Tuesday, October 11, 2022

31 Days of Scary Movies: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” 1988


 And now for something new. From 1988. Narrated by Glenn Close, this version of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is part storybook, part narrated moving painting. With gorgeous images and narration that are both accurate to the original text, this version of the tale is a spellbinding autumn treat. 

 I hadn’t even heard of this before a friend turned me on to it. Clocking in at under 40 minutes, this is long enough to take its time to adapt the tale fully, and short enough to not fill itself with too much unnecessary filler. And I thought I’d seen them all. 

 The illustrations and paintings are lush, gorgeously detailed and real in a way many— possibly all?— adaptations of America’s preeminent ghost story are not. The bright orange crisp fall of early American autumn, the harvest, the local lore of the superstitious and Ichabod’s ride home. Just gorgeous and spooky and everything this tale needs to be told. This is now a permanent fixture on my fall film list. 

Monday, October 10, 2022

Something Different… and Sugary

 Earlier this Halloween season, I began seeing this premade
Count Chocula and Frankenberry cookies. After several trips to the grocery store, and a recommendation from What a Witch, I gave in and immediately made these. 

 They are worth every cent of the few dollars they cost. The house smelled amazing when both kinds were in the oven, and the results were sugary treats in cookie forms; that tasted like slightly elevated versions of the cereal. While Count Chocula is my favorite of the cereals, I have to say I think I liked the Frankenberry cookies just a little more. If you’re a fan of the cereals, give these a shot. 

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Hellraiser” (2022)


 Last night, with all the orange lights up in my living room, looking out on my neighbor’s across the street with orange and flame lights adorning their house, during a wind filled thunderstorm, I took a break from the classics, and watched something new. The brand new “Hellraiser” remake/reboot/sequel on Hulu. 

 As a fan of the original film, and a bigger fan of the uber disturbing novel by Clive Barker, I found this film a mixed bag. The good is the casting, especially of Pinhead. Jamie Clayton is a perfect actor for this character; her presence on screen, and her voice work is amazing, and actually terrifying. The rest of the cenobites are perfect as well, being truly original and scary. The rest of the cast is very capable as well, and I loved seeing Goran Vinsjic in another Halloween/horror film so soon after watching “Practical Magic.” The direction is also super strong.

 The not so good is the script. I was expecting a remake, or some variation on the original’s characters; their marriage, their desires and their traumas that lead them to the box. This film deals with none of that, and is more a straight up horror film that seems to not understand why Barker wrote the novel, or why the original film was so successful. The end result is not a bad film. It is extremely watchable; I just wish, given the huge opportunity and great talent involved with this, that they had done more, and more in line with the original Barker work. 

Sunday, October 9, 2022

31 Days of Scary Movies: “The Wolf Man” (1941)

 Last night it was time to return to the Universal Monsters again, with one of their more recent monsters: 1941’s “The Wolfman.”I’d initially scheduled this one for later in the month, but I want it fresh in my mind when I was Disney/Marvel’s new “Werewolf by Night,” this week. 

 I love this film. There are an embarrassment of riches with great actors in this film, and Universal monster royalty. Lon Chaney Jr., in the title role, and Dracula himself Bela Lugosi playing the Romani fortune teller. The performances are perfect, and Chaney especially gives something that should be been recognized by the Academy. The makeup is one marvel, but the character work he does, struggling between and good and evil and what that means, and wrestling with his curse.

 Like all the Universal films, the storytelling is an economical one hour and ten minutes, and it wastes no moment and hits every best perfectly. I am always struck by the opening of the film in which Chaney meets his love interest, by looking with his telescope into her apartment. Even in the 1940s world of the film, it is remarked as being untoward and creepy— and while it absolutely is, it does start the film off on an interesting note, that we know our hero is not exactly a good guy.

 The wolf man himself is only on screen for a few minutes, and like his fellow monsters, those moments catapult him to the status of an immoral icon. Unlike the rest of the Universal Monsters, we watch our hero go from a regular person to a cursed monster. The journey is emotional, fascinating and scary. This one will never leave my October schedule. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

31 Days of Scary Movies: Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” 1949

 Of all the things I watched in October, Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the concluding segment to “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad,” is one film that has perhaps been with me the longest. I believe I first came to it via “Disney’s Halloween Treat,”— the titan of Halloween nostalgia— which will come later in the month. But for more years than I can count, I’ve been watching the animated tale of Ichabod Crane and the ghost stories in Sleepy Hollow.”

 Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is maybe my favorite ghost story. And I love ghost stories. The tale, about the fear of tales told in October and scary stories, about schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and his mysterious disappearance, is eternal and classic, and stands large over American horror. There is a lot in Disney’s short animated adaptation that shouldn’t work. Bing Crosby narrates, and he is iconic. Adding popular (at the time) songs to the animation sung by Crosby shouldn’t, on paper, work, but they do. And are incredibly charming. The segments of song with Ichabod, Katrina van Tassel and Brom Bones are always a delight to watch, and do a lot of character work to set up the mystery at the end. 

 Perhaps my favorite song is “The Tale of the Headless Horseman,” told by Brom Bones at the Halloween party. The animation is beautiful, and a Halloween wonder to watch. As the night progresses, and Ichabod heads home after the scary ghost stories, the animation becomes even more affective and iconic. The house with the wind in the trees. Ichabod and his horse slowly galloping though the silent woods, the cemetery, and encountering the ghostly (?) Headless Horseman. 

 I love this film, and could watch it so often I watched it twice last night. Things I noticed on this watch, are being more aware that Ichabod lives in his school house, and the background design of his bed is so detailed; with his bed and books and teapots. Every scene— the ghost story, the autumn fields, the Horseman’s woods— are this detailed, and I would live in them if I could. 

Friday, October 7, 2022

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Practical Magic”


Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year. The night, in October, when I watch one of my favorite movies— one that I watch several times a year— “Practical Magic.” Released to success in 1998, the film has since on home video and streaming become an autumnal cult classic among those who love magic and witches. 

 Based on the Alice Hoffman novel of the same name, the film takes several liberties from the novel, and they all work beautifully. “Practical Magic” is a beauty story of sisterhood, love, family and being different, told in only the way that witchcraft can. In more recent years, Hoffman has written now three sequel novels: “The Rules of Magic,” a prequel about the aunts Jet and Frannie and their backstory; “Magic Lessons,” the Owens’ family ancestor Maria’s backstory, and “The Book of Magic” and sequel that follows our beloved characters after the events of “Practical Magic.” For the few years, a series adaptation of “The Rules of Magic” has been in the works at HBO, and I sincerely hope it happens, as it is my favorite novel in the series, and one of my all time favorites. They also need to make it, so that a proper adaptation of “The Book of Magic” can be done; a story that practically begs for Bullock, Kidman, Weist and Channing to reunite and tell.

 Back to the magic of the film at hand. The story is beautiful. The lines I know by heart. The comfort is all around, and I will never tire of watching it. For plot points so fantastical, so much is said so aptly about human relationships, how we survive and the family we keep along the way. 

 Things that struck me on this viewing. The chemistry between all our actors; especially Kidman and Bullock and Channing and Weist. Also, the young actors who play Bullock’s daughters are so good. The house, oh goodness the house. Few houses on film, gorgeous and old and sprawling and covered with cats and books and plants and love— and a greenhouse— make me want to live in them more. Part of me always will live, however, in the house with rosemary planted by the garden gate. And where I fall in love as often as I can. 

Thursday, October 6, 2022

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Mad Monster Party?”


Last night it was time for another newer (to me) Halloween classic: 1967’s “Mad Monster Party?” Rankin and Bass, of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and other stop-motion animation Christmas classics fame, made this lesser known special as their answer to Halloween.

  Part love letter to the Universal Monster movies, part 1960s music extravaganza, “Mad Monster Party?” is an all that and the kitchen sink special that is incredibly endearing. Perhaps the program’s biggest claim to fame— and arguably best feature— is the get of having Boris Karloff himself voice, and sing, the part of Baron von Frankenstein, our Dr. Frankenstein character who’s discovery brings together our gallery of monsters— from Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature (from the Black Lagoon) and others. And, of course, the Mummy. It’s the Mummy. It’s the Mummy.


 The first time I watched this, the songs didn’t make much of an impression of me, but, with their zany cheer they, they enchanted me. And that happens all the more so with each viewing.  On this viewing, I also realized that one of the things I love most about this is the incredible, gorgeous and painstakingly made and designed sets. The creepy ship, Frankenstein’s Castle, the island and the lagoon. This is art made by people who love the classic monster movies, and it shows.