Welcome to the second installment of Revisit Review & Riff, or as it will now colloquially be known the Three R's. This is a series where I take movies and television shows from my past and see how well they stand up to modern me's taste. These pieces tend to be less review and more free flowing bullshit. Also, keep in mind that movies I review in The Three R's will all be at least 10 years old so don't come crying when I spoil something you've had plenty of time to see. If you want to go in fresh, see the movie first, then come back to read my thoughts.
So, with the disclaimers and preamble out of the way, on to today's movie.
Today, I have on tap a movie I remember pretty fondly from the dying days of the 90's. It's 1999's Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton's take on Washington Irving's tale of nebbish school teacher Ichabod Crane being terrorized by the nightmarish apparition known as the Headless Horseman.
When you have Tim Burton as your director, it would seem to be a slam dunk. I guess we'll find out.
Quick run down before I get started. Overall my feelings on the film from what I can remember are that it delivers in the weird and gruesome category (which is pretty par for the course for Burton's best works). I remembered the production design and visuals to be top notch (as one would expect from a Burton production). I also remember the story to be over complicated as hell. I remembered Christina Ricci filled out her costume quite nicely. I also fondly remember a decapitated head spinning like a top (good times!). Nowadays I'm a little less enthralled with gore effects and more interested in the subtle elements of horror. Elements like tension, suspense, framing, atmosphere, etc. It'll be interesting to see how it holds up.
Here we go. For your added benefit, I'll be adding Netflix time codes to my observations so you can watch along if you like.
1:50 - I'm always amused when I see those wax stamp seals in period pieces. That had to be a pain to carry for the postman.
2:16 -Martin Landau is in this? I knew there was an incredible collection of elder character actors in this movie (as well as one genuine pedophile, but we'll get to that), but I never noticed him before. Granted, when I first watched this, the only pausing I was doing was to see Christina Ricci's cleavage for uh...research purposes (Yeah, that's the ticket!), not for making long winded digressions two minutes into the movie.
2:27 -Didn't remember the scarecrow with the jack o' lantern head either. Nice touch Mr. Burton.
3:16 -So Martin Landau's driver loses his head (Head Count: 1) and Mr. Landau's first thought is to run out into the cornfield. Has he never seen a movie before? Oh I suppose he hasn't. I'm sure he's read books or tapestries or whatever they used for porn back then. Surely the rules for running into spooky, fogged out cornfields were pretty universal.
3:48 -After a fake out with the Jack o' Scarecrow, Martin gets chopped (Head Count: 2) and that's our cold open folks! All we're missing is Ichabod Crane kneeling over the corpse, a dry one liner and a Who song and we've got us an episode of CSI: Sleepy Hollow. (Yeaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!)
3:48 -Martins stagecoach traveled quite a distance between seeing the scarecrow the first and second time. I know there could easily be more than one scarecrow, but I like the image of the Horseman quietly tiptoeing through cornfield to put the scarecrow into Martin's path before dropping back to he can get behind him.
4:21 -Johnny Depp pulls a bloated corpse out of the water. His complexion is the somewhere between alabaster chalk and porcelain. (Johnny's not the corpse's) A white skinned Depp fishing a bloated gross corpse out of the water. Yup it's a Tim Burton movie.
5:03 -Johnny insists on performing an autopsy on the corpse. The warden...jailer...guy who has a big ring full of keys and bushy eyebrows says "Cut him up? What are we heathens?" before a man caught for burglary gets kicked headfirst down into a cell. SATIRE!
5:04 - 1999 alert! "The millennium is almost upon us. In a few months we'll be living in the 19th century." Either the writer of this movie doesn't know what a millennium is or Ichabod Crane is very forward thinking for a man with a life expectancy of 35. Maybe if you're a giant redwood or a mountain range, 200 years could qualify as "almost upon us". It wouldn't be a 1999 movie without some reference to the millennium no matter how shoehorned in it is.
5:04- It seems like it would be something a studio executive would make a note about.
Executive 1: I've gotta say, this Sleepy Hollow script is great! It's got action, suspense and laughs too! There's one thing it's missing though!
Executive 2: What's missing? Sex?
Executive 1: Are you kidding, we're gonna put Wednesday Adams in a top so tight the audience's grandchildren will be born with erections! The girls too.
Executive 2: So what are we missing?
Executive 1: Scotch! But in regards to the script, you know that thing people are all afraid of, that's gonna wipe out all of our computers and our banks and stuff?
Executive 2: Oh, you mean Y2K?
Executive 1: Yeah the mille-whatchacallit! It's all the people are talking about these days. Put in a reference to that!
Executive 2: Doesn't this take place like 200 years before that?
Executive 1: So what? Nobody will notice, except some idiot on a website 15 years from now. Excuse me while I light this cigar with this hundred dollar bill.
(Executive 1 lights his cigar with a hundred dollar bill)
Executive 2: So did you take all of your money out of the bank before the Y2K hits?
Executive 1: Oh yeah! Can't be too careful you know. I'm also stockpiling non computerized adult entertainment for when the computers go down. When the shit hits the fan, I don't want to be caught with my pants down...while my pants are down.
Executive 2: So how do you keep the missus from finding it?
Executive 1: The same way I keep her from finding it on the computer.
Executive 2: Label the folder "Not Porn"?
Executive 1: You got it! It's in a box in the garage with "NOT PORN" written on the side in big letters. I'm in the clear.
Executive 2: Sounds like you've got it all figured out. Want to have more scotch?
Executive 1: Yes! Scotch scotch scotch scotch scotch scotch!
Where was I? Crap, I'm only five minutes into this movie. Moving on.
5:30 -While I'm counting Tim Burton'y things, here's Christopher Lee (Elderly Character actor count: 2) to play Christopher Lee...as a judge or something.
- Mr. Jailer Warden Whatever's eyebrows appear to be getting blacker and bushier with every scene. Maybe since his hairline is receding, he's trying to rock the "comb-upper" by filling in that forehead space with eyebrow hair. I fear next time we see him, his eyebrows will have become sentient.
7:05 - You know you're watching a Tim Burton movie when: you tense up when Crane grabs his bird in the cage, only to breathe a sign of relief when he lets it go out the window. I swear there was a split second where he stared at it, that Johnny Depp was contemplating going Ozzy Osbourne on the birdie.
7:31 - We've just started the opening credits. Settle in folks, it could be a long one.
9:00 - Johnny has some puncture marks on his hand. If this role had been played by Robert Downey Jr. the puncture marks would be further down the arm. Ba-zing! (But seriously, Mr. Downey has become one of our most treasured actors. His comeback has been very inspirational, just say "no" kids.)
11:35 -"What knockers!" (Young Frankenstein reference for the win!)
12:05 - Speaking of knockers, here's Christina Ricci! (Couldn't have timed that one better) She's playing Katrina VanTassle.
12:37 - And here's Casper Van Deen looking all kinds of uncomfortable in a period movie. Fresh off of his breakout role in Starship Troopers, but before his washed up role in Starship Troopers 3. Who knew that meathead space marine would be the best we would get from him? Oh that,s right. Everybody knew that.
12:41 - Ok, I've been making a lot of jokes about Christina's ahem...Christina's being well presented in this film. I'm gonna stop being a pig here in a second, but good golly miss molly if those puppies were hiked any higher she wouldn't be able to see over them! No wonder I liked this movie so much as a teenager.
Now that I have that out of the way, I will regain my feminist cred by only referencing Miss Ricci's acting abilities. Her heaving, well supported abilities. (That's the last one I promise.)
12:56 - And now I can move on to drooling over Miranda Richardson. She is so fetching, that even in her nails on a chalkboard portrayal of Queen Victoria in Blackadder the Third I thought to myself "I'd still go for it". Probably have to gag her first or something (I meant that in a way that was intended less wrong than it sounds).
14:07 - Thankfully, this collection of ugly old men is here to rescue me from a very weird place. Seriously, it's like an Awesome Character Actor History Museum in this place (plus one pedophile, can't forget about him).
14:27 - So we have Dumbledore (2nd not the 1st), Emperor Palpatine, Alfred Pennyworth (circa Michael Keaton Batman) and Dr. Albert Meinhiemer from Naked Gun 2 1/2. I know they have other long hard to remember names (and powdered wigs), but they don't anymore. Oh also, Jeffrey Jones is here too. You know, the guy who played Principal Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Lydia's dad in Beetlejuice and is now a convicted sex offender after a child porn bust in 2003? Oh you thought I was joking about that didn't you? Well, look him up kids and good luck watching Ferris Bueller the same way again. That movie takes a somewhat sinister turn with this new information. With this info in mind (and because according to his Wikipedia page he has failed to register himself a couple of times when moving to new locations) I will be functioning as something of a registry reminding you of his crimes.
16:48 - We finally get to the backstory of the Headless Horseman. During the flashback The Horseman swings his sword around aimlessly in front of a backdrop growling (one of Christopher Walken's least strange performances I must say) and chopping heads off (Head Count: 6 in total including his own, total count).
18:47 - Jeffrey "Pedo" Jones' Reverend character suggests that instead of science "this" is the only book he needs to protect himself from the Horseman, before dropping a Bible on the table next to Johnny Depp. I'm guessing he's a Catholic Priest.
20:44 - We get our first look at the de-headed Horseman as he chases down the town lookout (Jonathan Masbeth) and makes him a foot shorter (Head Count: 7 total).
24:00 - Johnny rocking some steampunk spectacles here. Looks like somebody took his quirky pills today. Now I wish we had seen more Horatio Kane or Gil Grissom galloping around the crime scenes. Now I wish I could unsee that.
25:00 - Dr. Meinhiemer tells Crane this brings the victim list to 5, not 4. Turns out the "Widow Winship", one of the earlier victim was pregnant. No jokes here. Just catching you up on the plot. Also, Crane inherits Young Masbeth as his new gofer/personal assistant/grave digger upper. You know what they say, if you don't want to dig up graves, get a recently orphaned boy to do it for you.
30:45 Crane happens across the Horseman who is holding a flaming jack o'lantern. Crane gets conked right between the eyes in a sequence that legitimately got a "holy s***" out of me when I first watched it. 15 years later, I'm happy to report the pumpkin toss is still a badass sequence.
- Turns out it's just Casper Van Douche playing a prank. I would think in a time when people were routinely hanged for such things, pretending to be a murderous supernatural being would be cause for some punishment. (Foreshadowing!)
31:43 - Crane passes out an hallucinates seeing his mother in a garden because we have to pad the running time out. I remember these flashbacks really killing the momentum of the film when I first saw it. That still holds true.
32:28 - Crane's mother resembles Anne Hathaway and his father resembles Josh Brolin.
33:00 - I promised I wouldn't bring up Christina's boobs anymore (as if they could be hoisted any higher). So I guess we'll just talk about the weather during this next scene. The round, perky weather. Boy it's been hot lately hasn't it? Soooooo hot.
-Also, there's a bunch of exposition in this scene about the backstory between Dumbledore II and Martin Landau in addition to...the weather. The well lifted and supported weather. Turns out pretty much all of the families in Sleepy Hollow are related by blood or marriage. So, it's like Utah I guess.
36:00 - If this were a soap opera, it would be called "The Pale and the Paler".
-Weinhiemer is making a run for it. A bunch of sheep run away. Either they are about to be joined by a Horseman or a Scotsman.
38:00 - And the head, she spins! Weinhiemer's noggin does about four revoloutions before falling off (Head Count: 8.5 total - extra half point given for the dismount).
39:30 - Crane pulls the covers up in bed in a manner that could suggest either he's terrified, or he was just caught having some private time thinking about...the weather.
40:00 - Another flashback dream sequence of Crane and Not-Anne Hathaway. With the amount of weather Mrs. Crane is sporting, I can see why he's drawn to Katrina. Not-Josh Brolin is angry and abusive (like real Josh Brolin) toward Crane's mother because he thinks she was doing witchcraft. The powder wig undercuts what was a very serious scene.
45:23 - Crane goes to see a witch crone (who actually did go Ozzy on a bird). And now she's got a bat! I hope the writer of this movie at least sent Ozzy a thank you note.
46:00 - The witches eyes bug out like she's that pervert wolf in the old cartoons. Granted, I know Johnny's dreamy and all but keep it in your pants lady! Or, keep the snakes in your eye sockets at least. The witch tells Ichabod how to beat the Horseman (he apparently requires the son of a plumber to do so).
46:50 - After that, Crane leaves the cave, with the unmistakable walk of a man who just bricked his trousers.
49:21 - Ah, the bloody tree. I seem to remember this part being later in the film somewhere in the third act, not right in the middle. Of course, last time I watched this I wasn't stopping every five minutes to make stupid comments so it probably didn't feel like it was only half way done.
- Johnny does the first thing any of us would do upon finding a tree oozing blood. Start hacking at it with an axe. By the end he's covered in blood. He should have put newspapers down! (That's two Mel Brooks references. For those keeping score of that...you lead a very sad life.)
52:25 - The first line Casper Van Doorknob says after the Horseman emerges from the blood tree and heads toward town is "Let's split up. You go that way, you go that way." The camera cuts away before he can finish with "What could possibly go wrong."
53:40 - The Horseman crashes through the door of the midwife's family home while she, her husband and son are just chillin. What follows is a very well done sequence where Mr. Midwife tries to fight off the Horseman. He is not successful (Head Count 9.5). The mother hides her son under the floorboards. The door slowly creaks open and the Horseman is standing there holding the husband's severed head. The midwife is cornered and she meets the same fate. In perhaps the most disturbing moment of this movie so far, the head rolls along the floor until it stops with the eyes (still open) over the crack in the floorboards with the son making eye contact. The Horseman goes to leave but his Horseman sense must have been tingling. (How does he hear without ears? Does he have a homing beacon to find these people?) He goes back and smashes through the floorboards grabbing the kid. Kid screams and we see that finally gets the attention of Casper Van Dork. The Horseman leaves the house stuffing the heads into his bag.
-Giving credit where it's due, this scene shows that for all of his goofy eccentricities, Tim Burton can really put together an intense sequence. The action was well done, and there was a nice amount of tension as well. I had forgotten that this movie actually went that dark having the kid get killed (even though it was off screen which I guess is theoretically better, but theatre of the mind can be a powerful thing).
56:00 - Casper Van Dingus shoots the Horseman off his horse. Sure, go walk up to him, I'm sure that'll work out for ya. Horseman sits up like the power of the urn compels him.
56:45 - Horseman could not give less of a flying f*** about Casper Van Dingleberry as he treats him more like an annoyance than an actual threat (much like the people who audition against him, I'm sure).
57:45 - I give Casper Van Doesn't Know When To Quit credit. He is tenacious, Crane tries to jump into the fight and that ends up going about as well as you would think (embarrassing for all involved).
57:56 - Casper Van Dead. (He was cut in half at the waist, so no head count)
58:42 - The movie wants us to think Katrina is doing black magic by putting crows feet in a bubbling cauldron. I know the truth though. You add some carrots and potatoes and you got a stew goin' baby!
59:07 - Weather forecast! Perky with a 90% chance of hummina hummina ha-wa!
59:43 - Oh good, another acid trip flashback sequence. I was actually getting into the story there for a second. Good thing we put a stop to that. Young Ichabod's father locks mother in a pokey thing that pokeys all over her. The whole scene was pretty hokey if you ask me. I guess that would make it a hokey pokey thing, hokey pokey-ing her all around and that's that what it's all about.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: We are now approaching 1 am, or Weird o' Clock as I like to call it. Things may get a little strange from here on out.
1:02:36 - A nice bonding scene with Crane and Katrina. Weather is not a factor for this one. Crane talks about his tyrannical father. When Katrina says that she just wasn't that into Casper Van Decomposing and hints that she might like to do the horizontal hokey pokey with Crane (hopefully not in the hokey pokey thing we saw earlier) she asks Crane "Do you think me wicked?" Crane responds with "No. But perhaps there is a bit of witch in you. Because you've bewitched me."
-I would have gone with "Are you sure there isn't a little Crane in you? Would you like some?" myself, but because he's Johnny Depp he totally pulls it off.
- Ok, I'm trying really hard here to not point out all of the wonderful weather we've been having lately. But Miranda Richardson just showed up and started flaunting her weather all over the place. I'd say it was a bit overcast, but her costume seems to be a little undercast if you know what I'm getting at.
1:03:41 - "Magistrate Phillips: Who tried to cut and run, and lost his head." Put on your sunglasses you smooth son of a bitch, you've earned it.
1:08:03 - "Jonathan Masbeth, was summoned upstairs to serve as witness to the new will. I'm afraid it was his death warrant Young Masbeth." Ok, Horatio Crane you can stop with the wordplay now, the boys father is dead.
1:08:03 - The plot seems much easier to follow now that I'm older. The Widow Winship had a secret wedding and a secret baby with Martin Landau. The Old Boys Club: Dr. Palpatine, His Honour Weinhiemer, Notery Alfred, Dumbledore II and Rev. Jeffrey "I swear I didn't know how that got on my computer" Jones were drawn into the conspiracy due to the nature of their vocations as Doctor, Judge, Notery, Wizard and pedo...I mean Reverend. Masbeth and the Midwife were also aware of the child. Bada boom bada bing. It makes much more sense this time around. Crane has Dumbledore II fingered (according to JK Rowling, Dumbledore would be totally down for that) and sets off to prove it. Well it's nice that we've got all of that wrapped up. Time to call it a night and THERE'S ANOTHER F***ING HALF HOUR TO GO!
1:11:34 - So, it turns out Miranda Richardson is a big old freak, who likes having freaky sex with some freakin' guy in the middle of the freaking freaky woods while freakin' cutting herself. I wonder if she's up to something? Seriously. It's a Tim Burton movie so it's hard to tell what is evil-creepy from what is just normal-creepy.
1:13:24 - Crane and Katrina have the most stoic and reserved star crossed lovers falling out I have ever seen. Boy, the heat and chemistry these two generates is like a three day old fish. There is none is what I'm getting at. They both recite dialog like they're robots. I get that they are going for the flowery, dare I say Shakespearean cadence here, but even Shakespearean actors can bring a little humanity to the words.
1:13:00 - Notery Alfred hanged himself. I can't help but feel that Crane pushed him over the edge with his badgering. Our hero ladies and gentlemen. He's the Nancy Grace of movie detectives, accuse first present evidence maybe.
-Oh, and Miranda Richardson is definitely evil. And somehow that makes her more attractive. Oh man, this is getting weird again. Please something break the tension. Horseman shows up and apparently offs her but we don't see it.
1:17:00 - Palpatine being hit on the head with a cross, while Dumbledore II shoots Rev. Jeffrey "Seriously, I thought they were 18" Jones. That'll break the tension nicely. So far, the Old Boys Club is doing pretty good job of killing each other or themselves.
1:18:00 - Horseman McGyver puts together a makeshift harpoon using some rope and fencepost. Pretty smart for a thing that has no brain connected to it.
1:18:36 - Dumbledore II gets harpooned through the chest and yanked out the window where the Horseman gives him the chop (Head Count: 11 - extra point because f***ing McGyver man!). Final score is Old Boys Club: 3, Horseman: 2.
1:23:19 - Crane figures out the body he thought was Miranda's was not.
-Upon seeing her stepmother still alive, Katrina faints for the second time in less than five minutes. Our heroine ladies and gentlemen!
1:25:00 - For the love of all that good and righteous will this movie just end? Miranda's making the fatal mistake every Bond villain makes by monologueing when she should be just killing Katrina. Next she'll be saying "No Miss VanTassle I expect you to die!"
1:26:50 - So Miranda is chewing the hell out of this scenery (and still looking good doing it...weather balloons and what have you...) but this explanation is taking far too long.
1:27:27 - Turns out the person Miranda was having freaky sex with was actually a real life sex fiend. Rev. Jeffery "I was hacked!" Jones was the one doing the yuck yuck slap n' tickle with her in the woods. I am grossed out on so many levels right now. On the plus side, it seems to have cured my Miranda Richardson fixation for a while.
1:28:27 - Miranda's sister was the witch crone, who Miranda killed by beheading. (Head Count 12) Oh and I forgot to mention she also killed the servant girl, whose body was used as her decoy (Head Count: 13).
1:28:53 - No Miranda is making head puns. That's my shtick. I'm back in love with her.
1:33:00 - Horsemen chases Crane. Katrina and Masbeth into the windmill. Windmill go boom. I've so beyond not caring by this point. This movie should have taken it's bow with Dumbledore being the baddie. No amount of nice weather is worth the extra half hour that was tacked on here.
1:34:32 - Miranda is getting into Mr. Freeze territory with these hammy one liners.
1:36:02 - The transition from when Horseman puts his head on from skull to muscle to veins was pretty well done. Coming from an era in which the seams of early CGI effects become more glaring with each passing year. that's quite an achievement for a 15 year old flick. Kudos effects team.
-There a really quick moment where his eyes and tongue big out like a cartoon character that got stepped on by an elephant. That was pretty awesome.
1:39:40 - To quickly recap the final few minutes, Horseman scoops up Miranda and plants a big wet (red) one right on her lips. Considering he's Christopher Walken and he has razor sharp toothfangs you can guess how that goes. Miranda is slightly less attractive to me now. They go back into the tree of blood I'm assuming to live happily ever after in a nice little cottage by the lake. Crane takes Katrina and Masbeth to New York and we finally got to the end.
Overall, this movie held up surprisingly well for me. It seems that this story more than any other, Tim Burton was the perfect choice for a director. There's a very old school cheesy horror feel to it, which works in the film's favour. There are a lot of positives here. There are several very effective scenes, the action is well done and there are some nice suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout. The production design, atmosphere and setting are all top notch as one would expect from a Burton production. The story, although slow to start, actually works pretty well once it kicks into gear.
One of the major criticisms levied at the film on release was the liberties taken with the story. Ichabod Crane is no longer a dweeby school teacher. He is now Crane P.I. and he's solving gruesome murders rather than trying to woo Katrina. I don't really have an attachment to the original, so I would consider this a fun alternate spin on the tale. The story was definitely padded out with the Old Boy Club conspiracy serving mostly just to give the Horseman a higher body count to make him a legitimate threat. The film was originally conceived as a period piece slasher movie, and Burton certainly retained that aspect. In the original, we don't actually see any beheadings because the Horseman only terrorizes Crane and it's never made clear if the Horseman is real.
The movie does have some problems still. The performances are all over the place. While Michael Gambon as Baltus and Michael Gough as Notery Hardenbrook do admirable work here, Depp and Ricci's performances are beyond lifeless. Seeing as the romance was the central plot of the original, it definitely feels like it got put on the back burner here. These are two actors I really like, but they both really take a backseat to the narrative and setting. As much as it pains me to admit, Christina's cleavage was the most noteworthy thing she contributed here. I really tried not to mention the copious amount of top-boob on display, but it became impossible to ignore. With the amount of gruesome gore in this film I guess it shouldn't be surprising that other exploitation elements crept in. For an example of what Christina can do, check out "The Opposite of Sex" or "Black Snake Moan".
Much like Christina, Johnny doesn't do a bad job so much as he is merely ok. He doesn't distract from the film, but doesn't add a lot to it. For a much more fun Depp performance (in a Burton film no less) check out "Ed Wood".
On the other side of the spectrum, Miranda Richarson chews on so much scenery, I was surprised there was any left on film. Not necessarily that it's a bad thing. After all, this is a cheesy homage to cheesy horror movies so having an over the top villain is par for the course. Her monologue got pretty tiresome and sucked all of the energy and momentum out of the final act.
That leads me to the final problem. Even though the movie is only 90 minutes, it seems like 2 hours. It may have been my over tired state, or the cold medication I took about half way through, but the last half hour for some reason just didn't work for me. I guess it felt like one twist too many. Baltus as the Horseman's handler made sense the way it was described by Depp however, just like any Law and Order or CSI episode, it's never the first suspect that turns out to be the killer.
Well, I guess that's all I have to say about this one. I would still give it a recommendation after all these years. It's far from perfect, but the good parts are really good and the bad are not terribly so.
Until next time...how about this weather we're having?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Reading some of this stuff the next day is like reading over the late nights texts after a weekend bender.