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Sleepy Hollow

review by David G.


Rated R

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien

Studio: Paramount

Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker based upon the story by Washington Irving

Directed by Tim Burton


Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Theatrical Trailers, Featurette, Interviews, Photo Gallery, Cast and Crew Bios, Commentary with Tim Burton

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Captions, Chapter Search

In the last year of the 19th century, in New-York, the eccentric inspector Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to a small town called Sleepy Hollow to resolve murders apparently committed by a mysterious headless horseman.

Of course, Crane has to use his head to try to find a rational explanation to these murders and fight against the inhabitant's superstition with the help of the young Masbath (Marc Pickering) and Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci)

During his investigation, he will discover hidden secrets and, although his cartesian mind, the horrible truth and finally love.

Tim Burton, since his first film (Pee Wee's Big adventure) managed to create his own world, immediately identifiable, something burlesque, poetic, bizarre, ironic, dark with a strong sense of dark humor and often touching. His masterpieces are Beetlejuice, Batman I & II, Edward Scissorhand, Mars Attacks, Ed Wood, The Nightmare Before Christmas (as story designer and producer), in fact, all his movies are masterpieces. (Editor's Note: I'm not so sure about "Mars Attacks!"). Very few directors could be proud of such a career.

Sleepy Hollow, his latest movie, is a tribute to all these old horror movies from Hammer film (the Draculas with Christopher Lee) and from Mario Bava (Demon's Mask, Danger : Diabolik), but definitely more visually stupefying : Sleepy Hollow is maybe the most beautiful horror movie ever made. The terrible secret in which everyone seems to be involved makes us to think of Twin Peaks.

The photography of Emmanuel Lubezki (Great expectations, Meet Joe Black) is astonishing, all seem near black and white except the red of the blood which is very impressive.

All the actors are perfect, especially Johnny Depp (best Depp's roles are with Burton) and Christina Ricci (The Addams Family) whose beauty lights the screen up. A special mention has to be given to Chistopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), his character has no dialogue but you will never forget him.

So it's a dark, scary, bloody (several heads are lopped off), and funny movie but not dumb. The Crane's grimaces are hilarious and his aptitude to try to find a explanation to everything is also funny and makes a contrast between him and the headless horseman, In effect, Crane likes to use his head (even it's often useless) whereas the horseman has no one so he can not think very much.

The poetic touch although it's a dark poetic touch is brought by the Crane's dreams : His mother's desires make us to think at Edward Scissorhand.

The only reproach I can make against Sleepy Hollow, is a certain lack of development of the secondary characters like Brom Van Brunt (Casper Van Dien), the suitor of Katrina Van Tassel.

The movie is presented in a widescreen version enhanced for 16/9. The transfert is simply perfect, and is an homage to the complex photography of Emmanuel Lubezki. The dark is dark and give great depth to the picture.

Here too, the perfection is reached, before you watch this DVD in 5.1, don't forget to warn your neighbors or you will be hated by them forever (Editor's Note: Not a Guarentee). You can feel the horses running and jumping, the swords sounds are metallic and precise and the heads fall on the floor with the benediction of your subwoofer.

The English and French Dolby Surround tracks are good but less evoking than the 5.1.

The DVD menus are basic, but the disc itself is rich in special features. There is theatrical trailer and a teaser trailer, a 30 minutes featurette called "Behind the Legend", interviews with cast and crews, and the icing on the cake: the commentary with Tim Burton himself. All of these bonus materials are very interesting but we can feel that Tim Burton is uncomfortable. There is too much silence whereas such a film must have quantities of anecdotes to be told. We can also find a photo gallery which is beautiful but too small and a selected cast biography.

I am always excited when a new Tim Burton's movie is announced, this one didn't fail on its duty. It's an amazing picture book, an awaken dream. Tim Burton reaches here the top of his art, it's dark, cruel, poetic, funny but always beautiful. I would recommend this DVD to all who have kept their childhood eyes and imagination.

(4.5/5, NOT included in final score)




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