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Sleepy Hollow  (1999)

Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Casper Van Dien, Michael Gambon, Marc Pickering, Christopher Walken
Director: Tim Burton
U.S. Distribution: Paramount
U.S. Release Date: 11/19/99
Running Time: 1:45
MPAA Rating: R

In the warped tradition of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow is simply fascinating.

As Dutch settlers in a New York village prepare for a new century (the 18th), the mythical Headless Horseman rides! And rides!! And rides!!!

As expected, this Tim Burton film is not merely a re-telling of Washington Irving's classic tale, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". Irving's short-story had no blood, murder or sex. This Sleepy Hollow is a gore and cleavage fest that all but shouts, "How about some eye candy little horror fan!?"

It is truly outstanding in most aspects. The visuals are brilliantly conceived and stunning. The set and atmosphere near perfect. The players are winning and engaging. The plot is . . . well, let's just say it is more than just a little illogical and somewhat hollow.

Johnny Depp's Ichabod Crane and his nubile love interest Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) bare little resemblance to the characters in Irving's story. Originally a schoolmaster, Crane is a police constable sent to the upstate village of Sleepy Hollow to solve a series of murders and the case of the missing heads. Before long, he too is very much in danger of losing his own.

Miranda Richardson has a delicious turn as Ricci's wicked stepmother, and Jeffrey Jones' reverend character manages to stand out among the movie's many characters. For good measure, horror legend Christopher Lee is featured in a cameo as well as an unbilled Martin Landau, who had a career resurgence after appearing as Bela Lugosi in Burton's Ed Wood in 1994.

Flashbacks to the origin of the Horseman (portrayed furiously by Christopher Walken) and of Ichabod and his mother (a most-voluptuous Lisa Marie) are weird and occasionally intrusive.

Until now, Burton has not directed a true horror film. For that matter, this is only his ninth feature in 15 years (by my count). Nevertheless, I agree with many film fans who believe that he is one of the best directors of the late-20th century. In my opinion, no one does fantasy as well as Tim Burton.

© 1999, Delton Perrodin

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