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Sometimes there are steps I take.... places I plant my ass... airspace I fill that just seems to border on the unbelievable.

Last Monday, I was sitting on a bench outside my hotel awaiting Moriarty, Segue Zagnut and John Robie to pick me up and fly to a FATBURGER to pick up the gorgeous Lynn Bracken to then charge our way to the Paramount Lot to take in Tim Burton’s latest film.... SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Now to set the atmosphere just so... I was sitting on this bench mostly in darkness... The lights from the front of the hotel barely reached me, illuminating only half of one leg. The rest of me was shrouded in darkness.

As I sat there, I began to see this shape come from the parking area. As I usually do, I followed it’s movements... it was headed my way. I’m bored. Moriarty is of course... LATE as usual. Suddenly this unidentified walking shape (or UWS for short) is right upon me. He’s a well built man, and as his face reaches the light, I see O.J. Simpson staring back into my eyes.

There was a brief exchange... even now I’m unsure of what was said... but all the same it happened. He continued on into the lobby of the hotel, walked around a bit, then went on up to his room.... same floor as me (he took the stairs which led only to my floor).

I didn’t know how to feel about this, it’s so strange. I mean hell... As a boy I had the OJ electronic FOOTBALL Game and drank OJ every morning. I’ve seen him in movies my entire life... and then of course there was that trial thing. Strange....

Right around that time, Moriarty and crew arrive in a Bronco-style vehicle, albeit... not white. I hop in and we begin our trek...

Upon arriving at the Paramount lot we noticed that there were almost ZERO cars there. I mean... seriously... this place was a ghost studio. At this time I was riding with Lynn, and we get out to head towards the theater.

Everyone in the group is charged. We are... by nature... Tim Burton fans. We love his work. My feelings about Tim’s work border on a near zealot level.

Here in my bedroom, directly in front of me I can see Jack and Sally from NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a MARS ATTACKS alien, a big ol BEETLEJUICE doll, an ED WOOD postcard and the script for BATMAN amongst all the other items... And for right now, save for the entire run of YELLOW SUBMARINE toys that litter that selection... Tim dominates.

Behind all of that though lies my poster for Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH... a three sheet with Karloff’s disembodied head held by a greenish undead fist. This... of course.... Rocks.

The script for SLEEPY HOLLOW was very much a balls to the wall scary flick, something I wasn’t sure 100% was up Tim’s alley. For me... from the beginning of Tim... he’s been that horror fan that can’t help but giggle while he’s scaring you. And... I love that. To me... he’s a bit of a cross of Vincent Price, William Castle and Richard Widmark... He delights at scarring you. Putting a bit of the ol fright into ya.

Yes... I love that. I remember... first it was just scaring my sister... It was so much fun.... Show her TEMPLE OF DOOM, then put my hand over her heart and begin the chant... she’d start freaking out.... Now I delight when I get asked by teenagers the world over if the Blair Witch is real.... I write them back.... “Of Course She Is Silly Boy/Girl”

I can’t help it. To me... For me... It tis far far better to fear ghouls and goblins than drug dealers and congressmen. My parents warped me as a child to fear the undead, rather than their fist. ‘Harry! Do as you’re told or we’ll take you to the cemetery!’

I was a very good boy.

So it is that I find myself very much in the same world of Tim Burton. My house is decorated as both Christmas and Halloween 365 days a year. I pour over horror films of long ago and delight as if they were freshly squeezed that morning for my breakfast today.

In all the advance foraging for information upon SLEEPY HOLLOW, I read that Tim Burton was attempting a Hammer Film. That classic world of film where good was Peter Cushing and evil was Christopher Lee. Always the pair were at each others’ throats. The skies were always cloudy with a bluish tint... The castle was always upon a hill as a painted (although gorgeously so) backdrop with a forced ominous perspective. It’s deeper than deep red blood. The dynamic flurry of strings and lower brass as the furious battle between good and evil played out as composed by James Bernard. Yes.... The Hammer films.

They were bloodier, bolder and had more breasts than in any horror films we had seen previously. And it wasn’t so much nude breast as it was that valley/canyon of cleavage. The women of Hammer were young and... different looking. Voluptuous, yet childlike. There was always an innocent virginal seduction to them. Asking to be corrupted.

So yes... that’s where my mind was as we 5.... Moriarty, Segue Zagnut, John Robie, Lynn Bracken and I took to our seats.

We decided to not sit up on top of one another... not all on the same row. Instead we spread out. I ran up to get a close seat to the screen. I wanted in this world. And there... we sat... awaiting whatever was to come.

I was a bit nervous. This was a screening arranged by Scott Rudin... he had offered to fly me out to see it, but I was already going to be in town... So all he needed to do was set up the screening. I had talked with Rudin, who was on the set of SHAFT, and he seemed to feel that I should see this movie. Personally I could not agree more. I should see this movie. All Tim Burton fans should see this movie and any other that Tim creates.

But as our projectionist was getting set to screen the film.... I found that doubts were beginning to crowd my mind. Those reviews coming in talking about doubts.... disappointments.... I really didn’t want an ‘OK’ Tim Burton film... I wanted genius. I wanted a great Tim Burton film.

That’s what I got.

“Chistopher Lee is wasted in this film”

This was the first statement to pop into mine that had been in a review that appeared here on AICN that was revealed to be false to me. You see.... Christopher Lee has... a cameo. A brief... oh so brief... scene. He is the man that sends young Ichabod Crane to the town of Sleepy Hollow. There... in that brief minute or two minute long scene you see... for that moment or two... the power of Christopher Lee. When that finger of his points at poor Johnny Depp... you get the sense that... Well... that you would gulp as well.

Folks... Let’s really get to it here. SLEEPY HOLLOW is exactly that. This movie, while departing from the original Washington Irving material shows exactly why sometimes diversions are wholly necessary in creating a cinematic tale. BUT you must stay true to the soul of the material. And Burton and Walker have done that in spades.

The trailers lead you to believe that this is a horror action film. To a degree... that is dead on true... but there is more here. You see... Ichabod is a coward, just as his school teaching literary roots had been. He’s squeamish. He cowers and faints and ya know... It’s funny when it happens. BUT.... BUT... this is being honest and true to the soul of Washington Irving’s work.

THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW was both scary and funny. In literary form as well as the popular Disney animated version. This film stays true to that, but... my god this is a delight.

It’s not that much has changed since the script draft I read... the dialogue is still there... but Johnny Depp has peppered and textured his character with moments and pentameters that I did not even begin to read into the character. In the written form, Ichabod was a bit of an action hero... here... well, he’s hanging on for dear life. He’s a book nerd... a traumatized boy hoping and praying to survive.

He’s determined to succeed. However... he’s also quite the scaredy cat. I love this dimension to his character and in the context of the film and the mood that Burton sets... it is... perfect.

In the press materials on SLEEPY HOLLOW, you’d see pics of Burton painting blood on Lisa Marie... the tree... all over the place... I love this. The use of blood in this movie is wonderful. It is the brightest element of the film. The most rich color seen.

Like in the old Technicolor school, you create a universe of low key colors then, when you really want to make an impact.... you hit them with a bright red. Here.... it’s the wax, the cardinal, the blood. Each rich and beautiful.

This is also a character actors film. You’ll see a good dozen faces that you know, but that so many do not. This felt like an old Hammer film... simply because faces and quality of actors were cast.... not just names.

Now... for the film. It moves sooo fast. There is not much pussy-footing around here. The movie is not only an action horror film, but like all good college students, it minors in mystery and comedy as well as romance.

It never plays any of it particularly realistic.... but rather hallucinatory. The cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki is supreme. Whether we are in reality or the dreams of Ichabod’s childhood. We are swept up in this.... the most lush of all of Burton’s work.

Every single shot of this film is beautiful. The angles, what is moving within the shots... this is Burton’s most assured film. Every character has a purpose. Every death a reason. And for the first time in his career...

The action ROCKS. Every single time that damned Headless Horseman even begins to appear on screen... the pulse of this film races... not only because of the brilliant stunt work, horseback riding and sword use... not only because of the fantastic photography and framing of the series of shots... but also the racing score of Danny Elfman. In classic Hammer style, Elfman overscores the hell out these scenes.... creating a faster heartbeat that peels off the screen and went smack dab into my own chest. It was thrilling.

There is a carriage sequence that is... just hands down.... stunning as all hell. Remember the pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK? Well... if you watch that sequence with the trucks.... and you count during the sequence on every 2 beat, the shot changes... it’s a relentless pace. But during this sequence, Burton and his editor Chris Lebenzon are playing with the beats... making them erratic. I loved this.

This is a bedtime story... a Halloween tale to watch every Halloween. I love ED WOOD, but in the realm of Burton’s myths.... BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS, MARS ATTACKS! Well... SLEEPY HOLLOW is my favorite... at least upon first viewing. I’ll be seeing it again this Monday and then paying to see it again that next Friday.

Upon leaving the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles I had my bag of toys and press materials and the 5 of us went to SWINGERS on Beverly Blvd. to grab a late supper and discuss what it was we just saw.

There was only one bag of toys and press materials. So... at the restaurant we opened the toys (McFarlane Toys) and began playing with them. Moriarty says, “That’s it.... fuck it... I’m bombing this movie cause I didn’t get a buncha toys!”

I respond with, “Well the only reason I’m giving the movie a great review is because I got these toys!”

To which everyone screams.... “SELLOUT!!!”

You see folks... that’s the way we joke. Here... let’s think about this... If the only reason I’m writing this positive review is because of a bag of toys... Well... If you saw CONGO... and they gave you a bag of toys... Would it change your opinion of the film? I didn’t think so.

In fact, you’d probably drive straight to a Goodwill or hand the bag to the nearest kid you’d find. I love these toys, because the movie kicks ass. These toys are now on display in my house because... the movie is just awesome.

All 5 of us just talked non-stop about the utter coolness that this movie has. Burton did succeed in his goal of creating his Hammer film.... I can not wait to see what he does next.

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