Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon
Synopsis: In the late 1700s, a skeptical policeman is sent to a sleepy hamlet to solve a series of eerie murders in which the killer has claimed the victims’ heads.
After almost 25 years of Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaborations, I’m getting pretty tired of it. It’s reached a point now where I’m waiting for the Tim Burton directed biography of Johnny Depp starring Helena Bonham Carter as Johnny Depp. Even though their collaborative efforts have become dull and predictable to me, I remember that there was a time when I used to get really excited for them. Sleepy Hollow was the pair’s third collaboration and I remember how badly I wanted to watch it when it was released. I was a fan of the Washington Irving’s story and I couldn’t wait to see a terrifying adaptation. I don’t think the film necessarily delivers ‘terror’ but, now that I’m a little older, I can appreciate it for its quintessential Burton style and that the fact that the Depp/Burton relationship wasn’t quite as worn.
Burton most definitely had a vision when he took on this project and it was executed very well. Right off the bat there’s an eerie sense of foreboding thanks to the monochromatic feel of the cinematography. Rich and vibrant colour only makes the occasional appearance, for example, when we delve deeper into Ichabod’s past or when we see more of Christina Ricci’s character. These fleeting instances of colour give the film more of a fantasy feel and they beautifully frame the innocent yet bewitching natures of Ricci’s character as well as Ichabod’s mother. The scene with Ichabod’s mother in the forest was particularly beautiful. It would have been nice to have more scenes like this one and to have colour featured with more regularity. However, the scarcity of colour ensures that the scenes in which it does appear have more poignancy.
One area in which Sleepy Hollow does falter a little is in its emotional impact. The central driving force behind the movie is the hunt for the headless horseman which is occasionally broken up by scenes of people getting killed. There isn’t a lot of character development and, when it does feature, I felt as though it was a little hurried. By the end of the film, I found that I didn’t care a great deal about what was happening to the characters and whether or not they’d solve the murders. While I’m not always opposed to films that favour style over substance, Sleepy Hollow really could have used something deeper considering it had quite a formulaic plot. Most of the film is someone getting their head cut off, Ichabod then bumbling along followed by someone else getting their head cut off. It would have been nice to have something to break up the routine and make the film a little more surprising.
This is not a movie that is going to make anyone’s top ten list but, as a way to kill a couple of hours, you could definitely do worse. It’s certainly a good choice for those who prefer ‘horror-lite.’ Even if Sleepy Hollow is not your type of film, I think it’s worth watching just to remind yourself of classic Burton/Depp before it all got a bit tiresome.
- Typically creepy gothic Burton style.
- I really quite like Christina Ricci and this was a good role for her. “Good bye Ichabod, I curse the day you came to Sleepy Hollow.” Fuck yeah you tell him!
- The first couple of kills/chase scenes were very tense and atmospheric.
- Could have included more character development and depth.
- Became a bit formulaic the longer the film went on and there weren’t many genuine scares.
Sleepy Hollow is a good watch for those who like their movies stylish but don’t expect a story that’s going to rock-your-socks-off. My advice would be to sit back and enjoy the creepy aesthetics. If you want something that’s going to make you think and feel or scare the crap out of you, then this isn’t the film or you.