Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Sleepy Hollow

directed by Tim Burton

Sleepy Hollow poster  
Johnny Depp stars as Ichabod Crane in this atmospheric adaptation of a story by Washington Irving. Crane is a forward-thinking constable who embraces the scientific method. Reason and observation are important to him in the pursuit of justice, even though his methodical ways put him at odds with his superiors. He's sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a spate of murders.

The locals claim that the decapitated victims were attacked by a legendary ghostly horseman who is said to haunt the nearby woods. This headless rider is a bloodthirsty spectre who is supposed to take the heads he gathers straight to Hell. Ichabod Crane is sceptical about this superstition, believing that a rational explanation will be found. But as events unfold his rational approach looks increasingly unhelpful.

The residents of Sleepy Hollow are a superstitious lot, putting their faith in charms and believing in magic. Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) is the daughter of one of the wealthiest landowners in the village. She helps Ichabod in his investigations, and seems to be fond of the squeamish constable. There's a lot to turn Crane's stomach, with effects that are gory as well as spooky gothic. Tim Burton has gone to town with misty woodlands, washed-out colours and witchcraft. This is one of Burton's best-looking movies, embracing his trademark rich gothic style.

That's not to say that Sleepy Hollow is altogether scary. A dash of romance makes this film more sweet than dark, especially with a character as endearingly wimpy as Crane. The ending does break the mood somewhat, because the horseman is so outrageously beastly it's funny, and the criminal behind everything goes in for some excessive gloating.

The mystery in Sleepy Hollow is well laid out, although it's perhaps not the most complex of plots for the constable to figure out. This is a short film that never outstays its welcome nor dwells on one situation for too long. It's a movie that's more picturesque than creepy, dark in appearance but quite light-hearted and feelgood when you get down to it.

Film Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Films


Classification: 15

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Johannes Cabal The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
An acerbic, over-educated necromancer tries to win back his soul in this occult comedy.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
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