and foreboding musical motifs.

His flawed protagonists are consistently isolated from those they seek to be accepted by. Edward Scissor hands through his physical deformity, Jack Skellington through his loneliness and boredom and Ichabod Crane through his association with the Supernatural realms, lack of social etiquette and also his avante-garde experimental ways of thinking. Through these skillfully combined gothic elements, suspenseful and horror films are produced.

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Gothic Genre Explored in Tim Burton's Films. (2018, Aug 31). Retrieved from

Gothic Genre Explored in Tim Burton's Films

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