Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: At the dawn of the 18th century, young police constable Ichabod Crane finds himself under constant scrutiny by his superiors because of his preference for scientific method during his investigations. He finds himself dispatched to the small settlement of Sleepy Hollow, which has recently been plagued with violent murders. While welcomed warmly by the denizens, Ichabod finds his beliefs in science and logic shaken by the very myths that the citizens of Sleepy Hollow claim haunts their town.
What better way to kick of this year’s Spooky Season than with the best on-screen adaptation of the classic gothic tale The legend of Sleepy Hollow. Last October, we rolled out a schedule that allowed us to explore 12 horror films with a focus on a different subgenre each week; this year there’s no real schedule or weekly focus. Instead, I will look to make up for lack of recent output and articles by hammering out as many horror reviews as I can this month. Starting on a high note, I was delighted to get my hand on Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, a film I would consider his most underrated and least talked about, which is unfortunate as it’s one of the best Halloween films out there.
Although chock-full of humour and moments of levity, Sleepy hollow might be Burton’s most direct horror film to date. Sure, he has infused horror elements and imagery into much of his filmography, but usually with a far lighter touch that borders on comedy. Taking inspiration from Universal monster films and the Hammer horrors of the 60s (A cameo from Christopher Lee is a nice nod), Burton recreates a wonderful gothic tale dripping in rich atmosphere and striking visuals that also has his creative stamp all over it.
Burton hired cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki as director of photography and their collaboration is the highlight of the film. The colour grading is de-saturated to a point where the film appears almost black and white, giving it a grainy hue which is complemented by heavy smoke, giving the appearance of a shroud of fog at all times. The set design is equally impressive, with damp aged architecture and eerie surrounding woodlands supporting the film’s dark fantasy tone.
Performances are all solid throughout, especially in terms of Depp’s eccentric and borderline cowardly turn as Ichabod Crane; a man of science, but a little on the squeamish side for his profession. Ricci is mystifying and graceful throughout while the rest of the cast are entertaining as the bumbling and backstabbing townsfolk. Where the film falters is the strained romance between our leads, Depp and Ricci are both great in their own roles but never really connect in a believable way in terms of chemistry. The last act is needlessly convoluted and detracts from a more interesting ghost story.
Sleepy Hollow may not quite match the esteem and eccentricities of some of Burton’s more revered work, but it definitely stands out as one of his most entertaining films with great re-watch value. A fantastic mix of Gothic horror with plenty of gore, scares and laughs, Sleepy Hollow deserves to be on every horror affectionados Halloween watch list.