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
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
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