For most of Tim Burton’s movies, the plot often takes a second seat to style. In Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands, and now Sleepy Hollow, the act of tearing things and people open (and sometimes, stitching them back together) has always been a repeating element in his films. But, despite the gore, Burton is more interested in the human mind, which he dissects in the same gruesome manner, splitting open with all its enigmatic and throbbing guts exposed to the public.
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The Movie Review
Ichabod Crane is on the lookout for the Headless Horseman, a masked assassin that rides at night and cuts off the heads of Sleepy Hollow residents. He hears about the tale of The Headless Horseman throughout his research, but he doesn’t believe the claims until the horseman tears off the head of one of the elders directly in front of his eyes.
Now he must hurry to discover the horseman’s origins in order to finally send him to his tomb. But one problem remains: how safe is the head if it has been taken before?
Director Tim Burton and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker took creative liberties with Washington Irving’s famous tale ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ making it more than a simple and effective horror film, exposing our regular fears and anxieties. Don’t expect it to be anything close to the source material, I was only able to recognize it because of the title. He did expand on the universe from the book, in which we meet the residents of Sleepy Hollow who are scared for their lives.
Stating the obvious: the visuals. I mean come on, it’s a Tim Burton film. Sleepy Hollow deservedly won an Oscar for Art Direction for its vivid colors, twisted trees, creaky buildings, and foggy, moonlit sceneries.
Everything had Tim Burton’s fingerprints on it, this man is truly an auteur. The film also did an excellent job of replicating the Hudson Valley and, at the opening and conclusion of the film, New York City during the Federalist era. Likewise, the cast is a delight to see on set, from their costumes, their makeup, and their performances. You can always count on Johnny Depp for his dry humor, and he never disappoints as the main character.
Christina Ricci, on the other hand, wasn’t that great here. She looks good in the movie, but she lacks chemistry with Depp and didn’t make much of an impression. Nevertheless, Gambon, Jones, Richardson, Van Dien, Lee, and Griffiths were great as supporting characters. Even Christopher Walken, who only had a short amount of screen time, was outstanding and had a powerful presence as the horseman.
Honestly, it didn’t need a good story to be entertaining, but it also had a good story. As we delve deeper into Crane’s investigation where he eventually discovers a huge conspiracy – and while the secrets themselves aren’t too shocking, the unraveling of them is. Some people, especially those who’ve read and loved the book, may dislike the direction the writers took with the story. However, I found the move quite ambitious and the changes executed well, and Burton injects a comedic twist that I always enjoyed in his works.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, Sleepy Hollow is an underrated horror film and should be watched by more lovers of the genre. Johnny Depp owes Tim Burton a huge one for providing him roles that are worthy of his diverse acting skills. With Sleepy Hollow, the filmmaker has created a Gothic tale for adults and teens that is sure to bring back childhood nightmares, as well as a significant contribution to film history.