It’s three days until Christmas, so what better way is there to prepare than to watch the misadventures in a pastel coloured suburbia of a slow-witted goth with razor sharp blades for fingers dressed head to toe in bondage gear? It had been some time since I had last seen Edward Scissorhands and to be perfectly honest I had absolutely no recollection of this movie having any connection at all with Christmas… However, watching it again, it is definitely a Christmas movie of sorts, but in much the same way that Batman Returns is also a Christmas movie. Say what you want about Tim Burton as a filmmaker, he likes the look of Christmas decorations on screen.
Edward Scissorhands opens with snow falling over the 20th Century Fox logo. The credit sequence is exceptionally well done, setting the tone for the film as well as giving fragments of Edward’s back story through a series of striking, but incongruous images: A spider web covered gothic mansion, weird robot things, cookies, a pair of hands and Vincent Price. The movie opens with snow falling as an old woman begins to answer her granddaughter’s question of where the snow comes from: “It would have to start with scissors. A man who has scissors for hands”. As far as stories to tell your grandchild before they try to sleep, it does seem a somewhat problematic opening, but she continues “A long time ago an inventor lived in that mansion. He made many things, he also made a man. The inventor was very old and he died before he could finish the man he invented, his name was Edward”.
…and then BAM! We’re being assaulted with a nightmare vision of suburbia drowning in pastels. Peg Boggs (Diane Wiest) is the local Avon saleswoman and apparently a particularly terrible one. After unsuccessfully visiting every house in the neighbourhood she sees the gothic mansion on the hill and decides to see if there are any potential customers up there. Behind the gothic exterior as she enters the grounds she sees a beautiful garden filled with extraordinary topiary. Hiding in the shadows inside the mansion she finds Edward, a man-child dressed in some weird leather fetish gear with scissors in place of his hands. Realising that apart from being a pale weirdo in bondage gear with blades for fingers, he is harmless and alone, Peg takes Edward back to her home to look after him.
The Boggs family accept Edward as a part of their family. Peg is caring, patient and nurturing towards him. Peg’s husband Bill, brilliantly underplayed by Alan Arkin, treats Edward partly as a friend, partly as a curiosity and partly as a source of mild amusement. Their son Kevin finds Edward endlessly fascinating and their daughter Kim, well… Despite the impressive make-up, we recognise Winona Ryder by her distinctive voice as the old woman in the opening scene fondly telling the story of Edward. However, when we see her as the younger Kim, she doesn’t like Edward and sees his presence as an imposition and is regularly mocked by her asshole boyfriend Jim (Anthony Michael Hall) because of Edward’s obvious affection toward her. However, as the film progresses Kim sees Edward for his beautiful soul and not as the awkward, pale, spiky haired goth weirdo that everyone else in the neighbourhood thinks that Tim Burton is, sorry, I mean Edward.
Edward Scissorhands is primarily focussed on how a suburban monoculture deals with the outsider, in the form of an awkward, pale, spiky haired goth weirdo. While the Boggs family are incredibly welcoming and accepting of Edward, the rest of the neighbourhood’s acceptance of him varies depending on fear, rumour and their own self-interest. At first thrilled by not only his otherness, but his hedge-trimming and hair-cutting prowess, Edward is in high demand across the neighbourhood. However, after rejecting Joyce’s advances and being left to take responsibility for a failed robbery arranged by Jim of his own house, the neighbourhood begins to turn on Edward.
As soon as we see Christmas decorations the whole thing goes to hell. The neighbourhood gossip has reached fever pitch and everyone is saying how they aren’t going to go to the annual Christmas party at the Boggs’ (which apparently is a big deal every year). While Kim and Peg are putting decorations on the tree and Bill is up on the roof getting the lights together, Edward is carving a giant ice angel in the backyard out of a giant block of ice. Not really sure where the giant block of ice showed up from, but I’m sure that’s not important. Kim sees Edward working on the sculpture and dances below it as the ice falls. Jim shows up and startles Edward who accidentally cuts Kim. He then starts pushing Edward and shouting “get out of here freak”. Before Edward runs away.
In frustration, Edward destroys several of the topiaries he has made and slashes some car tyres as the angry mob mobilises behind him. Edward returns to the Boggs house to find Kim there and she and Edward embrace. In true asshole manner, a drunk Jim drives to confront Kim and nearly runs over Kevin in his van. Running to save Kevin, Edward pushes him off the road accidentally cutting his face and hands. Jim starts screaming that Edward is trying to kill Kevin and an angry mob start chasing Edward, who flees back to the mansion on the hill. Kim follows Edward to the mansion, but their reunion is interrupted by Jim, who has followed her there and pulls out a gun and tries to kill Edward. Jim beats Edward with a pole and when Kim tries to stop him, he strikes Kim. Seeing this, Edward stabs Jim in the stomach, causing him to fall out of the window to his death. Kim tells Edward she loves him and they kiss, before Edward says “Goodbye”. Kim takes a scissorhand from the inventor’s table and tells the mob gathered outside the mansion that the roof collapsed and killed Edward, she then holds the scissorhand up as evidence that he has died.
The older Kim tells her granddaughter that she knows that he is still up there because it never snowed before he arrived, wistfully adding “sometimes you can catch me dancing in it”. Up in the mansion, we then see Edward carving snow sculptures, including one that looks like the young Kim, as the ice floats down over the neighbourhood… I’m not really sure where he gets all the ice from though.
Edward Scissorhands is the first of the many, many films that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp would make together. A partnership which has been forged around Johnny Depp’s ability to transform into a series of awkward, pale, spiky haired goth weirdos and the awkward, pale, spiky haired goth weirdo Tim Burton’s desire to build his narratives around awkward, pale, spiky haired goth weirdos. As far as Christmas movies go, Edward Scissorhands is not particularly festive, the innocent stranger is run out of town and destined to live alone in his gothic mansion towering over the weird pastel covered suburbia. However, we do see a lot of Christmas decorations and Edward does give the resoundingly unpleasant residents of the little town a white Christmas, so that’s nice. I give it four out of nine reindeer.