Film Corner: Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow

Doing another round of #Kissmatewatches! For those who want to join, tonight's entertainment is "Sleepy Hollow" from 1999, directed by Tim Burton. I have seen this before, but not in YEARS, so this should feel new enough to me! We already owned the DVD from awhile back, so here's to seeing if it's worth staying on the shelf!

A will is signed and sealed. Old VanGarrett notices a spoopky pumpkin scarecrow. The driver of the carriage is beheaded, leaving Old VG to run through a cornfield, coming across the scarecrow again. Then is beheaded from behind. Already feels fun and campy!

NYC 1799. Ichabod Crane has found a body in the river. It seems Crane wants fair treatment of prisoners and autopsies of bodies and- CHRISTOPHER LEE! How did I get him twice?! And the way the wings in the background make him look like a dark angel just- *MWUA!* *ahem* The judge lets Crane take his fancy detective work to Sleepy Hollow so he can find the killer who has lopped off three heads in a fortnight. It's a test to see if science and logic is better than traditional cruelty. This trope feels... hollow. I guess I've seen the "lone genius" trope for so long that it no longer packs a punch, especially when there's nothing showing the good of the "traditional" side, just the bad. It's written so we're already on Crane's side before we know him. It's cheap.

He packs, releases the only real color in his life (a cardinal), and heads out to Sleepy Hollow. The closer he gets to the village, the more colors we see outside of his greyscale world. The effect is nice, though I'm not sure what it means. Freedom? Pollution? Maybe the extra color and saturations are for nature, or happiness? The cardinal was pretty stark, more stark than anything else. He kept it pretty healthy. *shrug* Maybe they'll give more clues later.

Crane arrives to a desaturated village with no people outside. He goes to a manor, where a party is going. There's a party game where a woman kisses a man she grabs after guessing his name, I think? Crane gets a kiss on the cheek from Katrina. And an angry Brom. It was around here I realized I needed a pen to write all these names down, so bare with me here if I don't get them all correct. I'm noticing that the colors seem to be drawn to either wild/nature things, or important things. The more important a scene, the more color we see. So maybe that's a thing?

Crane meets a BUNCH of influential names and starts asking questions. It's explained that the heads were not found at the bodies, but instead taken by the "Headless Horseman" straight to Hell. Then begins the ghost story. A bloodthirsty mercenary went to the Revolutionary War on the side of England. He killed by running into battle and beheading his foes. In '79, he was ambushed, beheaded, and buried in the woods not too far from here. No one dares to go to the grave, even now. I just wonder if the old guys mentioned the twins that the horseman found in the woods, or if that was for the audience. Or if they mention the Horseman looks an awful lot like Christopher Walken. Eh, he hadn't been born yet. Couldn't be.

Crane seems nervous, and asks if this is what they believe. Hardenbrook mentions "seeing is believing." The Reverend gives Crane a bible, which gives a clue. Van Garrett family line is close to Van Tassel. Interesting... Crane denounces the story and vows to find the real killer. Elsewhere, a watchman loses his head. Next morning, Crane rides to the crime scene. His inexperience leaves him nervous, but he notes the wound is cauterized with no burn. [TW: Child Death] During the funeral, Magistrate tells him there's five victims in four graves. Crane takes one of the bodies for autopsy. Turns out the widow was pregnant and had a sword thrust in her abdomen to assure death for both. Was it her husband's though?

That night, Crane goes for a ride and gets "attacked" by "a headless horseman" that throws a fiery jackolantern at his head. Crane goes down, and the horseman is actually Brom. Apparently, he didn't like Crane stealing kisses. The head trauma causes Crane to dream of a woman (his mother?) and a small boy (himself?). There's another face, but I don't know it. The dream ends rather ominously.

Now awake, Crane talks to Katrina about VanGarretts and VanTassels related to each other. She also gives Crane a book on spells, spirits, and other such things. He's not super happy to take it, but it was her mother's so I guess he's got no choice! She takes him to a burned down house that looks like his dream. Odd, did he live here before? She points out an archer etched into the back of the fireplace. Chekhov's Gun, anyone? Maybe like... a treasure map, or something?

We see the Big 5 arguing, though no sound, while Magistrate leaves the argument. Crane tries to get the name of the widow's lover out of Magistrate, but alas, he loses his head before he can. Now Crane has seen the Horseman for himself. Crane dreams again, this time of his mother dancing in a fairy ring. Then being shown the bible when an official sees her drawing strange shapes in the sand. Was she convicted of witchcraft, or something? All I can think of is the dreams are memories from his childhood, but with an artistic and childish twist to them. These scenes are also the most color saturated, so either his mother is wild or very important.

Crane gets his shit together and heads off into the Haunted Woods to locate the Horseman's grave. On the way, his child assistant tells him his father used to work for the VanGarretts. One night, there was an argument between father and son. I have a theory: VanGarrett Jr got Widow pregnant and told his father. Von Tassel isn't too happy when this news filters to him eventually, and he opts to kill everyone who knows this so he can have the whole estate to himself. Let's see if I'm right! They come across a witch's cave, who jumpscares Crane and tells him directions to the grave. NGL, I CACKLED when this came on screen. It's so stupid, but in a fun way! The terrible GCI, the amazing costumed face, the voice! I'm giddy!

So Crane does as told and finds Katrina on a white horse. She joins him to the gravesite, where there's a dead-looking tree that spews blood when cut. There they find the missing heads! And the Horseman's grave, freshly disturbed! Though, the skull is missing... The three see the Horseman and his horse erupt from the tree and ride again, this time to the midwife's house. This started as a story about science solving mysteries, no matter how ridiculous. Now, we're witnessing the supernatural with no excuses. What.

[TW: Child Death] The midwife, her husband, and her son get the ax. Brom and Crane fight the horseman, but Brom is now only half the man he once was. Crane faints again. The Horseman's kill count is up to 9. We see Katrina make a brew with flowers and Raven's claw. She's a witch! That's news! Crane says someone is controlling the Horseman via his skull. Baltus tells him to just rest and how he's just raving. Katrina's brew makes him sleep before he says anymore.

Dreamtime! White room, red door and carpet. Small Crane hides as an official walks by to open a room full of torture devices. His mother falls out of an iron maiden and he stabs himself with a spike chair. It explains how he got those weird holes in his hands. He wakes in Katrina's arms. He says that his father killed his mother, even though she wasn't a witch. Crane makes the moves and Katrina, so they're going to be an item now. Yay? I don't care, really. It felt telegraphed.

Crane paces and tries to figure out what's going on, not realizing that his notes tell that "the secret / conspiracy / leads to / Baltus". I'm groaning at the non-subtlety, but I feel like the movie rewards the fast eyes. Earlier, it was the family tree connection. He heads to the notary and finds the will from earlier and a marriage license. It seems Peter Von Garrett was spreading his wild oats with Widow Winship, so married her and gave her everything in his will. The Big 5 each had a part in this, with Baltus as a foe. A spell is found under Crane's bed, supposedly an evil eye. Also, Lady Von Tassel uses magic, maybe? Also, Katrina knows Crane suspects her father, so she says he should return to NYC and burns the evidence against Baltus. If I'm going fast, so is the movie.

[TW: Self Harm] Katrina breaks up with him. Lady Von Tassel makes Crane swear to mention that she cut her hand and rubbed it on some man's back. Then news that Notary hung himself, so Reverend has called a meeting. A lot of this feels forced and quickly delivered. Like, there was more story but not more time. Then again, it's all towards the end, so... maybe it's just climax rush? The Horseman attacks at the meeting, first killing Lady Von Tassel. Odd, if Baltus is controlling her. He didn't seem to know about her cheating. Everyone clamors into the church for protection, which seems to work.

Reverend says Baltus is the one the Horseman wants, and Katrina gets down on the ground and starts mouthing. New Theory: she's controlling the horseman. Her witchcraft could allow her to. She wants to protect her father and is more knowledgeable than she lets on. Doctor tries to tell Baltus the secret, but Reverend attacks to stop him. Baltus shoots Reverend in self-defense, killing him. The Horseman cannot enter holy ground, so he stakes Baltus through a window (disproving that theory) and pulls him closer to behead. Katrina was writing a spell with chalk on the church floor, identical to the one under Crane's bed. Now Crane thinks Katrina is the one. But turns out, the "evil eye" was a protection spell. Oops! So Katrina can't be the one, since she was nice!

To add more to the mystery, we see a body with the same cut as Lady, but Crane notices the hand was cut AFTER death! Katrina sees the stepmother alive and OH WHAT A TWIST! Lady Von Tassel was the villain all along! Her motive had to be money. Killed Katrina's mother so she could marry Baltus. Learned of the plot from Reverend, who she was fucking. Saw she was going to not get anymore money and started a killing spree with a ghost. Let's see if I'm right on at least this. Lady snips some of Katrina's hair and uses a spell to rise the Horseman to kill Katrina. She says she was one of the girls in the woods and swore to have the Horseman kill all those who destroyed her family: the Von Garretts.

I did not get a single thing right. I like it when a story keeps me on my toes like this. But at the same time, there wasn't really any lead up to this until the last few minutes. So this feels like it came out of nowhere... Oh, and Lady also killed the witch in the woods, her own sister. Because she helped Crane. Then why not kill Crane too? It'd be easy enough to send the Horseman after him! Whatever, we're almost done. Crane and his assistant try to rescue Katrina in the mill. The three get to the roof and Crane sets it ablaze. The three use the mill sails to get to the ground safely and run out of an exploding windmill. It slowed the Horseman down, but he's not out yet!

The Horseman chases them through the woods, leading them to the Tree of the Dead. Lady meets them there and tries to make them an easy target for the Horseman, but Crane is more clever. Crane steals the skull and tosses it back to the Horseman, thus freeing him. Katrina is safe, Crane solved the murders, and Horseman/Walken steals Lady away to be his forced bride, bloody kiss and all! Either way, Katrina rides back with Crane to NYC and the world is filled with a bit more color. This movie started cheesy and fun, and I think it kept it? The ending twist felt unearned, but the cheesy action and "horror" makes up for it, I think.

7/10, worth the popcorn and laughs! I'd watch it again just to see if I can see the end coming this time.


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