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Sleepy Hollow (1999)

A film review by Justin Felix

Screen story by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker.
Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker.
Inspired by the short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

Directed by Tim Burton.
Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, and Casper Van Dien.
Special appearances by Christopher Lee and Christopher Walken.

Synopsis: Investigator Ichabod Crane journeys to 1799 Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders involving decapitation. Townspeople believe the spirit of a dead German mercenary is threatening them. Cute blonde Katrina and a listless orphan help Crane solve the mystery.

Comments: Tim Burton has directed a number of entertaining and groundbreaking films over the years. Batman, of course, is perhaps his best-known film and led to a string of less successful sequels. He's done biographical work (on the director Ed Wood), children's movies (Nightmare Before Christmas), and a homage to alien invasion movies (Mars Attacks!) Sleepy Hollow, his newest feature which fans have been anticipating for a while, shares the similar dark and atmospheric style of his earlier work and counts among his better movies.

Sleepy Hollow quite obviously draws its inspiration from the old period horror films of the 1950s and 1960s, especially Hammer Studios' reworkings of Dracula and Frankenstein, and American International's series of movies based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Christopher Lee, in fact, star of many Hammer productions over the years, appears at the beginning of Sleepy Hollow as a judge who sends Ichabod Crane out to investigate the murders. The movie also borrows from the Universal monster movies of the 1930s. One of the climatic scenes involves a windmill and obviously takes its cue from Frankenstein.

I mention these allusions for a reason. Seasoned horror film fans, including myself, will smile at their inclusion in this film. With the recent disappointments in theatrically released horror movies, especially The Blair Witch Project (the most overblown turkey of the decade), we needed a film like this. Not only does it have a sense of history, but Burton's skillful use of setting and mood make this an entertaining exercise in horror. The film's eerie landscapes and foggy towns, indeed, overshadow the actors and the plot as the most noteworthy aspect of the movie.

Johnny Depp, a veteran Tim Burton actor who has appeared both in Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, plays Ichabod Crane, who has apparently changed occupations from Irving's original story and is now an investigator. Depp is adequate in his role. No more; no less. Equally adequate is Christina Ricci, who plays the love interest in the film. She's a good witch too. How cute. One of the few weak parts of Sleepy Hollow is the wooden and cliched dialogue between the main characters. The two actors, however, carry the movie well enough, but the supporting cast is what makes this movie shine. Veteran actors such as Jeffrey Jones and Michael Gough (who played the butler Alfred in all four recent Batman flicks) are terrific as the aging townsfolk involved in the conspiracy which Depp uncovers. While I do not wish to reveal crucial plot points, I can say that the storyline becomes quite confusing. You have to pay attention. Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the screenplay. He's the one who also wrote 8 MM and . Walker is quickly becoming one of the premiere suspense writers in Hollywood, and Sleepy Hollow certainly doesn't hurt his growing reputation.

As one might imagine from a gentleman like Walker, Sleepy Hollow is quite graphic. There's a lot of blood and a lot of beheadings. This is definately not a flick to take the young kids to. A lady in front of us took her two young sons to see it and spent about 25 - 30 minutes covering the youngest's eyes with her hand. He was obviously upset by the movie's intense violence. If you're looking for a good scare, however, Sleepy Hollow is definately recommended.


(Out of five)

All of my Justin's reviews are archived at The Internet Movie Database

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