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.
Feel free to e-mail with comments at: JABII@aol.com
* * * * * - 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