Sleepy Hollow Review

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Another of Tim Burton’s magical creations, I’m not personally partial to Fox’s remake of this that was serialised for television, but the original is quite a satisfying watch. This is an American Gothic Horror film, and it primarily follows Constable Ichobad Crane in 1799 who lives in New York but is sent out to a little town to investigate several curious murders.

Sleepy Hollow

The main character of course is portrayed by a Burton veteran Johnny Depp, who has personified many of Burton’s creations. The pairs history of working together has spanned decades, they have an incredibly close friendship with Depp taking on more and more editorial + executive producer roles of the movies as well as an acting one. Burton and Depp first met in a coffee shop to discuss the role of Edward Scissorhands, all these years later they’re still creating visually stunning and intriguing content.

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton Friendship

Burton’s character in this film, “Ichobad Crane” who is sent from the big city to test out some of his “new methods of investigation” on the small quaint town of Sleepy Hollow. His attempt to move the detecting world into the 17th Century and to eradicate the barbaric methods that are still in practice, is not one that goes smoothly.

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And Christina Ricci playing his love interest, this was actually the first piece of work I’d seen her in since her impressive personification of “Wednesday Addams” in The Addams Family, as Ricci was very young filming this i was curious to see how she fared in a more adult and complex role.

Sleepy Hollow Nina Ricci

There’s a surprisingly well-known and revered extended cast. With two actors that have met on the many sets of Harry Potter. We’ve Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) and Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dudley). Following this strong duo is Christopher Walken + Christopher Lee. (The latter of the pair has also had supporting roles in numerous Burton creations.

Sleepy Hollow

When we first meet Ichobad Crane, his character is rigid and set in his way of reality, science and fact. There is no room for science-fiction, witchcraft or any kind of supernatural tomfoolery, this mindset is soon challenged upon his arrival.

Sleepy Hollow

The direction and cinematography in this movie are so perfectly suited to the themes of mystery and the subaltern, one of the first shots we see is the most delightfully Burton scarecrow. 

Sleepy Hollow

For all the Walken’s fans out there, his character is pretty fear-inducing and horrifying, but well-crafted.

Sleepy Hollow

We’ve also got an adorably ruffled Johnny Depp.

Sleepy Hollow

We see some 17th Century means of communication, that really do leave our current methods looking a bit mundane.

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And blood. Lots of blood. If you are someone who’s fainthearted and doesn’t bear well with the sights of beheading then this might not be one for you.

Sleepy Hollow

This period piece and its accompanying time-relevant props and costumes, set design is done quite tastefully. I’ll admit that whilst i am a Burton fan, there are a good few movies he’s made that weren’t to my taste at all. (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory …etc) but the arty, unusual ones were where his eccentricity and quirky vision really solidified and created something lasting that intrigued a much larger net of people. When it comes to Burton, it appears that the films he made without a ridiculously large Hollywood budget were ones that came out to good critical review and stood the test of time. The weirder the better.

Sleepy Hollow

We’ve some optical illusions, the content of which are a bit more integral to the analysis of this movie than might first appear. The movie speaks on a symbolic and metaphorical level aswell as a visual and literal.

Sleepy Hollow

Next is one of my favourite parts of the film to discuss, the set design and visual components to the films atmosphere. There is an almost ethereal feel to the tone and colour schemes that were chosen. Although the film has a range of colours in it, there is a darkness to the set, nearly like a screen of a specific film has been overlayed. Pathetic fallacy (for those of you who haven’t hear of this before ; It’s a literary term for the attributing of human emotion and conduct to all aspects within nature. Eg. If your protagonist is having a mental breakdown, you will see terrifying storms and hurricane’s / lightening.) This plays quite an intriguing role within our film. Again not something that you’d pick up on immediately as initially your looking for plot development, but having studied film and analyzing it these little things start to crop up.

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The sets for this film and the way that the camera is directed is a little reminiscent of ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ for me with its slightly skewed or twisted approach to straightforward shots.

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The scene’s we see are directly correlating to the character thats about to come on screen, here for example is a little witches cave looking deceptively like a natural rock formation, the patterns of the leafless trees and twigs that are framing the entrance with a chaotic appearance are indicative of the mindset of the character.

Sleepy Hollow

Excuse this little tangent here but upon researching this film for the post your reading, i came upon an article detailing a story on Johnny Depp’s horse from the set. The horse’s name, “Gunpowder” who was one-eyed and after Depp heard that upon the film wrapping he was to be put down, Depp bought him after having grown quite fond of him.

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The direction of photography in this is a little similar in structure to Wes Anderson’s creations, as at times every single shot we see has perfect symmetry.

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The story is a really intriguing one and not a simple thing to figure out the main mystery, that said there are a lot of twists and unexpected turns along the way which leave you looking like :

Sleepy Hollow

So dive in and get yourself ready for some rude awakenings… Due to the visual style created in an almost dark fairytale-esque way, its a lovely one to watch a little stoned as it really draws you in.

Sleepy Hollow