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Sleepy Hollow

  • 1999
  • R
  • 105min
  • 67%
  • 7.4 / 10

Following the decapitation of a Hessian horseman, three notable men from a remote town are murdered. It is up to a young detective from New York to make the connection - one that can only be found in the dark woods of Sleepy Hollow.

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Sleepy Hollow is composer Danny Elfman’s sixth collaboration with director Tim Burton. They had previously worked together Burton’s other mega-hit films including Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Warner Brother Picture’s initial Batman series, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Elfman says that he enjoys working with Burton because the director explains the score of the film through the emotion it should convey rather than the technical aspects that could be featured. The two would go on to collaborate on a total of sixteen films together, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and Big Fish.

Sleepy Hollow movie review

Sleepy Hollow is Tim Burton's loose adaptation of the Washington Irving novel. His portrayal of the remote town and its cast of ominous characters are both scary and delightful.

In it, Ichabod Crane is a New York City police constable played by Johnny Depp. He is a man ahead of his time -believing that murders should be solved with scientific evidence and forensics. He is sent by his superior to the remote but upstate town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate three brutal murders. As he arrives - appropriately enough at Halloween - he learns that all three prominent figures were beheaded. 

In Sleepy Hollow, Burton takes his eye for eccentric details to create one of his most lavish films. He takes his obsession of Hammer movies to the great production designer Rick Heinrichs and the luminescent camerawork of Emmanuel Lubezki. Its result is a hauntingly beautiful and dark world full of shadows, mist, and dread. Burton sticks to a muted palette of dark hues and earth tones to achieve maximum impact of the film's only primary color - a vibrant, bloody red.

Casting Johnny Depp was a tremendous choice. As Ichabod Crane, he delivers a refined yet entertaining performance. Nina Ricci is elegant and mysterious as Crane's love interest, while Michael Gambon and Miranda Richardson are able to sink their acting prowess in all of the fine scenery and displays. The cast's more experienced actors - Michael Gough, Richard Griffiths, and Ian McDiarmid - flesh out the background while Jeffrey Jone's wig is a reminder that Burton has not lost his twisted sense of humor. There is not much to laugh about in Sleepy Hollow but some might argue that it is touching yet, too dark.

In the end, the film has its faults such as Crane's wearisome fainting spells and the over-melodramatic climax. Regardless of these faults, all that remains in Sleepy Hollow is a haunting and beautiful portrayal of one's deepest fears.

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about the movie

Sleepy Hollow (1999) is an American period horror film loosely inspired by the Washington Irving short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The film is director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp’s third collaboration, with Depp playing the lead role. Other actors include Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Marc Pickering, Michael Gambon, Jeffrey Jones, Casper Van Dien, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, and Christopher Walken. Film Critic Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “Johnny Depp is an actor able to disappear into characters . . . never more readily than in one of Burton's films.” Time magazine’s Richard Corliss also praised Burton, calling Sleepy Hollow 'Burton's richest, prettiest, weirdest [film] since Batman Returns. The simple story bends to his twists, freeing him for an exercise in high style.' The film’s elaborate sets were also praised; Andrew Johnston of Time Out New York wrote of the film, “Like the best of Burton's films, Sleepy Hollow takes place in a world so richly imagined that, despite its abundant terrors, you can't help wanting to step through the screen.'