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17 reviews, 171 user ratings

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Sleepy Hollow
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by Mel Valentin

"Another style-over-substance effort from Mr. Burton."
3 stars

Tim Burtonís ("Alice in Wonderland," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "Corpse Bride," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Mars Attacks!," "Ed Wood," "Batman Returns," "Edward Scissorhands," "Batman") of Washington Irvingís 1820 short story, shows Burton both his best (visual design) and his worst (dramatic storytelling). "Sleepy Hollow" is a seriously flawed, but highly watchable homage to the Universal and Hammer Studiosí horror films, thanks to the aforementioned visual design and Johnny Deppís eccentric characterization as the faint-prone, insecure, eccentric, squeamish Ichabod Crane (a constable here rather than a schoolteacher). If only Burton cared as much about characters or dramatic conflict as he does about visual style, "Sleepy Hollow" could have taken its place as a genre classic.

On an isolated, fogbound road in upstate New York, the Headless Horseman pursues Peter Van Garrett (Martin Landau), an elderly landowner and town leader. Van Garrett suffers the fate of many before him (and many after him): a swift, merciless death by decapitation. A burgomaster (Christopher Lee) assigns Ichabod Crane (Depp), an awkward, insecure New York constable disliked for his modern views on forensic science and civil liberties, to investigate Van Garrettís murder. The gruesome murder gives Crane the opportunity to test the latest in 18th-century technology. Assigning Crane to the case in Sleepy Hollow removes a troublesome annoyance from the burgomasterís court.

In Sleepy Hollow, Crane meets the Townís powers-that-be, including Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon), Reverend Steenwyck (Jeffrey Jones), Magistrate Philipse (Richard Griffiths), Doctor Lancaster (Ian McDiarmid), and Notary Hardenbrook (Michael Gough). Crane also meets Van Tasselís daughter, Katrina (Christina Ricci), her stepmother, Lady Van Tassel (Miranda Richardson), and one of Katrinaís suitors, Brom Van Brunt (Casper Van Dien).

The Headless Horseman takes another head, this time killing a night guard. The manís newly orphaned son, Young Masbath (Marc Pickering), petitions Crane to become his assistant. Crane changes his mind when he realizes that science and logic may be insufficient to defeat the Headless Horseman. Crane continues to suspect a human, rather than a supernatural, villain when the townís elders, each carefully targeted, continue to die. Katrinaís increasingly secretive behavior, however, proves to be one obstacle among several (including a major trauma from his childhood that keeps showing up in his nightmares) Crane has to overcome if heís to solve the mystery behind the Headless Horseman and, more importantly, survive.

Andrew Kevin Walker (The Wolf Man, 8mm, Se7en) received sole screenwriting credit for Sleepy Hollow, but Kevin Yagher received a co-writing credit. Playwright Tom Stoppard provided an uncredited rewrite/polish. Unfortunately, three writers werenít enough (or maybe they were too much) to solve Sleepy Hollow's myriad story problems. The decapitation-prone Headless Horseman appears too often, each appearance less effectively than the last. The first decapitation is surprisingly explicit and gruesome. By the time we get to the third decapitation, the law of diminishing returns has kicked in (as true in filmmaking as it is in economics). When the Headless Horseman takes his seventh head, itís a sure sign that Burton has run out of ideas, leaving only the revelation of the secret villain and the subsequent set piece (which took three weeks to shoot) to keep audiences superficially engaged.

Burton gives away the villain's identity too early in the film. Burton fundamentally errs by removing the mystery behind the Headless Horsemanís identity and nature, not as the embodiment of revenge for a life taken illegitimately or other wrong committed against him, but as a Hessian mercenary (played by a shock-haired, sharp-teethed Christopher Walken in flashbacks) killed in battle. As the Headless Horseman gets a backstory of his own, his potency as a nightmarish figure diminishes proportionately. The Headless Horseman becomes even less terrifying once Crane and the audience discover the Headless Horseman serves a more powerful master (the aforementioned villain).

Visually, Neo-gothic production design (courtesy of Burtonís collaboration with Rick Heinrichs) has rarely, if ever, looked better. Burton set out to pay homage to Hammer Studiosí Golden Age (1957-1970). On a narrative/dramatic level, however, Burton often stumbles. Where Burton has succeeded (e.g., Sweeney Todd, Ed Wood, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns), it's because he had collaborators who clearly understood the demands dramatic storytelling. Burtonís shortcomings as a storyteller make an auteurist claims for Burton much more difficult to support. At best, Burton counts half an auteur. While that might sound like a harsh assessment of a commercially successful director, it's an assessment that Burton has repeatedly proven over a career spanning three decades.

In addition to the production and art design, "Sleepy Hollow" benefits from Emmanuel Lubezkiís shadow-heavy, impressionist cinematography and Colleen Atwoodís multi-hued, textured costume designs. While old school horror fans will get a kick out of the pea-soup-thick Gothic atmosphere and mood derived from Hammer Studiosí Golden Age, Burton also references Universal Studiosí horror output during the 1930s, a key inspiration for Hammer Studios twenty five years later, specifically James Whaleís "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein," released in1931 and 1935, respectively. "Sleepy Hollowís" climax inside a burning windmill is all you need to know about where Burtonís obsessions lie.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2777&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/10/10 09:00:00
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User Comments

3/12/17 morris campbell entertaing good atmosphere & visuals 4 stars
10/29/13 The Big D Q: Is it a horror movie or a fairy tale? A: YES! (It's both) 3 stars
2/08/12 David Hollingsworth This how a good twist of a classic tale is made 5 stars
6/07/10 Kim Dobbertin Very scary, never boring. Johnny Depp very good. 4 stars
5/18/10 ikkin74 Lovely to look at!! 4 stars
12/06/09 art IT IS A CARTOON! NOT A HORROR FILM! 1 stars
4/20/09 Dan Very scary but very good 4 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. hate gore, this was still good. if you hate gore, watch the TV edited version. 4 stars
10/12/08 Shaun Wallner Scary Story!! 5 stars
10/04/08 Samantha Pruitt great look, Johnny is great as usual, very haunting 4 stars
1/04/08 Pamela White great effects and plot 4 stars
12/30/07 Quigley Excellent Johnny Depp and stunning visuals, but all in all it is quite forgettable 3 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger Visually stunning. why aren't there any other movies in this style?? 5 stars
2/16/07 Vip Ebriega One of the best horror movies ever!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/15/07 David Pollastrini Ricci is hot! 3 stars
11/29/06 unlisted extremely gory, but a good story 4 stars
11/07/06 JESS It was a very well detailed movie. 5 stars
8/07/06 R.W.Welch Wild extrapolation of the old yarn works pretty well. 4 stars
5/07/06 chienne Oh, brilliant stuff!! Love it. Depp's a bit hammy, but loved it! 5 stars
1/02/06 cody the classic novel turn into a more of murder mystery , good movie l suppose 3 stars
12/05/05 Adam james lewis jones freddy pitcher Not very good 1 stars
8/16/05 ES the 2nd coolest villain of all time, spraying blood as a running gag, what's not to like 5 stars
8/08/05 jada great dark spooky film, great cast & scenery 4 stars
7/23/05 C Vega Some of Burtons best stuff is in this movie...the classic gothic story at its best. 5 stars
7/13/05 emily Depp and Ricci did AWESOME...i love this movie! 5 stars
2/04/05 D.J.O'Keefe A film for those who love to be enraptured by the feel of gothic darkness. 5 stars
1/21/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Johnny Depp is so good in this quirky film. Fun, fun, fun. 5 stars
1/17/05 Dark Lord This is the ONLY good Tim Buton film. 4 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands Cinematography is the best quality of this drastically altered version of Irving's classic. 4 stars
8/29/04 Conor Crockford hauntingly gothic masterpiece 5 stars
8/19/04 DM Not scary, but stylish and darkly funny 4 stars
8/01/04 Raf Milis Good movie, although Ricci plays like a starving pig...great Christopher Walken!! 4 stars
6/21/04 Rock Hound Telescopic night sight on a MUSKET? Oh, it's a comedy! Now I get it! 2 stars
6/20/04 Daveman Bo Welch's expressionistic visuals can't save this incredibly ordinary film. 2 stars
5/03/04 Annie This is such a great Tim Burton film, who is my 2nd fave peep after Johnny depp. 5 stars
3/16/04 CoLLeeN He just keeps fainting! Awesome movie. One that you like to watch over and over and over... 5 stars
3/09/04 Ash Without Depp's quirkiness, this film would be nothing! 5 stars
1/31/04 britney omg! this movie is the funniest ever and it deserves a 5 5 stars
1/21/04 American Slasher Goddess Dark,gothic and very stylish. Ricci is awful, though. 4 stars
1/05/04 cwlg420 Christopher Walken scares me; Good movie! 5 stars
12/27/03 Caitlin I loved this movie! An amazing performance by Johnny Depp, who, is as hot as ever :) 5 stars
11/17/03 Sk8er Grl 101 I loved this movie its something to watch when there is nothing else.Like a last resort. 5 stars
6/08/03 earl hoffert ricci doesn't manage to ruin this one. 4 stars
5/24/03 Timmy Excelent!!! 10 out of 10 5 stars
5/03/03 sleepy a real classic...have watched this film many times. 5 stars
3/26/03 Jen Very cool and creepy, Johnny Depp is HOT!! 5 stars
3/21/03 Jack Sommersby Another wildly uneven, poorly told Burton wank-fest. 2 stars
11/03/02 CVJ Class film!! its dark and exciting and Burton brings the famous tale to life Brilliantly 5 stars
10/25/02 Morally Sound The atmosphere of this movie, is in itself, is WOW! This movie kick ass! 5 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum Burton redeems himself after "Mars Attacks" 5 stars
8/12/02 Monster W. Kung A decent film, but flaws in the script bring it down. 3 stars
7/20/02 sdjfsdkjf not too shabby at all. Depp holding the film up as usual. Wish Walken was in it more. 4 stars
7/03/02 KMG Walken looked like an action figure....what a stupid look he had on his face 4 stars
6/12/02 Cat Great dark fucking film, did I mention Johnny Depp is hot? 5 stars
5/26/02 Nicole Typical Burton....pretty decent flick 4 stars
5/10/02 Butterbean Always count on Burton for excellent dark cinematography,But Walken was underused. 4 stars
4/05/02 Junshi It isn't superb, but VERY GOOD. Coming from me, this is pretty rare. 4 stars
3/11/02 Emilia magnificient slow but magnificient!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/01/02 Alan Smithee Brilliant set design and Christina Ricci's cleavage can't make up for a half-baked script. 2 stars
2/28/02 Tiffany Thunderhurst Set design and creepy atmosphere in search of a movie. 2 stars
1/15/02 Maddy Very funny and out of this world 5 stars
12/23/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tim burton makes his movies darker & gothic but this is a good one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
12/14/01 Laura L. I loved the film, it brings out the midevil/gothic days fairlywell. 5 stars
12/08/01 Keith One of Burton's best. Very good acting and great visuals. 5 stars
12/08/01 JCPhoenix [http://vm1.2y.net/phoenixforever] Incredible movie..one of my favourites...also, check out Elfman's AMAZING score 5 stars
11/30/01 Mark Conway Not scary at all, more of a comedy, although jonny Depp is the one plus point. 3 stars
11/01/01 I love movies the plot is tough to follow but the movie often gets stylish and exciting on us... 4 stars
10/30/01 Sumixam It looks just how you'd imagin sleepy hollow to look. Johnny Depp's finest acting hour. 5 stars
10/17/01 Andrew Carden Overdone, Stupid, and Long Movie That Gets Nowhere, and Couldn't Scare A Nervous Hamster. 1 stars
9/30/01 Evil Bitchwoman Creepy but funny 5 stars
9/28/01 Connoisseur America's 2nd favorite director delivers again! VERY cool movie, big-time fun and thrills! 5 stars
9/17/01 Gary Thin characters & so-so acting in an over-familiar whodunnit story, but visually impressive 2 stars
8/23/01 Stonedog Visually stunning, brilliantly acted, superbly crafted with breathtaking gore-fx 5 stars
8/08/01 E-Funk The perfect movie for Burton to helm. So well directed...and the violence is top-notch. 5 stars
8/05/01 badfish This was just great! What a soundtrack! Depp delivers big time! Another Burton classic! 5 stars
8/03/01 sarah I was sitting on the edge of my seat. It was beautifully shot & highly recommend 4 stars
7/28/01 Steve Never read the book, but this movie will be a Burton classic! 5 stars
6/15/01 JON THE SMELLY JEW already a classic... 5 stars
6/06/01 Rampage Johnny Depp owns! Highly recommended! 4 stars
5/21/01 Ray McCoy Pretty good, but relies on movie cliches at the end (villain explains her entire scheme, &c 4 stars
5/02/01 I love movies an incredible movie! entertaining, scary, suspenseful, and beautiful. 5 stars
3/29/01 BART the music is the best part here. 5 stars
3/27/01 Jesse L Depp is excellent!!!! Great direction!!! Ricci has a great chest and nothing else. 5 stars
3/11/01 james "bite me" womack burton is truely the master of cinematography. his visuals blew my mind 5 stars
2/23/01 Tara Johnny Depp does an AMAZING job!! 5 stars
2/14/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi If you ask me, this story far surpasses the original. See it or else!!! 5 stars
1/13/01 GIJoel Usual good set and filming, but cartoonish reading of bad script by great cast 3 stars
12/10/00 The-Fider The horseman RULES! ^__^ (Coming form a girl ;) This movie will not dissapoint! 5 stars
11/28/00 The Evil Penguin What is Jed up to? This is one of Burton's better films. 5 stars
11/02/00 dan it looks nice, but... there's no plot. 3 stars
7/31/00 Jed Sorry I can only recomend this to burton & horror fans not the worst film ever though. 2 stars
6/12/00 Monday Morning Hey kids, this is scary. Beautifully filmed too. 4 stars
6/09/00 Mike It's a Wonderful piece of art, it's a feast for the eyes. 5 stars
6/02/00 Pynkie All I have to say is that Tim Burton needs some serious help. If he can take an old Washing 5 stars
5/30/00 danilo pretty good movie - if you can stand looking at a headless man going on a horse... 3 stars
4/23/00 Ryan Time Burton never lets me down... plus i want johnny and christina badly! 5 stars
3/15/00 Chloe Sesta Jacobs Johnny Depp was fantastic as was Christinna Ricci! 4 stars
3/03/00 John FANTASTIC 5 stars
2/29/00 PhilmPhreak I WANTED to love it! But just liked it. 3 stars
2/26/00 Sara Excellent 5 stars
2/16/00 Kylie Perfect 5 stars
2/09/00 James Great iece of work 5 stars
2/07/00 Andi Randell Heads will roll 4 stars
2/05/00 Kyle Broflovski Tim Burton's variation is, by far, better than the Irving original 5 stars
1/29/00 Steve Another from the master 5 stars
1/25/00 Paul Excellent 5 stars
1/19/00 Joel Harwood I was expecting so much more 3 stars
1/18/00 Juud Gillet Scariest/Funniest film i've seen this Millenium, Brilliant 5 stars
1/17/00 Linnea Kamppi This movie is the greatest of the 21st century!!! 5 stars
1/15/00 Kevin Cho Another brilliant film from a brilliant cast and a brilliant director/writer. WONDERFUL 5 stars
1/10/00 Matthew Bartley First great movie of the new century! 5 stars
1/09/00 mclennan Doesn't the rating speak for itself? Kudos to all players, esp Burton, Depp, & Ray Park. 5 stars
1/09/00 Truth Man Good stuff, I LOVE those teeth! 5 stars
1/08/00 stool god absolutely beautiful 5 stars
1/07/00 mike meyer never seen an actor be able to turn green on cue before, way to go Depp 5 stars
1/06/00 Michael McLennan An enormous entertainment 5 stars
1/04/00 John Walsh Could easily lose your head over this one 4 stars
1/03/00 Mic Atmospheric, but far far far too many shortcomings in the script. 3 stars
1/03/00 Danny & Sharon Tim & Johnny deliver the goods . Must see 5 stars
1/02/00 Nice Guy Eddie Not my favorite Burton flick, but definitely worth seeing on the big screen. Cool FX. 5 stars
1/01/00 hum looks great but doesnt seem to know what kind of film it is 3 stars
12/27/99 J.Z Green as usual Burton has pulled through with his nack for special effects but as far as a story? 3 stars
12/24/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah Definitely one of the ten best films of the year. Perfectly rounded on every edge! 5 stars
12/23/99 R.E.Moore Excellent. If he wants you, there is NOTHING you can do about it...done deal! 5 stars
12/21/99 Jules Classic Tim Burton, but Johnny Depp reminds me of seeing Keanu in Dangerous Liasons. Ugly. 3 stars
12/17/99 Bubby Great art direction, but dialogue is painfully bad. Ughhh! 3 stars
12/16/99 Ezra Xenos This movie is beautiful, however the plot and acing is average. 3 stars
12/13/99 LadyNightOwl Sleepy Hollow is my favorite movie ever. It was beautiful, and exiting. 5 stars
12/13/99 Dorgon Almost great 4 stars
12/12/99 Lame-Oh it was okay. at least it kicks urban legend squaw in the nuts 3 stars
12/11/99 Obi Wan Tim's Best since Batman!! I liked the little BeetleJuice he threw in this! Horsemen Rock! 5 stars
12/10/99 Tony All I can say, is it was PHAT! 5 stars
12/07/99 Sean McHale pretty cool! 5 stars
12/05/99 Malbert was christina ricci trying to do an accent???...visually awesome 4 stars
11/30/99 SJKelley Just because we like Tim Burton, we anoint his work as genius? Loses its head at end.ct. 3 stars
11/29/99 JJ The best I can say is it was OK, The tree of death was cool. otherwise kinda dull 3 stars
11/28/99 Chet Patel This was a terrific film, I loved the scenery and the costume- and the blood. 5 stars
11/27/99 Orville Wright This movie was horrible. Not only was it stupid, it didn't make any sense. 1 stars
11/25/99 Jenna Visually stunning! Yes, there's gore, but its fun! 5 stars
11/25/99 Dr. Acula More romantic mystery than horror,great Elfman score,outstanding visuals.Loved it! 5 stars
11/24/99 Biff Cool The return of storytelling to film 5 stars
11/23/99 sexychick pretty damn good!! 5 stars
11/23/99 DarkNyt Great movie from start to finish. Ricci rocks. 5 stars
11/23/99 [KingMob] WOW! Finally a movie that's pretty and intelligent... 5 stars
11/22/99 Jason S. Swordplay was awesome, Walken, Deep and Ricci were awesome and even Van Dien was okay 5 stars
11/22/99 Krissy It was amazing. So scientificly correct and they added alot of unsuspected humor Great end. 5 stars
11/22/99 Laura Baker This movie was great! Burton definitely focuses more on visuals than on reality! 5 stars
11/22/99 danimal awesome visuals, slow story 3 stars
11/22/99 Fenris This is the kind of movie I live for. 5 stars
11/22/99 JORGE GALLARDO The only scary part of this movie is that I paid to see it. 1 stars
11/22/99 Jon DeVos finally a good ghost story 5 stars
11/21/99 C.A.T.M. Better than I had hoped. Superb! 5 stars
11/21/99 Jo Awesome! But could have done w/o the Scooby-Doo ending... 5 stars
11/21/99 Joe Crane Fantastic, I enjoyed every second and was dazzled and amazed! 5 stars
11/21/99 fire-n-ice Great dark spooky film, but if ya got Johnny Dep and Casper van Dein 5 stars
11/21/99 N Podbrey utter SHIT - worst acting all year 1 stars
11/20/99 The Professor Burton is Back and in full effect 5 stars
11/20/99 elfpunkt goth eye candy. depp is such a prissy pussy. :-) 4 stars
11/20/99 Charlie Ruscoff Awesome! 5 stars
11/20/99 Pavlova27 Want to see creepy? Look no further, Tim Burton is da bomb! 5 stars
11/20/99 Biff Tyfsok Oh, for a little more story... 4 stars
11/20/99 JonnyAngel shoulders above the competition 4 stars
11/20/99 Alyssa Great film, great score, superb acting with subtle humor. 5 stars
11/19/99 Lame-Oh Almost makes you wish Goosebumps never happened. 'Nuff said. 3 stars
11/19/99 rachel is there anyone more sexy than Johnny Depp? 5 stars
11/19/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah If I was a lesbian, I'd be all over Ricci! Oh, the movie is the bomb too! 5 stars
11/19/99 bee it was nice to look at, but that's about all. 2 stars
11/16/99 cory huff PURE FUCKING EYE-CANDY 5 stars
11/14/99 the future Mr. Van Tassel As if we'd forgotten, Tim Burton shows us he's the most breathtaking visual director around 5 stars
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  19-Nov-1999 (R)


  01-Jan-2000 (MA)

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