Autodidact: self-taught


The Secret of Crickley Hall

by V. L. Craven

The Secret of Crickley Hall

The Secret of Crickley Hall is a three-part series about a family of five that loses the son, a boy of five. He simply disappears from a playground one day whilst with his mother. In an effort to mitigate the pain of the one year anniversary, they relocate from London to picturesque Crickley Hall in the north of England for a few months. The mother (Suranne Jones) has a psychic connection with her son, which ceased upon his disappearance, but resumes upon the family’s arrival at Crickley Hall. Amid the protests of her husband and at the physical and mental risk of her daughters–one of whom is Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones–she presses on, engaging the help of a local medium, looking for answers.

Interweaving with this story are the events of 1943 when orphans were evacuated from London during WWII to the Crickley Hall, which is run by the Cribbens, a pair of siblings of whom Dickens would be proud. They subscribe to the belief that deprivation and corporal punishment are the best inducements to learning. When a teacher, an orphan herself (played by Olivia Cooke from Bates Motel), comes up from London and protests the harsh treatment, she’s soon sent on her way, but vows to save the children. Even if it means risking her own life.

The stories become increasingly enmeshed, as the more time the family remains at Crickley Hall, the more the horrific occurrences of the past begin to haunt them, until a devastating confrontation between the past and the present.

Olivia Cooke

The series was based on the novel by James Herbert. I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of someone who’s read the book and seen the series. But as someone who’s only seen the show it was quite well done. There was one reveal I saw coming, but overall, the acting, direction, writing, etc were up to par for BBCOne. The pacing was particularly handled well, which can be difficult over several episodes of this sort of show. There were several moments during the final episode where I found myself holding my breath–the level of suspence was excellent.

I highly recommend this one for fans of ghost stories or stories well told in general.


Sleepy Hollow and Its Various Incarnations

by V. L. Craven
Ichabod Crane, Respectfully Dedicated to Washington Irving by William J Wilgus (1819-53)

Ichabod Crane, Respectfully Dedicated to Washington Irving by William J Wilgus (1819-53)

There’s a new show based on Washington Irving’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. I was going to give it a miss, but then I found out they shoot it where I live and it’s always fun to play spot-the-location. My introduction was a cartoon, which I’ll get to, but I wanted to compare some of the adaptions (cartoon, film and TV series) and realised I hadn’t read the story. So that came first. It’s available from Gutenberg  for free.

Irving’s writing is incredibly atmospheric and he captures nature beautifully. The characters are two-dimensional, though, and not likeable–particularly the protagonist and his crush, Katrina van Tassel. Typical of a short story, there isn’t a great deal going on–the descriptions and atmosphere are the selling points. Oh, and prepare yourself for the casual racism. This was written in the early 1800s. It’s pretty minimal compared to other things I’ve read written during that time, but it’s still there. Be warned.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Disney

This was the only scene I remembered.

As mentioned, my introduction to the story was the Disney cartoon , made in 1949. Which, upon, re-viewing, was rather disappointing. My young mind had glossed over the romance, greed, and singing and paid sole attention to the spookier aspects like the headless horseman and chase through the woods. The singing, however, does happen in the story. In fact, the cartoon is holds very close to the source material. They leave out the racism, thankfully, and they cut down on the general spookiness, but overall it’s quite accurate.

What was odd was that I could have sworn there was a bit where Brom Bones and his friends had pulled the prank where they chased Crane, pretending to be the Horseman. Because I was expecting it in the Burton adaptation. I have a very clear memory of this happening. The way the brain works, wow.

'I swear, I'd lose my head if it weren't screwed on... DAMMIT'

‘I swear, I’d lose my head if it weren’t screwed on… DAMMIT’

Many years later (as in decades) Tim Burton remade the tale with a bunch of spectacular actors, including Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman. This will probably always be the definitive version for me because it’s Burton, whose aesthetic pleases me greatly, and because of the aforementioned cast. He changed…nearly everything. Except he made two very minor characters mentioned in passing in the story into important characters in the film.

Burton’s version is visually dark–it’s Burton, what do you want?–though the story happens in Autumn in New England when everything would have been reds and golds and oranges. Ichabod was, indeed, a wimp, so that remained the same, but Katrina became a witch (something that would carry over into the TV series), rather than the vacuous flirt from the story and cartoon and there was blood and a real horseman. Something that’s left up in the air in the story and cartoon.

Sleepy Hollow TV Show

Eventually spring will come to Sleepy Hollow…that won’t be spooky…

So then Fox announced they were making a television show called  Sleepy Hollow  and I was sceptical. How could they take a short story and make it into a series? But after reading this review  I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did.

The first two episodes were the set up and people getting to grips with their roles in the battle with the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The third episode felt like the first ‘real’ episode, if that makes sense. The one where they work out who a baddie is and take it down, Buffy-style. The entire show is very Buffy-like–dramatic and supernatural and occasionally laugh out loud funny. They’ve already renewed it for a second series, which I’m very glad to hear, particularly since our landlord’s daughter is now working on the show.

And I get to pretend I live in a city like Sunnydale, but I’m not one of the stupid people who gets killed on a regular basis. Seriously, that place must have had a ridiculously high death rate.



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