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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 AlexI
3½ stars out of 4

Imagine: Sherelock Holmes encounters a mystery, where murder and other unexplained events are caused by no human, but truly a supernatural force. "Sleepy Hollow" begins in New York. The year is 1799. The new millenium is right around the corner and the progress of science and technology has no limits. The virtuous constable Ichobod Crane (Johnny Depp ), reflects that mentality and stands as a symbol for the upcoming era, a man ahead of his time in his belief in scientific evidence and forensics, at the dawn of a new century of enlightenment -- a sophisticated and moral man, who has chosen the police work of noble and even poetic reasons. Ichobod likes to think of himself as a progressive citizen, a pioneer of his work and a scientist of the modern world. His scientific inventions and humanistic attitude has become a problem for his superiors. He is therefore sent to investigate an ancient and unsolved mystery. A row of bizarre murders in an isolated village, called Sleepy Hollow, where victims have been found in the woods..decapitated. As Ichobod nobly accepts this task, he finds himself in a completely different world, a parallel universe, where logic doesn't exist and science can't help. The frightened villagers reveal the shocking truth of a demon, a headless horseman that haunts the woods. Determined to discover the "true identity of the assassin", and paying no attention to the warnings, he continues to investigate, using his scientific inventions. While heads continue to fly, Crane experiences frightening childhood visions of his own, remembering things he wanted to forget. His science and technology, on which he depended on, show no results, and all he believed in, slowly fades away. He is on the brink of a complete mental breakdown, when he falls in love with a mysterious beauty (Christina Ricci ), who wishes to help him in his quest. Ichobod continues to blindly trust in logic and reason, until he goes into the dark woods and sees the demon for himself..

Andrew Kevin Walker ("Se7en" ) and Kevin Yagher have both done a great job, transforming Washington Irving's primitive ghost story ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") into a likable film. But it is director Tim Burton that has made it into a memorable experience. He has created a staggering and beautiful magical world, which is nothing less than a visual feast. This is simply the most beautiful and visually enchanting film since Francis Ford Copolla's Dracula. This being the case, it is not hard to guess that the visual power of this film overshadows the acting, which by the way is surprisingly convincing. Johnny Depp is fabulous as the confused scientist. A delightful and fresh performance, combining high humor with some serious psychological themes. Christina Ricci is solid but a little less impressive than she has been of late, but she gracefully floats in her role as a clean, kind hearted white witch who captures Ichabodís heart -- an untamed, free spirit of the wild. Ichobod and Katrina are completely different souls, completing each other with their opposites. Their love story is one of the key elements in the film, but it is the personal evolution of Ichobod Crane that is its heart. And as the story progresses, we learn more about him and his past. He is a man blinded by science and naively believing in technology, reason, logic and simple explanations. Although he would like to think otherwise, his vision is rather limited and primitive. As he enters this strange parallel universe, he doesn't know what to do, how to react or how to explain the events happening around him. This, his aristocratic origin, dry wit and emotional inexperience serves both as terrifying horror, philosophical thoughts and comic relief. Caught between dream and reality, he takes a step into another world and another life...

Like "Don Quixote", "Sleepy Hollow" is a bittersweet parable about the perils of the imagination as it's affected by reading or hearing stories. Like Copolla's Dracula, this is a surreal filmatic experience -- a fairytale vision. Sleepy Hollow is a place lost in time, somewhere between dream and reality. There's no one that can copy Burton in his work. His exceptional visual imagination allows him to create wonders on virtually every shot. There's something undeniably touching about such unreasonable passion and devotion, and I suppose some of the same sort of piety can be found in Sleepy Hollow. All his movies have the fervent fanaticism of a cult taste projected into the mainstream with affection as well as confidence. He creates a dark and moody atmosphere of contrasts and symbolism. Seeking balance, Burton paints a landscape of extreme contrasts, purely good and evil; the man of science, that keeps his feet on the ground, and the woman of nature, a wild spirit that flows with the wind, are set against the landscape, which is a reflection of mood and atmosphere -- and what a magical landscape it is! The only problem is that the film gets rather unfocused after the all-too-traditional climax, where evil is unmasked and good prevail. But then again, this is a fairytale.

Sleepy Hollow presents a magical art direction, enchanting cinematography, moody musical score and some fabulous visual effects--a ravishing visual experience, and an entertaining and interesting detective story, with the right dose of horror, romance and humor. This film is a thrilling ride back to the turn of the 19th century.

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