Tim Burton’s revision of the classic Frankenstein tale is a quintessential modern-day exploration of American suburban life. Incorporating just about every movie genre into the narrative, with elements of gothic horror, family adventure, comedy, romance and thriller, there is no shortage of emotional range to quench all your festive filmic desires.
On a routinely unsuccessful tour of her suburban American street, local Avon sales lady Peg (the charming Dianne Wiest) ventures to the large Gothic castle situated outside of town to try her entrepreneurial luck. Dark, brooding and towering atop a hill, the decrepit mansion is alienated from the identical bungalows below. Peg explores the deserted rooms to shockingly discover Edward hiding in the attic (virtually mute Johnny Depp): a man with scissors for hands. Created by The Inventor (Vincent Price), who tragically succumbed to a heart attack before completing his design, Edward has remained alone and incomplete in the castle ever since. Invited to return with Peg, Edward attempts to fit into the Boggs’ Nuclear family home; consisting of oblivious husband Bill (Alan Arkin), beautiful daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and inquisitive son Kevin (Robert Oliveri). Where daily life resembles clockwork, with husbands driving to work in unison alongside their perfectly mowed laws, the neighbourhood possesses every unsettling peculiarity associated with sterilised American life. The town’s initial infatuation causes Edward to become the resident hero, his bladed hands embraced as communal garden shears, ice sculptors and hairdressing scissors. Women desire him, men respect him and children idolise him. But in a place ruled by conformity and normalcy, their newly acquainted Outsider soon begins to instil fear and unsettlement into the locals, leaving Edward’s new family to fight for his acceptance and right to remain a part of the community.
There is an abundance of reasons to hail Edward Scissorhands as a binge-worthy Christmas necessity. Importantly, the film’s action-packed finale takes place during the festive period, with the community’s dramatic witch-hunt of Edward happening amidst the town’s dazzling festive lights. But despite the seasonal setting, the narrative does not enforce a sickeningly festive-fuelled morality upon audiences, like so many other Christmas-themed films. You can relax in the certainty that you don’t have to love Christmas to appreciate and enjoy Burton’s 1990 classic. But, regardless, if you’re not completely ready for Christmas after watching Ryder gracefully pirouette beneath a haze of snow to Elfman’s ‘The Ice Queen’, then you must have an irremovable Grinch wedged within your soul. Danny Elfman’s soundtrack marriages mesmerising choir vocals with grand string harmonies, creating an iconically familiar soundtrack that is now synonymous with this time of year.
Dazzling set and costume designs, humorous offbeat dialogue between an ensemble of iconic characters and a timeless narrative exploring human behaviour and relationships, Burton’s film ticks every Christmas-themed box. And, anyway, how could you possibly not love horror-lord Vincent Price’s last movie before his death in 1993? To deny his role as the quirky inventor/father figure of Edward would simply be sacrilege.