on June 9, 2004
Washington Irving laid the foundation for this story. Burton built on that - a wonderful structure, but not what Irving had in mind. Fine.
Depp, of course, is wonderful as an overly straight-laced Crane. He's a hard-core realist, in a truly unreal situation. Ricci does an outstanding job, too. The real star, though is Tim Burton's visual sense. Just about every scene is at least tinged with his macabre sensibility, most especially the "fifth victim." Burton truly outdid himself with the bizarre array of instruments given to Crane for his scientific investigations.
I know this is just entertainment, but at least one anachronism stood out. Window glass at the end of the 18th century was still a hand-made product, with ripples and pontil marks. Here, though, just about every window was glazed with flat "float glass." I can't get too worked up over that, though.
The story is well paced, with a web of interlocking tensions between the main characters. The visuals create a rich, spooky ambience. This movie is easy to enjoy and well worth the time spent.
on March 19, 2004
For those of us who have never read Washington Irving's short story, Tim Burton's 'Sleepy Hollow' proved to be an enjoyable substitute. Burton's love of British Hammer horror movies and a cast full of British character actors meant that the humour in the film gave you the feeling you were watching a 'Carry On' movie from the 1960's. A humour that perhaps wasn't so successful as many of the American actors ie. Depp and Ricci seemed a bit aloof and wooden. Although it has to be said that Christina Ricci was chosen by Burton because she reminded him of a silent movie star.
The set designs on this film are pretty amazing and it's difficult to believe that 90% of the film was shot in the studio, even the west woods. Set buliding is not often seen in movies anymore. Production companies think it's too expensive and shooting, as is, on location gives a greater sense of naturalism. Kudos then to Tim Burton in creating an authentic representation of turn of the 19th century upstate New York, filled with his own idiosyncratic designs such as Depp's David Cronenberg-like operating equipement.
Other Burtonian themes also occur. Casper Van Dien plays the bully that gets his comeuppance as did Anthony Michael Hall in 'Edward Scissoehands' and Jack Black in 'Mars Attacks. Also interesting to note executive producer Francis Ford Coppola who also had a credit in 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' and 'Mary Shelly's Frankenstein' and seems to be something of a literary gothic fan.
on March 7, 2004
As my friend and I were picking out movies to watch recently, she chose this one and I cringed. Was it a thriller (which I can generally handle) or a horror movie (which I generally can't)? Having enjoyed the movie, I am rather surprised to read that other reviewers consider this a horror flick.
As for the movie itself, it starts off in a darkly lit New York City. All the details of those opening NYC scenes can be a little confusing at times (was that guy being tortured in the court room?), but the main thrust is clear: Crane (Johnny Depp) sticks out on the police force in 1799 because he wants to solve crimes based on scientific methods. He nobly lobbies for his fellow policemen to go about their work more fairly, and so they send him to Sleepy Hollow to solve the case of the Headless Horseman.
True to his usual form, Burton suceeds in making Sleepy Hollow every bit as creepy as it should be. The set for this town truly makes the film come alive. As Crane comes into the eerie town, he tries to overcome his uneasiness and social awkwardness by investigating the crimes with a scientific method. However, after encountering too many mystical things in the town, his mind starts flashing back to mysteries from his own childhood. As his waking mind tries to solve the gruesome murders at hand, his sleeping mind is trying to remember what happened to his mother.
I don't want to ruin any more of the plot here. The screenplay definitely deviates from the cartoon I saw as a child - in some ways the motivation for the killings is more rational and in some ways the "solution" to the crimes is even more irrational. However, I was able to handle all the beheadings and other killings just fine. In fact, I was more amused by the subtle humor of the film than I was frightened by the gore of it.
As a side note, I wondered some about the overall smoothness of the dialogue and progress of of the plot. Though Depp once again masterfully takes on another persona, he was a bit wooden at times. I wasn't sure if that was intentional on his part or if Crane's noble and clear-thinking yet queasy character was hard for him to portray. In a similar manner, the dialogue between Crane and Katrina Van Tassel (Ricci) was occasionally awkward. But, then, I thought of how many times in my life conversations have been awkward, and that without a headless horseman...so perhaps that was intentional as well. Also, I thought the plot skipped around a bit, sometimes jumping illogically to the next scene. However, I'm not sure if this is the result of poor editing or a Burton act of genius to make one all the more uneasy. In any case, these little quirks pulled me out of the story at times and so it lost some momentum for me.
Finally, I would like to point out that witchcraft - both "good" and "evil" - are quite prevelant in the film. Depending on your view of witchcraft, you may not enjoy the ultimate lifting up of "good" witchcraft over all else in the movie.
on January 31, 2004
One of my favorite horror movies, and I strongly reccomend purchasing it.
Ichabod (Johnny Depp) is a New York City detective whose unorthodox techniques and penchant for gadgets make him unpopular with is colleagues. He is sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of bizarre murders, in which a number of people have been found dead in the woods, with their heads cut off. Local legend has it that a Hessian ghost rides through the woods on horseback, lopping off the heads of the unsuspecting and unbelieving. Ichabod refuses to believe in this legend, convinced that there must be a logical explanation for the murders. In time, Ichabod becomes smitten with a local lass, Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), who is the sweetheart of the burly Brom Bones (Casper Van Dien), and he becomes determined to capture the murderer to prove his bravery and win her heart. Christopher Walken, Jeffrey Jones, and Christopher Lee highlight the supporting cast; Lee's appearance is particularly apt, since Burton has cited the Hammer films of the 1960s as a major influence in making this film. Andrew Kevin Walker and Tom Stoppard contributed to the screenplay.
on January 14, 2004
As he did with Batman and Planet of the Apes (and is reportedly doing with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) Tim Burton has taken a classic story and placed his own unique stamp on it. The atmosphere and sets are classic Burton, especially the gnarled and nightmarish trees that surround and define an important part of the collective psyche of Sleepy Hollow.
Johnny Depp (as Constable Ichabod Crane) displays his skill at portraying a character who is both humorous and earnest in this adaptation, applying Burton's concept of 19th century forensic equipment to the task of uncovering the origin of the mysterious circumstances that are causing people to lose their heads in the small village...literally.
For the most part, the supporting cast is also marvelous, from the voluptuous Christina Ricci to Miranda Richardson to Christopher Lee and Ian McDiarmid, just to name a few.
The only person who seems miscast in this Burton fable is Christopher Walken as the Hessian Horseman. Come on, Mr. Burton, just because you have given Walken pointy prosthetic teeth and the ability to ride his supernatural steed out of a gnarled old tree, are we supposed to be frightened? The only thing frightening about Walken is his general lack of acting ability. Then again, Mr. Burton has always approached macabre subject matter with a dark sense of humor, so perhaps this casting is intended to be as tongue-in-cheek as the "scientific instruments" that Depp's Ichabod uses to practice his detective work.
If one went into the film not knowing that it was a Burton creation, one might come out of the film scratching one's head over the visual treatment of the story. Since Burton has trained the viewer to expect a slightly exaggerated and off-beat style, however, the look and feel of the film should not come as a great surprise to anyone who is familiar with Burton's previous work. In fact, for the most part, Burton shows great restraint in crafting most of the characters to be unusual, but not as over-the-top as, for example, his characters in Mars Attacks!
Best watched around Halloween, Sleepy Hollow is an entertaining ride through a "nightmare" with a distinctly Burton-esque feel.
on October 18, 2003
Tim Burton has made a GREAT film that incorporates the greatest aspect of classic horror: creepiness, suspense and just the right amount of humor.
The production values are superb and have Burton's fingerprints all over them. The performances are great, from Depp's whimsical but squeamish "Constable" Ichabod Crane to a supporting cast that is, simply put, to die for.
Where I fault the film (it would be a 3 1/2 for me) is the loss of Washington Irving's original vision. Ichabod Crane is not the hero of the story. He doesn't rid the town of the Headless Horseman. Of course, this doesn't quite fit the bill for a Depp/Burton vehicle. This would have made a fun sequel -- what happened after Ichabod disappeared. As it is, it is a very shaky reworking that over-analyzes Crane's childhood and introduces too many plot and character changes to really make it recognizable.
Would that Burton had brought the original story to film with this much energy and whimsy and spookiness. Alas, it was not meant to be, but it's still a good film overall.
on March 19, 2002
Tim Burton's latest effort, Sleepy Hollow, is a delight with one exception. We'll get to the exception later, because it's just a judgment call of his that I disagree with. He is one of my favorite directors, and here are some of his most wonderful creations: PeeWee's Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman and Batman Returns. Now add Sleepy Hollow to that list.
What makes Burton a great director is his style, which is unique to him. His is a childlike point of view, a dreamlike approach in which reality is hardly a consideration. His visions tend to balance delicately somewhere between dreams and nightmares - too humorous to be bad dreams, yet too full of dark images to be good ones. The upstate New York village of Burton's Sleepy Hollow is a quaint and almost inviting one. Still, the sun never shines, and the countryside is anything but inviting.
Into this world comes Ichabad Crane [Johnny Depp], a police detective from New York who believes in the scientific approach to solving mysteries. When he is sent to the village to investigate a series of gristly murders, in which the victims are found literally headless, he makes a list of people who might have motive. He scoffs at the villagers' claims that the killer is a Headless Horseman returned from the grave. Unraveling these crimes will also unravel Crane's nerves, as well as his belief in everything's having a rational explanation.
Depp, the great physical actor of our times, leads a cast of wonderful performers. Every role is memorable, especially his and Miranda Richardson's. Depp conveys more with his body language than he does with dialog, and he has been a favorite of mine for years. He he can make even a bad movie watchable, and he can make a good one great. You are probably less familiar with Richardson, an English actress who can portray virtually any character.
As in any Burton movie, the sets are fascinating. Everything is just a bit out of kilter and exaggerated. Even mundane items have a slightly spooky quality to them. These visual tricks serve the function of drawing the viewer into the movie. They become part of the story.
Now, about that judgment call. Sleepy Hollow is filled with enough many violent images to earn it an R rating. I wish they had been toned down. Had Burton chosen to do this, it would have allowed the movie to go out with no more than a PG-13 rating. This would have opened this otherwise delightful period piece to a broader audience. As it is now, I cannot recommend it for younger viewers. I am not, by the way, getting into the fray concerning the general level of violence in entertainment. My remarks are intended to be about this one particular picture.
on March 11, 2002
Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow is not exactly the Disney version that you remember as a kid, it is very dark and dreary and although Johnny Depp is great; he plays Ichabod Crane like he's Sherlock Holmes. Depp still brings much needed humor and charm to the film though. My favorite scene is the two on one sword fight that might remind you of the one in the Phantom Menace since Ray Park (Darth Maul) plays the Horsemen. Ray Park shows once again why he's one of the best stunt men as the Headless Horsemen, the guy's movement is incredible. Christina Ricci has fine chemistry with Depp and gives her best performance as well. Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) is marcho and a little cocky as Bron and seems very fitting in the role but his character doesn't have as much of a role as he does in the original story. Tim Burton was the perfect person to bring this story life although it's not exactly faithful to the original story much at all. Still though Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow is a new Horror classic that could be compared to the original Frankenstein and Dracula movies. Tim Burton wasted his talent with Planet of the Apes, making films with dark atmoshires like this are more his style and what he's best at. Sleepy Hollow is probably his best work to date and I wouldn't mind another film from him like it.
on March 5, 2002
Director Tim Burton does justice to the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" novel by Washington Irving. Johnny Depp plays Icabod Crane, who is asked to investigate a series of brutal murders, reluctantly he goes to the town of Sleepy Hollow to solve the crimes. Once he arrives, he is confronted by a town filled with secrets, lies, and treachery. There are fine performances from Christina Ricci and Miranda Richardson. Whenever Depp is being directed by Burton, he always does some of his best.work. Burton, given the right material is a true creative force, the film has many Burton touches and unique imagery. I think this movie is better than his "reimagined" version of the PLANET OF THE APES, which suffers from a bad script and miscasting, that was a real downer for me. The only complaint I have about this film, is the fact that it all but ignores the triangle between, Crane, Katrina (Ricci), and Braum (Casper Van Dien) The other aspects, sets, music, costumes, and minimal use of special effects are blended together to create a good film that should have been better received by the masses
The DVD edition has a good commentary track from Burton, a behind the scenes featurette, and a photo gallery. All of this is pretty average stuff. I think the DVD should have had a better presentation too. Having said that, the film itself is still the disc's best feature. An underated gem.
on January 20, 2001
As I recall it from my school days, Washington Irving's tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a charming little story of a timid school master, Ichabod Crane, who comes to the rustic hamlet of Sleepy Hollow to teach, and who soon casts his eye on the local beauty Katrina, thus raising the ire and jealousy of her beau, Brom, who warns Ichabod to beware the Headless Horseman, an apparition terrorizing the countryside. Soon, on a dark night, Ichabod meets the Horseman and is frightened out of his wits, and out of town, leaving Katrina to Brom, who had, of course, made up the whole story and had disguised himself as the Horseman. No heads rolled and no blood was spilled.
Tim Burton's version, Sleepy Hollow, is deeper and much darker. The Headless Horseman is a fiend from Hell, riding out to lop off heads at the bidding of the evil witch who has learned his secret and who now controls him. Heads roll, but there is very little bloodletting in this film. When a man is decapitated, there is no fountain of spurting blood, as there would normally be. That's because the Horseman's sword is still hot from hellfire and cauterizes the wounds it inflicts. Blood is used, however, for comedic effect, as when Ichabod autopsies a corpse and a little blood squirts into his eye at the first incision.
Ichabod Crane in this movie is a New York City police constable, a rebel with a cause -- scientific crime investigation -- who is a nuisance to his superiors, who don't believe in such new-fangled science as autopsies, pathology, and deductive reasoning, and who send him off to solve a series of murders in upstate New York in the small village of Sleepy Hollow.
Upon arrival he is apprised of the murders, and the identity of the murderer, the Headless Horseman, a Hessian mercenary who was killed 20 years ago during the American Revolution. Naturally Ichabod doesn't believe this, and sets out to find the real killer, using his scientific methods of investigation.
Johnny Depp portrays Ichabod Crane as a man of contradictory characteristics -- he is stalwart and resolute when needs be, but is afraid of bugs and spiders and uneasy with horses, and is prone to fainting spells. He is somewhat timid at times, too, and not above hiding behind the boy Young Masbath in the witch's hut in the Western Woods, or even behind Katrina when facing danger, but he rises to the occasion in the end. He doesn't believe in the supernatural, but is haunted by dreams of his supernatural mother, who was put to death by his own father for practicing witchcraft. So he's a man tormented by his own ghosts, sent to seek out and destroy someone else's ghost.
This is an engrossing movie, but it has some flaws. One of which is the color photography, or rather, the lack of it. The color is so washed out, I though the movie was in black and white at first. This pale cinematography gives the effect wanted, that of a gray, overcast, moody landscape, full of foreboding, but it's overdone, making one think the sun never shines on Sleepy Hollow. The interiors could have, at least, been well-lighted.
The film is set in the year 1799, just a few days before the turn of the century to 1800, and Ichabod in an early scene speaks of the coming 19th century as the "new millennium." Sorry, Ichabod, but millenniums only come around every 1,000 years, so 1800 is just the turn of the century, not the millennium.
One more complaint about the cinematography -- the stroboscopic lighting during the climax is unnecessary and extremely distracting! Not even a Perfect Storm would have that much thunder and lightning! The strobing lasts much too long, and has become a cliché in the horror/thriller genre. Good directors should avoid it.
As they should the standard long exposition scene, where the evil villain explains in speech and flashbacks the convoluted plot twists, which is so reminiscent of any episode of Murder, She Wrote. But that's always been necessary in murder mysteries, so I guess it's unavoidable even by the best directors and writers. The plot has to be explained somehow, and Sleepy Hollow has a somewhat complicated one, with many characters who are not clearly identified at first.
As with Depp, the rest of the cast is quite effective. Christopher Walken is the Hessian Horseman, head attached, but without a single line of dialog. He just scowls and growls a lot, flashing his sharpened teeth and even sharper sabre. Ray Park plays the Horseman in the scenes sans head.
Christina Ricci is the enchantress Katrina, the would-be witch who bewitches Ichabod Crane. Miranda Richardson is her wicked stepmother Lady Van Tassel. Martin Landau (Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Ed Wood) has a cameo appearance as Peter Van Garrett, and so does the veteran horror star Christopher Lee as The Magistrate of New York. Michael Gough, another veteran of horror, is the Notary James Hardenbrook.
A fine cast in a fine movie, worthy of multiple viewings.