It’s that time of year again folks. It’s time for Fall-colored mums and pumpkins and scarecrows. It’s time for creepy music, full moons, and a slow fog that drifts across your path. I’m not talking about Color Fest either! No, I’m talking about that time of the year when we all seek to get a little spooked. In honor of one of my favorite holidays, I thought I would dedicate this month’s reviews to a dying art form: the Horror movie.
Can you believe the crap coming out of Hollywood these days that is supposed to be a Horror movie? “Saw”, whether it’s #942 or the very 1st one is pathetic drivel. “Hostel” is an excuse for gore and since when has that frightened us? You can heave all of the other complete garbage films onto that list, including ANY Rob Zombie film and any re-make of another better known Horror film. So, for those of you out there who think you know about Horror films, pay close attention to this Blog for this month. You may learn a few things. At the very least, you should visit some of these movies that I will write about and judge for yourself.
That said, turn the lights down low, listen to the creaks of your own house, and wonder what IS that noise outside your window.
My first film to talk about this month is “Sleepy Hollow” by director Tim Burton. The film stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci. The supporting cast is a who’s-who of A-list actors, including Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Michael Gambon, Ian McDairmid, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, and Jeffrey Jones. Okay, so many of us remember the Disney animated cartoon with a very gangly Ichabod Crane dancing like a freak, right? And of course, the famous scene at the end with him running for his life on the back of an old nag of a horse from the Headless Horseman is a classic! Everyone remembers that, right? Well, if you don’t remember or you never saw that film, that’s okay too.
The most important aspect about Burton’s film is that all of the classic elements are there. Burton did a great job of creating the village of Sleepy Hollow in the Hudson Islands of upstate New York at the turn of the century. That’s one of the most vital elements to any Horror film: atmosphere. Burton adds smoke and fog, dreary colors, and some very frightening scarecrows to his village set. The houses look weather-beaten and just simply dark. The rustic quality of the village lends itself well to a spooky setting. I think a lot of people think of a wild forest as a pretty scary setting. I personally don’t, but that’s because I grew up surrounded by such a forest. Regardless, the setting is perfect for this film!
The 2nd major element that works for this film is a scary monster or villain. What could be more frightening than a vicious mercenary raised from the dead that seeks the heads of his victims to replace the one he lost? I mean, a headless villain is pretty scary as is, but this one chops off heads! A note for any younger or squeamish viewers: this film contains a lot of graphic violence! If you want a Horror film to resonate with viewers, you want a villain or monster to be memorable. The Headless Horseman ranks as one of the greatest “ghosts” of American Literature, and he is very memorable!
So, you have a classic villain/monster and a great cast, and you have a spooky setting. What else gives “Sleepy Hollow” the ranking of a classic Horror film? In a word, it is “suspense”. It sounds kind of ridiculous to say that, doesn’t it? I mean, wouldn’t you naturally assume that any decent Horror film should have suspense built into it automatically? Well, if other directors cared enough about their films and their subject matter, maybe so. However, that isn’t always the case – sad news that is. Burton does care though, and it shows. The Horseman doesn’t appear right away. The music helps set the scenes, like good music should do for a Horror film. Credit goes to Danny Elfman for once again giving audiences a robust score that delivers where it needs to. The lighting of the film only adds to the sinister aura of Sleepy Hollow, and every time that Horseman comes calling, you know it by the music.
Depp turns in another wonderful performance as Ichabod Crane, a skittish Inspector from the big city who relies on deduction and science to discover the murderer that plagues the sleepy hamlet. There’s some realism to his performance that makes Crane both believable and very likeable. You experience the events of the movie really through Crane’s eyes. Ricci is decent in the film as Crane’s love interest, Katrina Von Tassel. The script contains some fairly corny lines, but overall it works very well. The language may seem stiff at parts, but remember this is an American period piece, which means you should expect the language to be a bit odd and stiff.
I recommend this film as a good way to start off the Halloween season because it’s spooky, a little supernatural, and features a timeless villain.
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE
- Sleepy Hollow (fox40.com)
- Visit Sleepy Hollow, NY in the Shadows of the Headless Horseman (thefairytaletraveler.com)
- Flashback: Sleepy Hollow (1999) (franklymydear1.wordpress.com)