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August 2, 2010

Random Horror Throwdown - Tales from the Crypt vs. Sleepy Hollow

There's no doubting that I look for order when looking at randomness. Case in point: When I have a chance to pit a movie that occurred long before the most famous version of its namesake (1972's much forgotten anthology Tales from the Crypt, which is dwarfed by the famed HBO series) against a movie that occurred long after the most famous version of its namesake (Sleepy Hollow, a far removed child of Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane tale), I take it. Can the Johnny Depp blockbuster hold off one of my unsung favorites? Let's go to the matchup!


The Movies: Tales from the Crypt (1972, Dir. by Freddie Francis.)
Starring: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Ralph Richardson.
IMDB Synopsis: Five people get lost in a crypt and meet up with a strange crypt keeper who tells them stories of how they died. (Note from The Mike: If you ever find yourself in this situation, remember to drink from the cup of a carpenter. Wait, what? Wrong genre? Oh, ok. My bad.)

Sleepy Hollow (1999, Dir. by Tim Burton.)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee.
IMDB Synopsis: Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of 3 people with the culprit being the legendary apparition, the Headless Horseman. (Note from The Mike: Total bonus points for use of the word "apparition", IMDB dude!)

The Casts:
Tales from the Crypt utilizes some of the best talents Amicus had available at the time, when Hammer films was starting to lose their grip on the stars that had made the studio king for almost two decades. We've got Peter Cushing, Ian Hendry, and Roy Dotrice, alongside Joan Collins (in the famous "And All Through The House..." tale) and Ralph Richardson as the growly cryptkeeper.

Sleepy Hollow, on the other hand, has Johnny Depp. I don't care about Johnny Depp like others do, so I'm close to giving the point to Tales. But then, I remember that Christopher Walken AND Christopher Lee show up. Yes, the two greatest people to have Christ in their name since JC are in this movie. Even in small doses, I gotta give Sleepy Hollow a point for that. (1-0, Sleepy Hollow leads.)

The Directors:
This is another tough call. Tales from the Crypt is directed by veteran cinematographer turned director Freddie Francis, who worked for Hammer for a long time, shot the best looking black-and-white horror film of all-time (that would be The Innocents), and directed a few other unsung horror hits like Paranoiac (the first Hammer film on Blu-Ray!), The Creeping Flesh, and Trog. (Ok, maybe Trog's not good...but I love me some Trog.) I've always found his name on a project of this era to be quite soothing.

But then there's Tim Burton. As much as I dislike his recent output, the man has made some amazing flicks. Based on Big Fish and Ed Wood alone, I have to give Sleepy Hollow another point. (2-0, Sleepy Hollow leads.)

The Plots:
OK, this is getting out of hand, but here's where Tales takes a stand. I freakin' love anthology horrors. Heck, I love them like most people love Shark Week. With five tales at its disposal, Francis' Tales from the Crypt plays like one of those scary story books I used to read as a kid. And Sleepy Hollow plays like a souped up version of the Disney version that terrified me as a kid (seriously, that headless horseman was AMAZING). So Tales from the Crypt gets a point here. (2-1, Sleepy Hollow leads.)

That Second Segment in Tales from the Crypt is REALLY Ahead of its Time:
Not really a question here, but I just have to take a moment to talk about this one. In the flick's second segment, entitled Reflection of Death, a fellow played by Ian Hendry decides to walk out on his wife and kids to run away with a wide-eyed mistress. On their car ride out of town, he has a horrible nightmare right before the car crashes and burns. From that point on, we get him shambling around in first person view, with people recoiling at the site of him. It's entirely on par with what we'd see later in the likes of Black Christmas and Halloween, and the payoff - though slightly cheesy - totally works for me. I kinda love this segment hardcore, and thus I'm giving Tales from the Crypt another point. (2-2)

My Experience with the Films:
Both of these films and I met during my first year at college. The newer film came out that fall, and I saw it twice theatrically; once with my high school friends over Thanksgiving break and later with my roommate and his girlfriend. To date, the latter viewing is one of my favorite experiences, as I may have elbowed said roommate in correlation with the film's biggest jumpscare, causing him to jump out of his seat.

As for Tales from the Crypt, it was one of the first movies I ever found at what would become my favorite video store for the next decade. I had never heard of the flick, and remember being completely excited by the concept, rushing home (via bus, that is) and popping it in immediately. I was between roommates at the time, and had the place to myself with no disruptions, and devoured the whole thing. And loved it. In fact, I'm pretty sure this was my first exposure to Amicus OR Hammer films...thus, it kinda opened one of the most awesome doors that's ever opened in my cinematic life.

This Choice is Like: Is it better to fade before a star or to ride the star's coattails? Sleepy Hollow took an established quantity and rehashed it, while Tales - while also based on stuff - seems to blaze a new trail for the series that would later become the biggest genre TV hit since Serling...yet nobody seems to remember it.

Doesn't really matter though, because somehow I've convinced myself that Tales from the Crypt is MINE. Everyone saw Sleepy Hollow that fall, and everyone's seen it since. Tales was probably relatively successful in its day, but my experiences with the film are solely personal. And...I kinda love it for that.

Sleepy Hollow is probably the better film, and I've revisited it plenty. And I don't even have a good analogy for why I'm doing this, but I'm giving the final point to Tales from the Crypt. (3-2, Tales from the Crypt wins!)

(Note from The Mike: Not to mention, the tagline for TftC is "Death Lives!" How forking cool is that? Honestly, this contest was over the second that oxymoron happened.)


Jinx said...

I utterly love these posts.

Strange Kid said...

Couldn't agree more, Mike, Tales from the Crypt is an underappreciated horror gem that deserves more attention and while I enjoyed Sleepy Hollow's dreary atmosphere you can tell it was clearly geared towards a more general audience.

Tales from the Crypt is a horror film for horror movie fans.

R.D. Penning said...

TALES FROM THE CRYPT!!!! and then later on the amazing Demon Knight!!! haha. You made the right choice Mike. I'm proud of you!!!

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

Of course Tales from the Crypt would win! I knew that from the start. Marry me, Cryptkeeper!

The Mike said...

Thanks all!

@StrangeKid - Great way of putting it! This is completely a flick for horror fans.