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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Sleepy Hollow (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 24, 2023


Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Lisa Marie and Christopher Walken.

Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker.

Directed by Tim Burton.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 105 minutes. Rated R.

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has deservedly been a classic horror story for over 200 years. The specter of the Headless Horseman is one that can send a chill down the spine. Strangely, Hollywood has never once been able to capture the story – and they have tried many, many times.

To remedy this, Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman, Ed Wood) has decided not to even try. His version has little to do with the original other than character names and the Headless Horseman himself. His vision of the story is the scariest ever made on the Headless Horseman, but not necessarily the best. The movie tends to run a very awkward tightrope between dragging on aimlessly and then suddenly overwhelming the audience with horror (and more decapitations than a Hun invasion.)

For some reason, the character of Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is no longer a gawky schoolteacher, but a gawky criminologist. Katarina Von Tassel (Christina Ricci) is no longer a shy daughter of a businessman but has now become a sexually alluring white witch. All of these modernizations work at cross-purposes, some are genuinely scary, but they carve the imagination from the heart of the story.

The Headless Horseman is still an awe-inspiring sight. Scenes where he appears – particularly a series of shots where he seems to emerge in full stride from the roots of a tree – are spine tingling.

Too bad Burton didn’t trust the source material and felt the need to turn him into the world’s first ghostly serial killer in what is essentially a Victorian slasher film. (11/99)

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©1999 All rights reserved. Posted: November 19, 1999.

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