October Horror: Sleepy Hollow

Max Bowman, Writer

It’s very rare that you get a film whose title sums up your experience watching it. If that sentence tell you my thoughts the film, allow me to elaborate. Sleepy Hollow is a film that is irredeemably hollow and would have managed to make me incredibly sleepy if not for the constantly blaring music. Halloween is just around the corner and due to the lack of horror films in theaters I thought it would be nice to review one on Netflix, maybe convincing someone to give it a whirl. Unfortunately, the film I picked from the, “talented, Tim Burton” succeeds nothing particular. It is not scary, it is not fun, it is not thrilling and what little good scenes there are are surrounded by so much shmuck that it dampens the impact they were intended to give.

           To set the scene, it is the dawn of a new century and Ichabod Crane (Tim Burton), a detective ahead of his time is shunned by his peers and sent to the small village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of beheadings that have taken place. The town suspects the Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken) is responsible and it’s up to Ichabod Crane to unravel the mysteries and witchcraft that fog the town. The movie and the original story barely hold any resemblance and that’s fine! The greatest aspects of the original tale were Ichabod Crane, The Headless Horseman, and the town itself, which the movie stays true to the source. However, it seems that any originality the film presents fails utterly at being anything. It’s all very… Hollow (pun not intended).

           The film’s opening 30 minutes are sheer beauty. A sheer fairy tale eeriness that exudes from every shot to the point where you feel not as though you’re watching a movie but a fairy tale painting come to life. Fog seems to have a mind of its own and the camera has constant momentum during dialogue and lingers on the beauty the painstakingly town. Whether it be a mansion on a hill surrounded by graves and dark clouds, or the dreary townspeople going about their day with a hint of uneasiness, you are utterly immersed.  But then it all seems to just instantly decompose into utter nothing. I speculated for a good half the movie wondering what went wrong. Did Tim Burton hand the camera to another director? Did he just give up halfway? The film loses its momentum and beauty previously captured and has the momentum and beauty of a old timey T.V. show. The film constantly lingers on people thinking and pondering. It shows people talking about names. Only to boil down into an incredibly lame chase sequence.

           Part of the problem is the characters. Johnny Depp plays the role of Ichabod Crane with such conviction and wit that it’s truly a marvel whenever his actions are in the spotlight. Whether it’s him subtly projecting the cowardice aspect of his character by wincing at a wound or his hands shaking while holding a teacup. The problem is that being a coward is only so interesting and even then his only defining character trait is completely abandoned upon the climax. the  other characters in the movie that merely serve to be a plot device or a jack in the box waiting for their head to spring off. The worst of these sins is Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). She is given the most screen time besides Johnny Depp yet the writers seemed to find the only use for a woman character is either being a damsel in distress or a lame love interest. The romantic subplot is so hollow and out of nowhere that I was literally baffled. Perhaps I’m being too harsh as the film seemed to follow suit to a fairy tale and love at first sight is a common trope. Or maybe I’m trying to make excuses for a terrible movie.

The movie obviously did have some thought put into it as the special effects while dated, certainly have a breath of creativity to them. The decapitations are quick and brutal and there’s quite a neat set piece containing a tree filled with blood, however this will all be obscured by the music. It is so loud and obnoxious that every scene of action or discovery is accompanied by what sounds like parades of marching bands and choirs tumbling on cliffs screaming and blowing on their instruments as loud as they can.  The entire film is just a slow bore with a cool beginning that can’t keep itself going past the first act. It’s not painful, but it’s certainly not enjoyable either.