|SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)|
Casper Van Dien
|"Truth is appearance, but appearance isn't always truth."|
|Time: 107 mins.|
Won Academy Award for Best Art Direction. Nominated for Best Costume Design and Best Cinematography.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Tim Burton and was very excited about this, his latest endeavor. No one illuminates the dark sides of humanity like he does. Though I enjoyed my time spent in SLEEPY HOLLOW, I was neither surprised at who the evil mastermind was, nor scared by the headless horseman. What did take me aback was the amount of blood spewed around and covering Mr. Depp most of the time. Now I assume the blood-spattering was all in good fun, but it did take away from the seriousness of the situation at certain times. Depp and Ricci were both good, but the romantic portion of the film suffers a bit due to excessive sword play. It's hard to feel all warm and loving, when you're surrounded by decapitated, decaying bodies. That said, as a whole, SLEEPY HOLLOW is a fun ride into the lives and hearts of 19th century America.
Depp plays Ichabod Crane, who, in this version of the story, is a New York City detective trying to make a mark in his department by using a new science called forensics to solve crimes. Not the sturdiest of fellows, he hates bugs and dead bodies, he none-the-less is on a crusade to change the justice department. His superiors, wanting to get rid of him, send him to Sleepy Hollow to solve a rash of murders plaguing this little upstate farming community. What they neglect to tell him is that the murderer is a headless horsemen. At first he doesn't believe it, waving it off to superstition. However, when the town magistrate has his head lopped off right in front of his eyes, he becomes a convert. The townspeople are sure he's going to quit, but his encounter with the ghost only makes him more sure that there's someone human behind the killings.
With the help of young Masbeth, one of the earlier victims orphaned son, and the town leader's daughter Katrina von Tassel, played by an ethereal Ricci, they go about the countryside trying to figure out the motive behind the murders. The horseman is not killing at random, the fact that he's still breathing is proof of that. With the help of a local witch, they discover the grave of the Hessian horseman, as well as the heads of everyone murdered so far. The grave is intact except for the skull. When they find that, they'll find the true killer and put an end to the reign of terror. Needless to say, it gets a lot bloodier before the truth is uncovered. Eventually, Ichabod figures out who's to blame and all hell breaks lose as he tries to save the girl without losing his head. The "killer" should be no big surprise. I would have been stunned if it hadn't been who I thought all along. I expected more from Burton, especially since he really wasn't sticking too closely to the original tale. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, wondering how everything was going to turn out and that just wasn't the case.
That's not to say that SLEEPY HOLLOW isn't a good film. It is. It's just not a groundbreaking one. The visual style is typical Burton, which was wonderful, there just isn't alot to work with since most of the film takes place in the forest. There's only so much you can do to make trees look different and interesting. The costumes were lovely. The performances were good, though sometimes slighthly over-the-top. You'll know who I mean when you see it. Depp was very funny as this squeamish detective trying to be manly and authoritative. Though his effeminate ways were amusing, it took away from his masculinity, which is one of the reasons the love story angle didn't quite gel all the way for me. Granted, if I were Ricci and had to choose between a life of Johnny Depp or Casper Von Dien, I'd go with the gentle, intelligent silent type too, but that doesn't make the choice an overly romantic one. If you like the cast and are a fan of Burton's, you'll enjoy SLEEPY HOLLOW. Otherwise, it might be one to wait for on TV.