Sleepy Hollow: A Review

by Max Carlson

Film director Tim Burton has a certain style that can be found in all his movies. His films are much like Edward Gorey illustrations: dark, humorous, and with striking imagery. You can find all this in his latest work, Sleepy Hollow. The film is loosely based on Washington Irving’s short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in which Ichabod Crane, a schoolteacher, encounters a headless horseman in the forest. In Burton’s movie Ichabod Crane (played by Johnny Depp) is a police captain investigating the mysterious beheadings in the little town of Sleepy Hollow. He discovers that the murderer is the ghost of a bloodthirsty mercenary who was beheaded for his unspeakable crimes against humanity. Crane is intent on catching him and discovering what is causing this ghost to murder people randomly. In the middle of this conspiracy, he also has a little time to have a romantic fling with Christina Ricci (in her first major role). He learns that the horseman is being controlled by someone in the village and then the story turns into a whodunit mystery that doesn’t seem to make sense until the very climax of the film, which is a wild, cartoonish ending.

The film is beautifully photographed. The atmosphere and scenery in the film are like characters themselves. The dark and wet music score by Danny Elfman helps emphasize the unsettling strangeness of the film. The Actors play their roles wonderfully, especially nineteen-year-old Ricci who is fun to watch and hear. There is just one problem with this film, and, unfortunately, it is a really big problem. Tim Burton decided to ruin the beauty of his film and splash buckets of blood everywhere. The beheading sequences are far-fetched and cartoonish. The film isn’t scary at all. In fact, a person would almost feel inclined to laugh when someone is beheaded and the head spins in the air like a basketball. It’s hard to explain, but it just looks silly. At times, the film seems like a horrifying cartoon, too violent for little kids and much too ridiculous for adults.

The film is a clash between the adult generation and the adolescent generation. Older people go to see the film because they hear how it is beautifully photographed, well cast, well scripted, very unique and highly artistic (which it is). Teen-agers go to see blood splatter and heads go flying off (and they do). They are two different worlds and if you can handle them both, you might enjoy Sleepy Hollow. If you’re looking for a film like Burton’s contemporary masterpiece, Ed Wood, look the other way because Sleepy Hollow doesn’t even begin to compare. Sleepy Hollow gets a "C-".

Max Carlson studies music and cinema at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

See all articles by Max Carlson