The Price of Being Vincent
In the beginning, there was horror. Birthed from what seemed like the rib of a cadaver,”Hitchcock“, “Romero“, and “Carpenter” emerged as prominent directors in the field of horror filmmaking. Containing suspenseful, violent, and sometimes sexually suggestive themes (such as Hitchcock’s incorporation of “voyeurism” into his movies), their films were set apart from others not only in execution, but substantiality. These directors’ films were quite obviously for adults only; though there were subtle scares in children’s films for years, most youngsters knew little of their fears on-screen. Many adults would argue that this was for the best, but something sinister lurked in the mind of one individual, who would soon change the genre of children’s animation for the scarier.
The artistically eccentric film director “Tim Burton” is most well known for entering the movie-making scene with the production of “Edward Scissorhands“. Most had recognized him for that specific work up until the 1993 release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas“, an animated film made entirely of clay characters and settings that was considered by many to be “too creepy” for children. Although both Burton films remain popular, there is one that many have never heard of – but that is nonetheless important in understanding how intelligence can exist in horror films – even those meant for children.
Burton’s 1982 short film Vincent is an interesting take on how children’s realities play a role in determining their fears. Based directly on a poem by Burton himself,Vincent is about a seven-year-old boy, Vincent Malloy, whose wish in life is to be like his idol, Vincent Price. Although “[wandering] dark hallways, alone and tormented” and reading works by Edgar Allan Poe are among his favorite hobbies, his mother insists that he go outside and play – the “real” way. Finding this much more insane a concept than any he had ever conjured, Vincent plunges into insanity, quoting Poe’s “The Raven“.
Please indulge in the six-minute short film here before continuing to read: “Tim Burton’s ‘Vincent’”.
There are elements of horror present in the animation, lighting, sound, tone, and lack of color in the film; this much is obvious. With conflict between Vincent’s creative insanity and the horrors in reality that drive him to madness, however, this short children’s film remains very thinkable.
While Vincent’s creativity and attraction to the bizarre and scary seems to cause his insanity, there are some hints in the film that suggest that this is not necessarily the case. The lines, “Every horror in his life that had crept through his dreams / Swept his mad laughter to terrified screams” accompanied by a dissolved camera shot of various aspects of his reality (his aunt, mother, and dog) are hints that suggest that a child’s fears start at what occurs in their reality. While it is true that his creativity makes these beings scarier, the fact that they are what host his fears is what is intriguing.
Based on my interpretation, I beg that these questions be considered: What exactly is the price of being Vincent, in terms of horror? Is Vincent more terrified of being Vincent Price… or of being what is expected of Vincent Malloy?
Reader Questions to Consider: How did you interpret Vincent? Could this short film be an accurate portrayal of how a child’s reality brings their fears to fruition, or is it just the illogic of a dramatic child’s creativity? What is the price of being too fantastical, or too “real”? Is there anything wrong, or even scary, about being more of one than the other?
— Christine Sellin, Art & Design Editor
Editor’s Note: Christine Sellin is a senior undergraduate English major and Film Studies minor at Lewis University and the Art & Design editor for Jet Fuel Review. She enjoys bizarre and psychological literature and film, and is a budding buff of both.