Movie #212 2020: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Remember when Tim Burton and Johnny Depp made decent movies together? No? Let me help you.

Sleepy Hollow is Burton’s 1999 jaunt, based off the Washington Irving short story of a similar name. Set in 1799, we are launched into the small town of Sleepy Hollow, which is said to be haunted by a headless horseman. Depp’s character, Ichabod Crane, is a detective who has been sent to the town by some big wig lawyers from New York City. His task? To solve the string of murders that have been taking place there. Of course Crane is sceptical that such a demonic power exists, and it’s up to the locals to convince him that it’s the truth.

Know what I love? A good murder mystery with a fantasy/horror twist. If anything, I wish there were more of them. In fact, if anyone can recommend any others that aren’t Knives Out, please let me know. As a result of movies of this genre being so far and in between, Sleepy Hollow ends up being really quite original, which is a refreshing change compared to some of the films I’ve seen recently.

Somehow, this is not Tim Burton’s creepiest movie – which is saying a lot – but it’s still creepy enough. The cinematography is excellent here and lends itself to the eeriness of the movie. Most of the shots are laden with blue greys, winding mist and ethereal flashes of light, which all adds spectacularly to the atmosphere. (After writing this I found out that Sleepy Hollow garnered a nomination for the Best Cinematography Oscar. Easy to see why.) If anything, the artistry in this movie is nothing short of underrated.

So where are the downfalls of this movie? Though the first hour is pacy and gripping, my attention did drift for a while around the 65 minute mark. It all just got a bit dreary and slow with no breathing room, but at least picked up again for its conclusion. Of course, part of the fun surrounding a movie like this is trying to figure out the ending, and despite it’s campy nature, Sleepy Hollow does not disappoint.

As a side note, it’s great to see the entire cast of Harry Potter together! I mean, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon and Richard Griffiths all in one place? Didn’t see it coming. Each of them adds something almost Shakespearean to the film, which was a joy to see. Johnny Depp should go back to quirky yet not downright odd roles like this, as it really is where he thrives the most. As for Christina Ricci? Girl, you better come back with a better English accent next time.

Sure it’s not the best film ever made, but on the whole, it’s a really fun and spooky ride. Hopefully there will be more original films like this on the way!

Sleepy Hollow is available to stream on Sky Cinema and Now TV in the UK.

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