Paris. 1830. In the heart of the town, Vidocq, a famous detective, disappeared as he fights the Alchemist, an assassin that he has been pursuing for a few months. His young biographer, ... See full summary »
The curse of the headless horseman is the legacy of the small town of Sleepy Hollow. Spearheaded by the eager Constable Ichabod Crane and his new world ways into the quagmire of secrets and murder, secrets once laid to rest, best forgotten and now reawakened, and he too, holding a dark secret of a past once gone. Written by
The opening credits - shown over Ichabod's travel to Sleepy Hollow - interact with the landscape: if Ichabod's coach is near a river, the words are reflected on the surface of the water; if he's in a forest the letters drift away like dead leaves, and so on. See more »
First of all, the so-so parts: While Christina Ricci's cool portrayal of Katrina gives the character an appropriately otherworldly aura, she really could have used more fire at emotional moments. Some scenes are unduly rushed, including a few with crucial exposition, making the plot hard to follow at some points. Finally, Danny Elfman's music is too intrusive at times, distancing viewers when they should be drawn in.
That's ALL that's wrong with this picture; everything else is perfect or nearly so. Tim Burton's films are always visually rewarding, and this one has terrifically moody atmosphere. Having lived in hilly, wooded areas close to rivers and creeks, I can testify that there are indeed places that look and feel a lot like the Sleepy Hollow of this movie. Many scenes have so little color that they might almost as well be in black-and-white; this makes the few splashes of color (flames, witchcraft symbols, and of course blood) much more striking. One understands how the movie got an Oscar for art direction.
The plot, which as you probably know varies drastically from Washington Irving's original story, is diabolically complex and closer to a mystery/thriller than horror as such. It reminded me of the fiction of Avram Davidson, a noted fantasist with a penchant for complex mystery plots.
Anyway, back to the movie. Except for the rushed scenes alluded to above, Burton handles the plot (perhaps the most complex in any of his movies) with exceptional grace, dropping in telling visual details along the way that come back in unexpected places later on. I especially liked the underlying theme about science vs. superstition, and note that while many details of this particular case lie beyond the realm of science, it is still science and reason that crack the case open in the end. The bits of ca. 1800 cutting-edge (so to speak) technology were fascinating as well; my favorites were the magic lantern that threw lighted shapes on the walls, and the thaumatrope toy which combined pictures of a bird and a cage. (It's probably not a coincidence that both of these are ancestors to the motion picture.)
Finally, I loved Johnny Depp's performance as Ichabod Crane. Even though the character's situation and background were quite different from Irving's version, Depp, Burton, and scriptwriters Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker remain true to the spirit of the original Ichabod Crane. He could almost be a Buster Keaton-type character, an awkward wimp who accomplishes great feats of derring-do by the end of the movie, and for me Depp's portrayal recalls "Sherlock, Jr.", in which Keaton dreams that he is the world's greatest detective. Even though Irving wrote no sequels to "Sleepy Hollow", I'd love to see more of this film version of Ichabod Crane; while the movie looks great and has a terrific script, it's Depp and Crane who put it over the top.
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