Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

In stark contrast to that is the moment when Ichabod meets Katrina Van Tassel at the harvest festival. Great, bulging cornucopias barf the season’s bounty across the tables, fiddlers are dropping fire, and young people are allowed to *gasp* TOUCH EACH OTHER during their blindfold game.

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!

We’re switching gears yet again with Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week – this week’s entries all include Halloween or its trappings in some way, AND they will be much shorter in length. There’s not much logic to their selection, so don’t think that I’m intentionally leaving things out – these movies put me in the Halloween spirit for whatever reason. It’s the final countdown to Halloween, so throw some candy in a bag, put on your walking shoes and come trick or treating!

Classic!
Classic!

Sleepy Hollow  is Tim Burton’s homage to the misty, melodramatic films of that classic powerhouse of theatrical frights, Hammer Horror. Hammer films reigned supreme for decades and launched the career of Peter Cushing. Britt Ekland, and a slew of others including the great Christopher Lee, whose ferocious portrayal of Dracula can be credited with associating raw, aggressive sexuality with vampires AND with first showing blood and or fangs, at least in western cinema. Vampires, werewolves, cave girls, ghouls, Frankenstein’s monsters, mummies… I mean just look at the production history!  It’s… I … *heavy breathing, starts sweating*  I need to stop, this is about Sleepy Hollow, after all!

Audiences raised on the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow took one look at the poster and knew they were in for either a real treat or a real trainwreck–especially given the R-rating. Happily, it was mostly the former, and the movie is a glorious mishmash of action, romance, murder mystery, and horror. It also boasts gorgeous production value; the women wear huge, sweeping dresses, the men fine suits and complicated wigs, and the houses look weirdly cozy when the Headsman isn’t battering down the door.

Sleepy Hollow captures the strange duality of Halloween perfectly.

To wit: the movie opens on a harrowing escape in a bouncing, rattling carriage racing through a night-dark cornfield. A thunder of hooves, the hiss of a blade and a beheaded driver later, and the carriage’s occupant is beheaded himself, his blood spraying over the jack-o-lantern topped scarecrow behind him. The contrast is dialed up and the colors dialed down, and the palette calls to mind ukiyo-e prints of blotted ink and charcoal on rice paper.

BOOOO!!! All right this is a little more blue than I'd like but you know what I mean
All right this is a little more blue than I’d like but you know what I mean

In stark contrast to that is the moment when Ichabod meets Katrina Van Tassel at the harvest festival. Great, bulging cornucopias barf the season’s bounty across the tables, fiddlers are dropping fire, and young people are allowed to *gasp* TOUCH EACH OTHER during their blindfold game. The lighting is all warm candle and firelight, there’s frothing ale mugs, and steaming bread.

Not Pictured: Personal Space
Not Pictured: Personal Space

The rest of the movie swings between extremes: sometimes plodding, and sometimes blowing your face off with its blend of practical and CG effects – Burton had great restraint with CG and to my mind there’s only one scene that doesn’t really work with it… the witch scene with the eyeballs has always been a little too cartoony. Great stunts — including some masterful swordwork and horsemanship by Ray Park, best known for playing the face and body of Darth Maul or Toad from X-men– and acting by Christopher Walken turned the Headless Horseman into a wonderfully charismatic villain.

And Christopher Walken! Who doesn't love Christopher Walken in an insane nonspeaking role?
And Christopher Walken! Who doesn’t love Christopher Walken in an insane nonspeaking role?

A pre-Pirates Johnny Depp is decent as condescending Enlighment Champion Ichabod Crane, and Christina Ricci is… well her performance has always been a little overly stiff to me. I’ve never figured out what she was going for. Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gough, the aforementioned legendary Christopher Lee, and Ian McDarmid (The Emperor!) round out an amazingly talented and amazingly British cast as the rest of the townspeople.

Sleepy Hollow is Tim Burton at his best and probably his happiest… weird and gothy, with moments of dark humor, peculiar characters and fantastic imagery. It’s a great film to get yourself riled up for Halloween if you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it already this season. Be aware though – it’s incredibly gory and violent, and not for the faint of heart!

That’s it for today’s entry! Check back later this week for more entries in Halloween and the Kitchen Sink Week – here’s a hint of an upcoming post:

“Wolfman’s got nards!” 

Have a great day!

GASP!

All right, I’ve been lazy with the blogging and just settling for posting videos…

… and here’s another one!

I. 

CANNOT. 

WAIT. 

One of my exes introduced me to the Krampus legend about 15 years ago, and I always get excited when I see him pop up in pop culture. I LOVE that they made a movie about it.

It looks pretty decent – I like the comedy dynamic of the cast (Adam Scott, David Koechner, and Toni Collette!) before the weirdness sets in. A commenter on another board said it looked like this generation’s Gremlins, which is another of my family’s strange, unconventional holiday traditions.

If you don’t know who Krampus is, let me enlighten you!

Fancy pants, indeed!

In Honor of a Departed Master: Wes Craven’s Immortal “The People Under The Stairs”

So here’s to you, Mr. Craven. You knew what scared us, but it was because you knew what scared YOU first. Good horror comes from the heart, and by all accounts you were a wonderfully sweet man with plenty of heart to go around.

[NOTE: I was waiting until October to review Mr. Craven’s classic The People Under the Stairs, one of my all-time favorite movies, for my annual horror movie round-up. However, his untimely passing required tribute, so here it is.]

Dat Box Art
Dat Box Art

Back in the day, renting a movie at the video store was a gamble. If you rented the wrong thing, you wouldn’t find out until you’d got home, possibly hours later, possibly after the store had closed. It was terrible to find that the money you mowed a lawn or babysat for had gone to a dud, full of boring characters, dumb cliches, and forgettable story. The stakes were high on Friday afternoons after school, so I often agonized in the horror aisle making up my mind, my mom rolling her eyes and yelling at me to come on.

Imagine a time with no online forums, no websites, nothing but the movie reviews in the newspaper, articles in magazines like Fangoria  or Starlog, or your friends’ recommendations

I must have walked past the box for The People Under the Stairs 50 times before I actually picked it up to rent it. Although I look back fondly on the box art now, the somewhat generic design just couldn’t compete with the likes of Pumpkinhead, Deadly Friend, or anything coming out of Full Moon Studios for my money.  I finally watched it in about 1996, and thence started a relationship that has lasted to this very day.

Two  victories here: Twelve favorites AND I successfully screencapped it!
This is from two weeks ago! Still keeping the faith! 

I STAND BY MY TWEET.

I’ve talked before about urban horror in the form of Clive Barker’s Candyman and what an interesting and clever deconstruction it was – but doesn’t even come CLOSE to The People Under the Stairs.

The film starts out brilliantly – Ruby is doing a tarot reading for her little brother Poindexter, nicknamed Fool, and we hear hushed voices as Ruby lays out the cards in flickering candlelight, and with them Fool’s destiny. We’re in. The setup is established – Fool and his family live in the projects, at the mercy of slumlords and in need of money for Fool’s mother’s operation. Fool, now the man of the house at 13, is convinced by Ruby’s boyfriend Leroy (Ving Rhames! In one of his early roles! With hair!) to help him commit a burglary that will net them enough cash to take care of his family.

The plan is to dress Fool like a cub scout and send him to the front door, so he can get in and case the house. What he finds instead is a highly paranoid, racist woman who won’t even let him into the secured house to use the bathroom, and a serious security system.

Not. Even. A Little.
Not. Even. A Little.

Once Fool, Leroy, and their friend Spencer gain entry to the house, Shit Gets Weird. So wonderfully, GLORIOUSLY weird! I almost don’t want to go into it in case you are somehow reading this article having NOT seen the film! BUT I AM! So stop reading now. Go read the Candyman article, or… or come back when you’ve seen The People Under the Stairs! The post’ll still be here! Shoo!

OKAY.

As I was saying, TPUTS is brilliant as a horror movie for a lot of reasons. Mr. Craven was inspired by a news article about the police responding to a home invasion, who discovered children locked in a closet, and the story grew from there. A philosopher and teacher first, he didn’t begin making films until he was 30, and he started out making porn. How COOL is that?

Since the main baddies of TPUTS are some crazy-ass white people slumlords who toss around The N-Word with careless abandon and cackle at all the money they have drained from the ghetto, the movie has the feel of a modern fable. For some, THESE are the boogeymen, but they are no less terrifying than knife-wielding maniacs. They take children from the ghetto to raise as their own, but being utterly batshit crazy, no child can live up to their expectations. The children who fail are put into the basement,  missing tongues, eyes, or ears, and are fed on human flesh.

GIMMEGIMMEGIMME
GIMMEGIMMEGIMME

And since the movie didn’t know the meaning of the words ‘Over the Top,’ the performances by Everett McGill and Wendy Robie as “Daddy” and “Mommy” are MAGNIFICENT.

No Caption Needed. *wipes away a tear*
No Caption Needed. *wipes away a tear*
Here's the windup... and the bitch!
Mama said there’d be days like this… 

God how I could go on. A young A.J. Langer, of “My So-Called Life” fame plays Alice, the only girl and only child who has managed to toe Mommy and Daddy’s crazy line. Brandon Adams turned out a brilliant performance as the charismatic, intelligent, and compassionate Fool – I’m surprised to see so few credits under his name on IMDB.

The gimp suit, the attack dog, the dolls, “A man ain’t dead just cause he’s laying there,” and the wonderful, wonderful shouts of ‘GONNA FIND YOUUUUU!!’ interrupted by a brick to the face. GOD how I love this movie.

So here’s to you, Mr. Craven. You knew what scared us, but it was because you knew what scared YOU first. Good horror comes from the heart, and by all accounts you were a wonderfully sweet man with plenty of heart to go around. 

Here is a link to Edgar Wright’s touching tribute to Mr. Craven, who perfectly expressed what I have been stumbling and blathering to say.

Farewell, Mr. Craven! We’ll see you in our nightmares!

May You Rest Well Knowing That We Won't!
May You Rest Well Knowing That We Won’t!

 

Ultimate PastBlasters – Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

TFTD:TM is the most 80s movie that ever 80s movied, although it was made in 1990; I suppose by then the formula had been distilled to perfection.

Tales From the Darkside: The Movie: The Poster
Tales From the Darkside: The Movie: The Poster

HORROR MOVIE ANTHOLOGIES!

I love them! I’m out of the loop on the modern ones so I’ve no idea what I’m missing, but I LOVE old horror movie anthologies. Since horror stories don’t always have the staying power for an entire movie, anthologies mix things up and also cater to my ADD. If the story’s not great, I can wait twenty minutes until the next one starts!

Tales from the Darkside was another horror anthology tv show big in the 80s. I actually saw a few episodes and I remember them SCARING THE SHIT out of me because the stories were so raw. There was a particularly gruesome one involving a parakeet and some kind of vacuum cleaner monster attracted to sound, and another one about some kids dealing with an ancient Babylonian/Old Testament demon dwelling in their basement. The show was created by George A. Romero (The Grandfather of Zombies) and notable contributors included Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Harlan Ellison. (!!!!!!!) Since most of those writers had a hand in shaping modern horror, that is a hell of a pedigree.

TFTD:TM is the most 80s movie that ever 80s movied, although it was made in 1990; I suppose by then the formula had been distilled to perfection.

It has EVERYONE. Debbie Harry from Blondie, David Johansen ( of New York Dolls fame and probably best known to The Kids These Days as the Ghost of Christmas Past from Scrooged), Steve Buscemi, Christian Slater, William Hickey, Rae Dawn Chong (the chick from Commando) and a weensy Matthew Lawrence make appearances; most incredible of all, none other than Julianne Moore makes her film debut! She looks about 17! There’s also a delightful vein of dark humor running through the stories.

The movie is bookended by a story about a totally upscale yuppie woman (Debbie Harry) living in an eponymous 80s movie mansion house who happens to be a witch. She’s got a kid chained up in her walk-in pantry/dungeon and she’s getting all the fixins’ ready to cook him. Like Scherezade, he must tell her stories to keep her from killing him.

Worlds! They Are Colliding!
Pictured: Two Very Different Actors Wearing Very Two Different Vests

The stories are somewhat bananas. In Lot:249, Steve Buscemi is every Angry Nerd Ever as a bookish type obsessed with antiques and Egyptology. Christian Slater makes his character of Douchey Rich Kid #4 still likeable, and Julianne Moore as his sociopathic sister is awesome. There’s a love triangle, a mummy, you know where this is going but the ride is still great.

In Cat From Hell, David Johansan is a hit man hired to kill a… cat from hell. Seriously this is one badass cat. That’s almost the whole story right there, and it’s kind of mindblowing how simple and yet engaging it was.

NIAGARA FALLS, FRANK.
NIAGARA FALLS, FRANK.

I originally saw TFTD:TM about 20 years ago and the reason that it stuck with me is because of the last story: The Lover’s Vow.

Lord protect me from bad boys because I cannot protect myself, forever and ever AMEN.
Lord protect me from bad boys because I cannot protect myself, forever and ever AMEN.

Although it does have vintage James Remar, the reason it stuck with me is multifold:

  • James Remar plays a struggling artist, a career I was considering at the time
  • He and Rae Dawn Chong and have some beautiful multiracial children, which I had never seen addressed  in a horror movie
  • The monster is a woman

THIS JUST IN: After checking the writing credit for The Lover’s Vow I am astounded to find it written by someone I had never heard of and yet who was the architect of a great deal of my childhood real estate. Michael McDowell also wrote:

  • Beetlejuice
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Clue

GASP. I love finding out new things! I need to investigate this writer further! I wish I had a time machine so I could spend a year Groundhogging and reading/watching/experiencing all the shit on my ‘To Do’ pile. Further, McDowell was inspired to write the story by yuki-onna stories from Lefcadio Hearne’s Kwaidan books. I have those and enjoyed the shit out of them, and can’t recommend them enough to fans of Asian horror and just old fashioned ghost stories.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie is available on Instant Watch.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Never: Horror Movie Ice Cream Flavors!

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Never: Horror Movie Ice Cream Flavors

I found this delightful link in a forum I frequent and it gave me many hearty chuckles!

Cool Down With Ben And Jerry’s Horror Movie Ice Cream Flavors

I would NOT be able to pick just one! And so many delightful horror movie memories!

Some examples:

never

ice22

ice8

And THE BEST:

ice14

“Come get some.”

Gonna skip the Human Centi-Peach though. Gross.

(All content belongs to the wonderful artists who created them – well done!)