Ossus Library Index Fantasy Movie Index


Directed by Tim Burton (1999, Paramount Pictures)
Starring Johnny Depp, and Christina Ricci

A New York detective comes to Sleepy Hollow to solve the mystery of a Headless Horseman who is murdering the townsfolk.



2 stars

February 25th, 2000 in the Theatre  

This is definitely a Tim Burton movie.  The tones are almost pure black and white, with enough grey shades to liven things up a little -but just a little.  As a result, the two blondes really stick out.  The makeup only enhances the effect, enough to make one think that everybody in the year 1799 was very pale, with dark circles around their eyes.  Everybody looks possessed.

The plot was too complicated for my tastes.  There were too many conspirators.  I had trouble with all their names, since they all sounded similar, and when they were all listed, and talked about, and found guilty, I became quite confused. 

Ichabod Crane is a cop in this version, instead of a teacher, as he apparently is in the book.  He works in New York, but is sent to Sleepy Hollow to use his scientific tools and deductive reasoning to find a killer who decapitates his victims.  He arrives in the village, and talks with the town leaders.  They are convinced that a headless horseman is doing the killing.  They tell him the story of a Hessian sent over from Germany to help secure America for the British.  I got confused here, too.  Luckily, I had read a little backstory, but not enough.  I still don't know what a Hessian is.  But this man took great pleasure during the American Revolution in decapitating his victims.  He was finally killed, and deposited in a grave.

Twenty years later, he has risen and rides to the village in revenge. 

Crane doesn't believe a word of this, but he is forced to reevaluate his beliefs when he comes face to face (um..) with the headless horseman himself!  He then discovers the tree of the dead, which houses the missing heads of the victims, and behind which lies the grave of the Hessian man.  The skull is missing.  Crane now believes that someone dug up the skull, and is using it to control the man, telling him to kill the person of choice. 

He does some more searching, and decides that the head of the town, Van Tessel, is the murderer.  But then he is killed.  The daughter, with whom Crane has fallen in love, is then suspected.  But he realizes that she was using her witchcraft for good, even though it didn't work. 

He determines the true person in charge of the horseman's skull using pure science.  But she is a witch, and it takes a lot of cunning and fighting to get the skull back.  It turns out she was looking for revenge for Van Tessel kicking her out of her own home when she was a girl.  She sold her soul to the devil and took revenge upon him and his family. 

Luckily, Crane is able to get the skull, and the horseman takes the witch as his bride.  What happens to them after that is unclear. 

I think there was too much exposition by the witch at the end.  She tells all, her whole plan, how she did it, and why she did it. 

The visuals were neat, however.  The trees, the horseman, and even the witch, even though I thought parts of that could have been omitted.  The horseman was obviously stop motion in most cases.  I think that was supposed to be recognized, though, because the horseman was not of this Earth.  He had to appear slightly strange, but most people would not recognize what was so wrong about the motions. 

There is not much else to say about it.  The movie was dark, complex, and uncertain at the end.  But it had some good acting (and some bad acting), and good visuals.  Not too bad a balance.


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