First, if you are expecting an adaptation with even a glimmer of fidelity to the source story, you will be disappointed. It’s got a headless Hessian horseman legend in a post-colonial New York countryside with a few familiar character names. Otherwise, this is a wholly invented scenario.
Sleepy Hollow is a horror movie that can’t ever decide quite what it wants to be, but is unified by Tim Burton’s and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s gothic vision. The haunting imagery is among Burton’s best that I’ve seen, and the stark lighting and color amplify all of the brilliant production design. Sets and production pieces border on the expressionistic with their skewed proportions and dark corners.
The story is a clusterfuck, but in a fun sort of way. It shifts from supernatural detective story, to conspiracy thriller, to ghost story, to monster flick, to gross-out slasher splatterfest, and back again about 15 times. I uttered “WTF” more times than I usually do in movies I actually enjoy.
The cast is pretty loaded with talent, mostly British, and most of whom get graphically murdered. Depp dominates in the lead role, clearly champing at the bit to unleash his whimsical hero side (which he would get to do a few years later as Jack Sparrow) — but even he doesn’t quite know what story he’s in. Sometimes he’s a skulking private eye, other times a quivery wimp, other times a romantic hero, other times a stuffy academic — and those traits don’t smoothly flow together.
Thank goodness for those visuals which hold everything together and elevate an otherwise messy project to enjoyable gloomy schlock.
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.