Sleepy Hollow (1999) / Horror-Mystery
MPAA Rated: R for graphic horror violence and gore, and for a scene of sexuality
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien
Director: Tim Burton
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker (based on, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving)
Review published September 23, 2000
Director Tim Burton (Mars Attacks!, Batman Returns) has a following of individuals who prefer to be dazzled by art design and costumes than through suspenseful cinematic technique. If all it took to be a good movie was to have great imagery, Sleepy Hollow would be a masterpiece. As for me, I like to be involved in the story along with the eye candy. Burton is a master at setting the mood, it's too bad he doesn't follow it all up with something of more substance.
The story, of course, is based on the famous Washington Irving classic, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Ichabod Crane (Depp, The Ninth Gate) is a New York constable in 1799 sent to the out-of-the-way town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of decapitations that have taken place recently. Crane is a man of science and hence does not believe the tales of a headless horseman being responsible for the murders. Crane seeks a logical explanation for it all, but soon discovers there's a lot more to the tale than a ghost in the woods.
Sleepy Hollow is a beautifully crafted film, and along the visual lines, as most of Burton's work, this is an impressively stylish endeavor. Where Sleepy Hollow fails is in the rather lackadaisical storytelling and neglect of feeling for the characters. Burton has a grasp of the mechanics of direction, but he forgets that one shouldn't make it seem so mechanical.
Outside of some memorably disturbing images, there's very little to keep one interested in the story, and even during a particularly well-crafted chase scene near the end of the film, it still remains somewhat unexciting. What a shame that such terrific cinematography, competent actors, beautiful sets and costumes, and an interesting plot end up all for naught.
Ironically, the title of the film is quite appropriate because even though the film hits the right notes stylistically, at its core the soul of the film is hollow, (not to mention that many viewers who crave something more will be quite sleepy for the duration).
©2000 Vince Leo