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Overall Rating
4.24

Awesome47.62%
Worth A Look: 36.63%
Average: 10.26%
Pretty Bad: 3.3%
Total Crap: 2.2%

17 reviews, 171 user ratings


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Sleepy Hollow
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by MP Bartley

"You don't like this? Off with your head!"
4 stars

What do you get if you cross an old, mythic, gothic fairy tale with the most visually imaginative ghost in folklore and a director with a mythic, gothic sensibility who has one of the most imaginative and fertile styles working today? Pure cinematic heaven for those who love an abundance of style wrapped up around a teasing tale.

'Sleepy Hollow' is a particularly American folktale, with its importance rooted in American culture. However, the clever thing about Tim Burton, is that he's realised that the best way to bring the legend of Sleepy Hollow to life is by re-imagining it through the style of European cinema, particularly the British Hammer Horror films. And if that all sounds like a wanky film studies thesis, just be reminded that 'Sleepy Hollow' is awash with Burton's trademark crooked and eerie style, drips with blood and has your typically hugely entertaining Johnny Depp performance. So what's not to like?

Johnny Depp is Constable Ichabod Crane, working in New York in 1799. He feels out of place however, because he wants to advance the science of pathology through the use of autopsies and chemicals. The authorities are none too keen however and send him upstate to a small farming settlement called Sleepy Hollow, which is being terrorised by a vicious murderer who is lopping the heads off various villagers.

When Crane arrives he finds a village paralysed by fear. The local village leader's daughter Katrina (Christina Ricci) believes in charms and spells to protect them from evil. Her arrogant boyfriend Brom (Casper Van Dien) believes in brute force and takes an instant dislike to Crane because Kristina is quite taken with him. Meanwhile the village leaders Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon), his wife Mary (Miranda Richardson), Reverend Steenwyck (Jeffrey Jones), Magistrate Philipse (Richard Griffiths), Dr. Lancaster (Ian McDiarmid) and Notary Hardenbrook (Michael Gough) all believe that the killer is the ghost of the Headless Horseman. A German mercenary (Christopher Walken) who previously terrorised the village during the war of independence, he was finally beheaded and laid to rest in the haunted woods surrounding Sleepy Hollow, but now the elders are convinced he's risen from the grave with vengeance in mind.

Tim Burton is currently in a run of creativity that is hard to top, apart from one exception. It's easy to spot why his 'Planet of the Apes' remake flopped. Stifling Burton by giving him a pre-release date, a dull star with none of the energy of Depp and a film seemingly designed to shackle his imagination in favour of a more traditional narrative resulted in nothing more than a polished turd. It's almost the anti-Tim Burton film. 'Sleepy Hollow' however, is Burton free of all restrictions and running gleefully with lots of toys to play with.

First of all, the design of 'Sleepy Hollow' is magnificent from start to finish. The deliciously dark and twisted woods are pure Burton and are like the afore-mentioned Hammer films juiced up by a hundred. The village itself really feels like it fell out of the last couple of centuries and a shivering sense of unease blows throughout the film, making it perfect for huddling under a blanket during the cold Autumn nights. 'Planet of the Apes' also looked good, but in an 'obvious it's a set' way. 'Sleepy Hollow' looks terrific because it was done with love, detail and a sense of realism. You could watch 'Sleepy Hollow' on mute and still be entranced by its look and mood.

The cinematography by Emmanule Lubezki is also wonderful and heightens the mood, by toning everything down to crisp blacks, greys and browns until the blood runs bright red. Burton has a grisly attention to detail throughout with no beheading cut away from and no body left undisturbed. Like I say, it's Hammer reinvented for a new decade, a notion only heightened by the casting of wonderful ye olde english actors (even Christopher Lee pops up in a cameo) who give it a distinguished atmosphere. Together with Elfman's brilliant score, it proves that there's nothing quite like a Burton production on top of its game.

But it's not just a mood piece. It may well be Burton's most exciting film, as Crane burrows deeper into the secrets of Sleepy Hollow and has some splendidly choreographed scraps with the Headless Horseman. The plot turns out to be a lot more complex than at first glance, turning into a murky conspiracy by the end with more twists than a sidewinder. However, laying out clear plots is not Burton's strong point and the film visibly stops at points so Crane can explain the plot to those playing catch-up. There's a huge amount of exposition at one point that needs to be explained more subtlely, before it explodes into a thrilling chase on top of a horse and carriage.

And a flashback sub-plot detailing a young Ichabods relationship with his mother seems only to exist so Burton could get the regular appearance of his then-girlfriend Lisa Marie in, but it only serves to hold up the plot instead.

But when you've got Johnny Depp on top form in your film, then everything else becomes so much less painful to watch. Again, he totally buries himself in a kooky, off-beat role but makes him human so that he isn't over-acting or using weird tics to substitute for character. When you're blessed with good looks like Depp is, then there's always the accusation that the actor's 'uglying' up to appear more serious, but with Depp everything just seems so natural and an extension of himself. Crane is funny and , brilliantly, shit-scared for most of the time so he's not your typical muscle-bound hero. He's a bizarre creation and Depp revels in the role as always.

It's hard for anyone to keep up with Depp when he's acting like this, but Richardson, Walken, Gambon, Jones and Ricci all manage to hold their own and help create a sense of everyone really believing in what they're doing.

The Hammer films may be no longer, but Tim Burton obviously loves them and shows just how influential they are to him. 'Sleepy Hollow' is one of the best looking films of the last ten years, being a shivery, creepy, misty delight. The design of the woods alone are award worthy and 'Sleepy Hollow' is a film that is obviously crafted with total devotion and acted with total conviction, headed by Depp who is so good he's almost insane in the role. It may not be out and out scary, but Burton doesn't shy away from the gore and has a devilishly good time investigating the darkness of Sleepy Hollow. It may not be Burton's best, but it's certainly not far off and is a film for horror fans, those who love mystery and those who just love something great to look at. Hell, it's great for anyone who likes to be entertained full stop.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2777&reviewer=293
originally posted: 10/27/04 01:45:04
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User Comments

3/13/17 morris campbell entertaing good atmosphere & visuals 4 stars
10/30/13 The Big D Q: Is it a horror movie or a fairy tale? A: YES! (It's both) 3 stars
2/09/12 David Hollingsworth This how a good twist of a classic tale is made 5 stars
6/08/10 Kim Dobbertin Very scary, never boring. Johnny Depp very good. 4 stars
5/19/10 ikkin74 Lovely to look at!! 4 stars
4/07/10 PAUL SHORTT DEVOID OF ORIGINALITY DESPITE GOOD VISUALS AND ATMOSPHERE 2 stars
12/07/09 art IT IS A CARTOON! NOT A HORROR FILM! 1 stars
4/21/09 Dan Very scary but very good 4 stars
1/10/09 Anonymous. hate gore, this was still good. if you hate gore, watch the TV edited version. 4 stars
10/13/08 Shaun Wallner Scary Story!! 5 stars
10/04/08 Samantha Pruitt great look, Johnny is great as usual, very haunting 4 stars
1/05/08 Pamela White great effects and plot 4 stars
12/31/07 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
1/16/07 David Pollastrini Ricci is hot! 3 stars
11/29/06 unlisted extremely gory, but a good story 4 stars
11/08/06 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
1/03/06 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
8/17/05 ES the 2nd coolest villain of all time, spraying blood as a running gag, what's not to like 5 stars
8/09/05 jada great dark spooky film, great cast & scenery 4 stars
7/24/05 C Vega Some of Burtons best stuff is in this movie...the classic gothic story at its best. 5 stars
7/14/05 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
1/22/05 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
10/31/04 JOE KENNEDY JOHNY DEPP AND BURTON A CAN'T MISS COMBO. THIS WAS WAY OVERLOOKED A PERFECT FILM 5 stars
9/25/04 Agent Sands Cinematography is the best quality of this drastically altered version of Irving's classic. 4 stars
8/30/04 Conor Crockford hauntingly gothic masterpiece 5 stars
8/20/04 DM Not scary, but stylish and darkly funny 4 stars
8/02/04 Raf Milis Good movie, although Ricci plays like a starving pig...great Christopher Walken!! 4 stars
6/22/04 Rock Hound Telescopic night sight on a MUSKET? Oh, it's a comedy! Now I get it! 2 stars
6/21/04 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
3/17/04 CoLLeeN He just keeps fainting! Awesome movie. One that you like to watch over and over and over... 5 stars
3/10/04 Ash Without Depp's quirkiness, this film would be nothing! 5 stars
2/01/04 britney omg! this movie is the funniest ever and it deserves a 5 5 stars
1/22/04 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
12/28/03 Caitlin I loved this movie! An amazing performance by Johnny Depp, who, is as hot as ever :) 5 stars
11/18/03 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
5/04/03 sleepy a real classic...have watched this film many times. 5 stars
3/27/03 Jen Very cool and creepy, Johnny Depp is HOT!! 5 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Another wildly uneven, poorly told Burton wank-fest. 2 stars
11/04/02 CVJ Class film!! its dark and exciting and Burton brings the famous tale to life Brilliantly 5 stars
10/26/02 Morally Sound The atmosphere of this movie, is in itself, is WOW! This movie kick ass! 5 stars
10/16/02 Charles Tatum Burton redeems himself after "Mars Attacks" 5 stars
8/13/02 Monster W. Kung A decent film, but flaws in the script bring it down. 3 stars
7/21/02 sdjfsdkjf not too shabby at all. Depp holding the film up as usual. Wish Walken was in it more. 4 stars
7/04/02 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
5/27/02 Nicole Typical Burton....pretty decent flick 4 stars
5/11/02 Butterbean Always count on Burton for excellent dark cinematography,But Walken was underused. 4 stars
4/06/02 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
3/02/02 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
1/16/02 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
12/15/01 Laura L. I loved the film, it brings out the midevil/gothic days fairlywell. 5 stars
12/09/01 Keith One of Burton's best. Very good acting and great visuals. 5 stars
12/09/01 JCPhoenix [http://vm1.2y.net/phoenixforever] Incredible movie..one of my favourites...also, check out Elfman's AMAZING score 5 stars
12/01/01 Mark Conway Not scary at all, more of a comedy, although jonny Depp is the one plus point. 3 stars
11/02/01 I love movies the plot is tough to follow but the movie often gets stylish and exciting on us... 4 stars
10/31/01 Sumixam It looks just how you'd imagin sleepy hollow to look. Johnny Depp's finest acting hour. 5 stars
10/18/01 Andrew Carden Overdone, Stupid, and Long Movie That Gets Nowhere, and Couldn't Scare A Nervous Hamster. 1 stars
10/01/01 Evil Bitchwoman Creepy but funny 5 stars
9/29/01 Connoisseur America's 2nd favorite director delivers again! VERY cool movie, big-time fun and thrills! 5 stars
9/18/01 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
8/09/01 E-Funk The perfect movie for Burton to helm. So well directed...and the violence is top-notch. 5 stars
8/06/01 badfish This was just great! What a soundtrack! Depp delivers big time! Another Burton classic! 5 stars
8/04/01 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
6/16/01 JON THE SMELLY JEW already a classic... 5 stars
6/07/01 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
5/03/01 I love movies an incredible movie! entertaining, scary, suspenseful, and beautiful. 5 stars
3/30/01 BART the music is the best part here. 5 stars
3/28/01 Jesse L Depp is excellent!!!! Great direction!!! Ricci has a great chest and nothing else. 5 stars
3/12/01 james "bite me" womack burton is truely the master of cinematography. his visuals blew my mind 5 stars
2/24/01 Tara Johnny Depp does an AMAZING job!! 5 stars
2/15/01 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
12/11/00 The-Fider The horseman RULES! ^__^ (Coming form a girl ;) This movie will not dissapoint! 5 stars
11/29/00 The Evil Penguin What is Jed up to? This is one of Burton's better films. 5 stars
11/03/00 dan it looks nice, but... there's no plot. 3 stars
8/01/00 Jed Sorry I can only recomend this to burton & horror fans not the worst film ever though. 2 stars
6/13/00 Monday Morning Hey kids, this is scary. Beautifully filmed too. 4 stars
6/10/00 Mike It's a Wonderful piece of art, it's a feast for the eyes. 5 stars
6/03/00 Pynkie All I have to say is that Tim Burton needs some serious help. If he can take an old Washing 5 stars
5/31/00 danilo pretty good movie - if you can stand looking at a headless man going on a horse... 3 stars
4/24/00 Ryan Time Burton never lets me down... plus i want johnny and christina badly! 5 stars
3/16/00 Chloe Sesta Jacobs Johnny Depp was fantastic as was Christinna Ricci! 4 stars
3/03/00 John FANTASTIC 5 stars
3/01/00 PhilmPhreak I WANTED to love it! But just liked it. 3 stars
2/27/00 Sara Excellent 5 stars
2/17/00 Kylie Perfect 5 stars
2/10/00 James Great iece of work 5 stars
2/08/00 Andi Randell Heads will roll 4 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Tim Burton's variation is, by far, better than the Irving original 5 stars
1/30/00 Steve Another from the master 5 stars
1/25/00 Paul Excellent 5 stars
1/20/00 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
1/11/00 Matthew Bartley First great movie of the new century! 5 stars
1/10/00 mclennan Doesn't the rating speak for itself? Kudos to all players, esp Burton, Depp, & Ray Park. 5 stars
1/10/00 Truth Man Good stuff, I LOVE those teeth! 5 stars
1/09/00 stool god absolutely beautiful 5 stars
1/08/00 mike meyer never seen an actor be able to turn green on cue before, way to go Depp 5 stars
1/07/00 Michael McLennan An enormous entertainment 5 stars
1/05/00 John Walsh Could easily lose your head over this one 4 stars
1/04/00 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
12/28/99 J.Z Green as usual Burton has pulled through with his nack for special effects but as far as a story? 3 stars
12/25/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah Definitely one of the ten best films of the year. Perfectly rounded on every edge! 5 stars
12/24/99 R.E.Moore Excellent. If he wants you, there is NOTHING you can do about it...done deal! 5 stars
12/22/99 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
12/14/99 LadyNightOwl Sleepy Hollow is my favorite movie ever. It was beautiful, and exiting. 5 stars
12/14/99 Dorgon Almost great 4 stars
12/13/99 Lame-Oh it was okay. at least it kicks urban legend squaw in the nuts 3 stars
12/12/99 Obi Wan Tim's Best since Batman!! I liked the little BeetleJuice he threw in this! Horsemen Rock! 5 stars
12/11/99 Tony All I can say, is it was PHAT! 5 stars
12/08/99 Sean McHale pretty cool! 5 stars
12/06/99 Malbert was christina ricci trying to do an accent???...visually awesome 4 stars
12/01/99 SJKelley Just because we like Tim Burton, we anoint his work as genius? Loses its head at end.ct. 3 stars
11/30/99 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
11/28/99 Orville Wright This movie was horrible. Not only was it stupid, it didn't make any sense. 1 stars
11/26/99 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
11/25/99 Biff Cool The return of storytelling to film 5 stars
11/24/99 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
11/23/99 Jason S. Swordplay was awesome, Walken, Deep and Ricci were awesome and even Van Dien was okay 5 stars
11/23/99 Krissy It was amazing. So scientificly correct and they added alot of unsuspected humor Great end. 5 stars
11/23/99 Laura Baker This movie was great! Burton definitely focuses more on visuals than on reality! 5 stars
11/23/99 danimal awesome visuals, slow story 3 stars
11/23/99 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
11/22/99 C.A.T.M. Better than I had hoped. Superb! 5 stars
11/22/99 Jo Awesome! But could have done w/o the Scooby-Doo ending... 5 stars
11/22/99 Joe Crane Fantastic, I enjoyed every second and was dazzled and amazed! 5 stars
11/22/99 fire-n-ice Great dark spooky film, but if ya got Johnny Dep and Casper van Dein 5 stars
11/22/99 N Podbrey utter SHIT - worst acting all year 1 stars
11/21/99 The Professor Burton is Back and in full effect 5 stars
11/21/99 elfpunkt goth eye candy. depp is such a prissy pussy. :-) 4 stars
11/21/99 Charlie Ruscoff Awesome! 5 stars
11/21/99 Pavlova27 Want to see creepy? Look no further, Tim Burton is da bomb! 5 stars
11/21/99 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
11/20/99 Lame-Oh Almost makes you wish Goosebumps never happened. 'Nuff said. 3 stars
11/20/99 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
11/17/99 cory huff PURE FUCKING EYE-CANDY 5 stars
11/15/99 the future Mr. Van Tassel As if we'd forgotten, Tim Burton shows us he's the most breathtaking visual director around 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Nov-1999 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  01-Jan-2000 (MA)




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