Inside Complex in Glendale on Monday night, two karaoke singers work the crowd into a sing-a-long. One long-haired man with a deep voice has taken on the role of Oogie Boogie, the villain from The Nightmare Before Christmas, singing the character's jazzy theme song. Another man, dressed in Jack Skellington stripes, helps out with the lines sung by Santa Claus.

That the crowd seemingly knows all the words isn't surprising, considering how many are wearing The Nightmare Before Christmas T-shirts, hoodies and sleepwear. On the Monday before December's big holiday, Ground Control is hosting “The Karaoke Before Christmas.” It's the first time in the event's decade-plus history that they've used the Tim Burton hit as the theme, but The Nightmare Before Christmas was already really popular with the crowd.

“It's huge,” says Andrew Holguin, who runs the weekly karaoke party. Christmas itself is creepy, going beyond the recent surge of Krampus-mania. As Holguin and friends point out, Santa Claus—this bearer of goodwill who somehow knows all of our business—is a little disconcerting. Maybe that's something children forget after they stop shrieking in horror during Santa photo ops at the malls. At Ground Control, people remember. 


A Ground Control patron wears Nightmare Before Christmas slippers for Monday night's event.; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

A Ground Control patron wears Nightmare Before Christmas slippers for Monday night's event.; Credit: Liz Ohanesian

The fact that The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually an old Halloween movie— it was released in October of 1993— isn't lost on the Ground Control team. They actually mention this fact in their Facebook invitation. Doing a slightly creepy, slightly cute party for the holidays goes with the audience. “I originally wanted to do this for the goth and industrial crowd,” says Holguin of the karaoke party's origins.

While the karaoke singers now include people with all sorts of tastes in music, the goths still love The Nightmare Before Christmas. Even back in the mid-1990s, corset- and fishnet-wearing club kids would get down to “This Is Halloween” on dark and foggy dance floors in Los Angeles.

More than 20 years later, the movie has taken a different turn.

In 2014, goth-ing up your Christmas tree is no big deal. Search for “gothic Christmas ornaments” and you might come up with an Etsy treasure trove of bats, spiders and skulls. Someone even sells Nick Cave tree trimmings.

As the fall and winter holidays turn into one big Halloween-to-New Year's Day blur, The Nightmare Before Christmas becomes a sort of connective tissue. Holguin says that the movie brings the message of Christmas—”not the specific religious theme, but that global feel-good theme”—to Halloween.

In The Nightmare Before Christmas, the presumed-scary creatures often turn out to be quite lovable and compassionate. “It brought this amazingly positive message for something that we kind of already embraced,” he says.

With the alternative culture-minded crowd at Complex on Monday, though, The Nightmare Before Christmas (and, he notes, Doctor Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog) is among the biggies.

Someone with knowledge of The Nightmare Before Christmas might assume that singers would choose, “What's This?” That's the song Jack sings when he discovers Christmas. “That's really popular when the random person comes along,” says Holguin. The regulars, though, go for tunes like “Oogie Boogie's Song” and “Jack's Lament.”

It's not all The Nightmare Before Christmas tunes at Complex. A couple people sing tribute songs associated with Joe Cocker, the famed gravel-voiced singer who died earlier that day in Colorado at age 70. Christmas songs, including an NSFW version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” turn up. Plenty of people stick to the favorites.

When one person announces that he's singing an Oingo Boingo song (which seems to occur a lot at karaoke nights in L.A.), he makes the connection to The Nightmare Before Christmas: Danny Elfman, who composed the movie's score, fronted Oingo Boingo.

As for Christmas, the movie essentially reverses the common marketing trends of the season. If Santa Claus figurines can hit stores when you're still buying Halloween candy, why can't you pick up a few skulls in December?

Go ahead, do it, and make sure you sing a few The Nightmare Before Christmas songs when you're trimming the tree.

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