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SLEEPY HOLLOW


SYNOPSIS:
New York City Constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp), detests the brutal punishments that characterise the penal system of 1799. His courtroom outbursts see him sent to the town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a serial killer, fond of beheading his victims. Crane's rational mind is seriously challenged when he learns that the townsfolk believe in the existence of the 'headless horseman' (Christopher Walken, when he still has his head). With the help of his new love Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) and young side-kick Masbeth (Marc Pickering), Crane begins to connect the town leaders to an elaborate plot that has the horseman manipulated into the role of a 'hired killer'.

"Even if it doesn't quite come off as spectacularly as we might hope let's be thankful that the spirit of the great Hammer Horror films of the 50's and 60's is alive and well in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. The genuine affection he showed for 50's sci-fi in Mars Attacks and poverty row filmmaking in Ed Wood, inhabits every frame of this homage to the British studio responsible for putting the bite back into gothic horror 40 years ago. The casting of Christopher Lee as the judge who despatches Crane on his dreadful mission and the ominous sight of doors and windows closing as he wanders down the main street are pure Hammer and almost enough to make us expect a nervous innkeeper to pop up and say "you'll find no lodgin's 'ere in this godforsaken place sir, you best be on your way before nightfall". Stylised to the monochromatic limit by production designer Rick Heinrichs and ace cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki, Sleepy Hollow is at heart an old-fashioned spook show which employs the dynamic range of modern film trickery to unleash the full force of Washington Irving's story, unlike the child-friendly 1949 Disney animation. Burton supplies thrills galore with exciting chase scenes, and gore-hounds will be applauding the inventive ways in which the impressive severed head count is tallied, but he falters with basic story-telling. Too much lingering over (admittedly stunning) sets and locations slows the pace to a crawl and when all the basic plot amounts to is a horseman cutting off people's heads, rapid narrative advancement is everything. When the horrible truth is finally revealed it arrives with such a rush it seems like a clumsily added afterthought. You'd think the pairing of Depp and Ricci would deliver dream date results but there's a strange lack of chemistry between the duo, explained partially by the fact that Ricci doesn't have enough to do once the action hots up. For all its disappointments Sleepy Hollow still delivers a creepy good time thanks to Burton's visual mastery and his affection for the genre but you can't help wishing there was just a little more to engage us in between loppings and slayings."
Richard Kuipers

"As with his previous film Ed Wood, Tim Burton treads that fine line between satire and ridicule, in his latest film Sleepy Hollow. This slick revival of the gruesome murder/mystery films of the fifties, successfully finds its place between spoof and traditional horror film. The filmís most outstanding aspect is the production design, which brings to mind the dark eeriness of Batmanís Gotham City and the bizarreness of The City Of The Lost Children. From the odd instruments and eyepieces of Ichabodís invention, to the fairy-tale village and blood filled trees, every detail is captured exquisitely by Emmanuel Lubezkiís cinematography. Unfortunately, Burtonís highly stylised look is weighed down by some dubious plotting. Rather than working its way to a dramatic pinnacle, the Headless Horseman is revealed early on in the piece, as is the discovery of his motives. The result is a kind of boredom, as we wait for the protagonists to catch on to what we already know. This renders the horseman powerless - because we know what is behind his fury, he is no longer frightening. The mystery itself is solved too easily, so that what should be a grand crescendo, plays more like an action movie with the requisite chase scenes (in this case, horse and cart) and gory fight sequences. That said, the film is well worth watching to appreciate Burtonís highly imaginative vision and quirky sense of humour. Johnny Deppís performance as Ichabod, is a finely tuned blend of neuroticism, awkward mannerisms and idiosyncrasies. He finds the right level of humour in the character without ever going over the top. Depp is in fact so good that the talents of Christina Ricci seem a little wasted opposite him. With plenty of gore and severed heads bobbing about the place, this is a great diversion from reality."
Angie Fox

"Tim Burton, surely one of cinemaís most continually surprising and inventive directors, brings an old ghost story to vivid life in Sleepy Hollow. The tale of the Headless Horseman has spooked children for generations (I can recall seeing it on the Walt Disney show and being freaked out as a six year old). Now Burton has crafted it into an exhilarating film - but be aware this a fairy tale is for adults, and definitely not an experience for kids. In common with other Burton films, the production design, special effects and cinematography are absolutely outstanding. In the town of Sleepy Hollow, the filmmakers have created an 18th century village which seems entirely authentic, but at the same time could easily be a portal to Hell. The direction and editing are first rate; with the film delivering some of the most exciting (and horrific) scenes youíre likely to see on a movie screen this summer. The plot itself is a little thin and the mystery is fairly easy to work out, but the film works through the strength of the filmmaking and acting. The cast is uniformly excellent. Johnny Depp gives a wonderful measured performance as Crane, and heís matched by Christina Ricci as Katrina, even though her role is marginalised somewhat. Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon and particularly Christopher Walken have a great time in their roles. Sleepy Hollow continually surprises, with the director and actors outdoing themselves in scene after scene. In a word, itís terrific. Donít miss it.
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

See our SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

SLEEPY HOLLOW (MA)
(US)

CAST: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

PRODUCER: Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder

SCRIPT: Kevin Yagher (Washington Irving's story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Emmanuel Lubezki

EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon

MUSIC: Danny Elfman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rick Heinrichs

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 1, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: July 18, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment







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