Spooky Season Cinema: Sleepy Hollow

When my husband and I were dating, he invited me to a movie that he had already seen. He admitted later he didn’t mind that the movie might scare me, and I might jump and have to be held by him. The movie was Sleepy Hollow. The main actor was Johnny Depp. The year was 1999. And I haven’t seen the movie since — until last week when The Boy and I watched it again for Spooky Season Cinema, a feature I did this fall with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs. This is probably why I kept saying, “I don’t remember any of this movie.” The Boy was quite concerned about my brain and why I couldn’t remember, at first, so many of the gory scenes. I did start to remember more as the movie went on.

I have to say it’s probably because I blocked it all from my brain since it scared me so much. Ha! Who knows.

“Or,” I told my son with a mischievous grin. “I was too busy admiring your dad during the movie.”

He just rolled his eyes and didn’t comment.

In all reality, I am quite certain that I was watching it through my fingers and wishing for it to be over, sort of like this time around, and not because it is bad but because it’s just so creepy.

Anyhow, for those who aren’t familiar, this is a movie based on the story by Washington Irving, but since it’s directed by Tim Burton, there are a lot of licenses taken. It’s very dark visually and otherwise. It involves Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) being sent from NYC to the little village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate the murders of four people by what people in the village say is a headless horseman.

Johnny Depp’s acting in the movie is odd, but that’s always how he acts. Odd, but good, you know what I mean!

American actor Johnny Depp on the set of Sleepy Hollow, based on the story by Washington Irving and directed by Tim Burton. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 1999, Robert Ebert wrote of the movie: “This is the best-looking horror film since Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” It is not, however, titled “Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow,” perhaps because the story has been altered out of all recognition from the Irving classic. Perhaps not. No power on earth could persuade me to reread the original and find out. What it depends upon is Burton’s gift for bizarre and eccentric special effects, and a superb performance by Johnny Depp, who discards everything we may ever have learned or thought about Ichabod Crane and starts from scratch.”

This isn’t a movie I would watch over and over, or probably again (for another 23 years) only because it was so dark (to me, but not necessarily to others who enjoy these types of movies), but I might watch it again for the acting, which is very good (Johnny is awkward and funny to me, but I guess that’s how he’s supposed to be for this character). The imagery is also very dynamic.

So this is the end of our Spooky Season Cinema since Erin and I both agreed we are ready for some less scary and spooky movies as we get ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. We are working out the details for which movies and specials we will watch for our combined feature, which we plan to start writing about the week of Thanksgiving. We’d love to have people join us this time around so we will let you know which movie we are watching first when we decide.

If you want to read about the past movies we watched for this feature, you can search over to the right for “Spooky Season Cinema.” Thank you to Erin for designing the graphic for this feature and for helping to organize and choose many of the movies. I had a lot of fun experiencing the movies and sharing that experience with Erin and my teenage son.

You can read her impression of Sleepy Hollow on her blog.

Spooky Season Cinema: The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas was the next movie in the Spooky Season Cinema series Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I are doing and The Boy and I watched it last night. As I have been doing in this series, I have to again point out that “spooky” or Halloween-related movies aren’t really my thing so this has been a bit out of my wheel well. We have not watched anything too gruesome or dark, thankfully, though.

I am going to be upfront and say that when I first heard of this movie, I didn’t relish the idea of what I see as a dark holiday like Halloween taking over what is a very happy and light holiday for me and my family.  In the end, though, I was relieved it wasn’t as dark as I feared.

Here is the Google description of the movie:

“The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life — he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.”

My son really enjoys this movie, so he was very excited to watch it with me and because he was excited, I did my best to also be excited.

I love being able to spend time with him. As he grows up, I sometimes feel like we are growing apart so I’m always looking for things that we can bond over. I don’t know that this is the movie we will be doing that with again, but that’s okay. We are two different people with very different interests. His interest runs more in line with his dad’s and that’s okay too.

(I say all this while weeping a little and eating chocolate, but alas, I will be fine…eventually.)

This is a movie directed and created by Tim Burton, which if any of you know his work, you’ll know it’s a bit weird. This movie, however, is much less weird than his other work.

First the Claymation and stop motion in this movie is outstanding. It is crazy to think that they had to photograph, slightly move figures, then photograph them again, until they could combine all the images and create moving characters and scenes.

The Boy likes how the movie is made and has watched documentaries on the process of creating it, including the fact they had 400 heads for Jack because every time he opened his mouth they had to film a new head.

I liked the concept of the movie more than I thought I would.

I liked how walking into Christmas Town made Jack feel light and happy, which shows me that even Tim Burton understands that Halloween is the dark holiday and Christmas the light.

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) ©Disney Enterprises, Inc.

I like how he progresses from being depressed about organizing Halloween every year to being excited about organizing Christmas.

It seems to take him a while to understand that real Christmas (not the commercialized version) is organized by people who are filled with joy, love, and hope.

I’d rather stay in the light as much as possible, which is why Halloween is my least favorite holiday.

I’m more of a “fluff” and “lighthearted” person when it comes to movies, books, and life. So, it was nice that there was a little bit of light in his movie, which is called by some fans a Halloween movie and some a Christmas movie. I lean more toward it being a Halloween movie for a variety of reasons.

 The movie is a musical of sorts, with Jack doing almost all the singing.

I didn’t like some of the imagery, especially when the one character was made of bugs and maggots, but I did like the overall story and how Jack finally found joy in the job he was called to do and stepped aside from a job he knew wasn’t his calling.

To read Erin’s take on the film, you can click HERE.

Finishing up our Spooky Season Cinema will be:

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Classic Creature Feature)

Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Johnny Depp version)

And Halloween from 1979.

Other movies we watched in this series included:

Clue

Shaun of the Dead

Young Frankenstein

Hocus Pocus

The Addams Family

You can find my impressions of these movies by using the search feature on the right over there on my page.

Honestly, though, it looks like we’d have to write about Halloween after Halloween so…I’ll probably drop that one because that is when I’ll be in Christmas mode. *wink* Ha! Ha!

Spooky Seasons Cinema: Clue

Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I, are switching gears for September and October and instead of watching simple classic movies we are watching funny and quirky, or suspenseful Halloween-themed movies. Erin, who is a fan of horror films, was gracious enough to not try to talk me into any gory horror films, since I am not a horror film fan at all.

Instead of each watching a movie we choose for each other, we are both watching the same movie and each giving our impression of it.

I have never seen most of the movies we are watching, including our first movie, Clue, a dark comedy cult classic, which is, of course, based on the classic game.

The blog Creepy Catalog describes the movie this way. “The film’s plot is set in 1954 where six strangers are invited to a mansion on a dark and stormy night. The six guests are addressed by pseudonyms: Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren). Also in the mansion is the butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and maid, Yvette (Colleen Camp). After they arrive, a seventh guest, Mr. Boddy, is murdered and the rest of the film follows the guests as they attempt to unravel blackmail plots and motives and figure out who the murderer among them is.”

The movie was released in 1985 and though it isn’t a strict Halloween movie, many consider it a movie they watch around this time of year.

According to Creepy Catalog, the movie wasn’t exactly a hit when it was released, making only $14 million when it cost $15 million to make. Fans, however, loved it, including Horror fans who like it because it is an early roll of Tim Curry who would later star as the dancing clown, Penny Wise in the TV mini-series of Stephen King’s It, which was the first movie I told Erin I would NOT watch under any circumstances.

Incidentally, the board game was invented between 1943 and 1945 by an English musician and factory worker trying to solve his boredom during the Blitz of World War II. He was inspired by his love of Agatha Christie novels and by detective games his parents used to play. The game was first called Cluedo, a combination of Clue and Ludo, which mean “I play” in Latin. Read more about the game on the History Channel site.

I watched this with my son and thirty minutes in he said, “Wait, a minute. Is this supposed to be a comedy?”

“Yes!” I told him.

“Well, then it’s not that funny. I thought these people were trying to be serious.”

That made me laugh even harder and made me think of the time my parents watched The Pink Panther with my grandmother, who didn’t have a sense of humor, and every time my grandmother said she didn’t see what was so funny my parents would laugh harder.

Later he decided he did like the movie because he said “It’s like the actors are trying to take it all very seriously and then, ‘boob joke.’” In other words, it grew on him.

The movie is very fast-paced with a lot of quick verbal exchanges that include a series of play on words. The end of the movie was so fast-paced that Tim Curry apparently had to be treated for high blood pressure toward the end of filming from all his running around, according to a couple articles I read.

I may have to watch it at least a couple more times to try to catch all the comments, innuendos, and jokes that I missed the first time around since it was going so fast.

The exchanges between the characters were funny and the ending had my head spinning trying to figure out who did it. Part of the reason the movie wasn’t a huge hit when it was released was because it featured three different endings and what ending you saw depended on which theater you went to.

I liked the idea of the endings being presented as possible endings along with the real ending in the version that is on streaming services now.

Next up on our “spooky season” movies list is The Addam’s Family.

After that it’s:

Shaun of the Dead

Hocus Pocus

Young Frankenstein

Transylvania 6-500 or Practical Magic (wild card)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Classic Creature Feature)

Legend of Sleepy Hollow 

And …. If I can take it… Halloween from 1979.

You can read Erin’s impression of Clue over on her blog today.