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Sleepy Hollow

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Sleepy Hollow

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci
Director: Tim Burton
Rated: R
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genre: Horror

*Also starring: Casper Van Dien, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Marc Pickering, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Christopher Lee, Jeffrey Jones, Lisa Marie

Review by John Beachem
3 stars out of 4

Tim Burton is a man who has accumulated quite a following for the simple reason that his films look fantastic. If one goes to a Tim Burton movie, they expect to see dark, gothic sets accompanied by dark, gothic people and a haunting score (preferably a dark, gothic one) from the great Danny Elfman. Going into his latest film, "Sleepy Hollow", this is exactly what I wanted and this is what was delivered.

Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a New York detective in the year 1799. Unlike his fellow officers, Crane feels that scientific analysis is the way that detectives will solve crimes in the next century. Crane's superior (Christopher Lee in a sadly brief appearance) sends him to investigate several murders in the small town of Sleepy Hollow. Crane is greeted there by a council of old men (Michael Gough, Richard Griffiths, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gambon) who inform him that the headless spirit of a long dead Hessian Mercenary (the perfectly cast Christopher Walken) is responsible for the murders. At first, Crane scoffs at such talk, but as all know, he will soon believe in the headless horseman. During his investigations Crane meets the enchanting Katrina (Christina Ricci), who appears to dabble in sorcery, and may possess some link to the horseman.

To start off with allow me to state that other than the character names, this film has nothing whatsoever to do with the original story by Washington Irving. I must also make it clear that if you are expecting to see a film with very little gore, you are either misinformed, or incredibly naive. Beheadings abound in this film, and while you might not always see them (though you usually do), you will hear a sickening sound as the horseman's sword slices through the hapless victim's neck. Those of you with weak stomachs should probably stay far away from this movie.

If there were only one reason to see "Sleepy Hollow" it would certainly be the brilliant sets. The set for the town of Sleepy Hollow is quite a sight to behold. Constantly covered in fog, surrounded by evil looking mountains and trees, and filled with dark buildings and darker graveyards. One scene which is perfectly done involves the fog spreading out and extinguishing four torches lit around the town. To go along with this unworldly atmosphere is a brilliant score from Danny Elfman. Not since Burton's "Batman" has Elfman written a score this perfectly suited for the film. Low and haunting at times, loud and rousing when appropriate, Burton uses it to perfection when highlighting a scene.

The acting is uniformly adequate, with Depp alone truly standing out. Depp makes Ichabod a most interesting character. Hilariously inept through most of the film yet still arrogant around the townsfolk, if any other actor had played him Crane might have been difficult to relate to and sympathize with. Ricci gives a fairly good performance as Katrina, but seems slightly miscast. Ricci is at her best when playing sarcastic characters with witty dialogue such as Wednesday Addams in "The Addams Family". As the quiet, love-struck Katrina she always appears slightly uncomfortable. As for the horseman himself, my fellow Star Wars fans will be delighted to hear that stuntman Ray Park (Darth Maul) plays the dead Hessian during the fight scenes.

"Sleepy Hollow" won't win any awards come Oscar time, but it's certainly a lot of fun and a great way to spend a couple of hours (it does run a little long at 105 minutes). The movie earns its R rating as the gore flows freely throughout the film (wait till you see the bleeding tree), so don't bring the little ones. Overall I give it a full recommendation and four stars.

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* * * * * - One of the greatest movies ever made. See it now. * * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad. See it only if you've got nothing better to do. * - One of the worst movies ever made. See it only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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