The October Diaries: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Illustration by Max Brown
Blurbs by Nathan Maxwell Cann, Sean & Christof

October 24th, 2014:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Year: 1980
Director: Henning Schellerup
Format: VHS
From Wikipedia: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a 1980 television movie on NBC filmed in Utah.

Nathan’s Take:

What can I say about this Emmy-nominated, made-for-TV cinema snooze-tacular that cannot be gleaned from a casual perusal of the Wikipedia synopsis?  Perhaps that this soporific rendition of a classic tale of horror is only intriguing because it is an immense and utter failure.  Stripped of all paranormal elements and injected with a tedious love triangle, the film (strangely shot in Utah with the ambiance of a rustic anus) trudges along painfully for over an hour where not even the droll mutterings of Jeff Goldblum and the antics of a pet owl possibly possessed by the spirit of a Native American shaman can keep the audience awake.  The director chose to loosely adapt this tale, and in doing so took away any recognizable charm the story may have held.  No one dies and no one truly lives.  Run, do not walk, away from this headless production!

Christof’s Take:



Sean’s Take:

Some things go clunk in the night. This selection was unfortunate for a number of reasons. We diminished our odds from the get-go by selecting a cheap looking VHS, the kind you might see sold for a dollar at off-the-beaten-path convenience stores. We knew it would be a certain kind of rough because even though Jeff Goldblum played Ichabod Crane, the VHS only had a Goldblum headshot on the back of the cover, he wasn’t even in character, and there was no still-shot from the movie. This is usually a red flag indicating not one single image from the movie can be used to sell the movie, but we chose to ignore this based on our hopes that it might create the same type of cheap, but satisfying, ambiance that Faery Tale Theatre used to deliver with such great effect (after all, The Company of Wolves pulled off this tone while maintaining a healthy balance of horror).

Unfortunately, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was not only the bottom of the barrel for the month so far, but it was easily the worst version of Sleepy Hollow I’ve ever seen — and I can’t claim to love any version of the story. The problems were many. For one, it looked like it was shot on a VHS that had been recorded over a few too many times. That was probably enough to alienate most, but I have an extremely high thresh-hold (and affection for) VHS fuzz, so it didn’t phase me.

As is usually the case, lack of narrative momentum was the film’s major problem. The plot failed the viewer at every turn. Instead of focusing on the whole awesome headless horseman aspect of the story, this version seemed to be focused almost exclusively on Goldblum’s status as a bachelor. Every cast member inquired about his relationship status at least once and overall the film’s thrust was inexplicably dependent on whom Crane might fancy romantically (marking the first and only time Jeff Goldblum has shared a love triangle with his co-star, and ex-NFL player, Dick Butkus).

The moments of supernatural tension only served as red herrings for most of the movie. Just when you thought something sweet and terrifying might happen, the movie would take a turn and reveal how sour and boring the scene really was — each “twist” landed with such a thud as to be forgotten before you realized what the intent was to begin with.  For a story that is synonymous with the Halloween season, this movie had the very least amount of horror of any that we’ve watched this month. In fact the headless horsemen — arguably the only aspect anyone is ever interested in regarding this story — only made an appearance in the last two or three minutes of this 98 minute film.

We almost watched The Outing instead, but changed our mind at the very last moment. The room of nine people wanted to see what Goldblum had to offer. I myself had been wanting to check out the VHS for a while but, in retrospect, I certainly wished we had went with The Outing, with it’s killer genie antagonist, instead of this very sleepy version of sleepy hollow.

By the end of the movie only 4 of the 9 were still awake.  There’s your review right there.



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