Sleepy Hollow (1999)

sleepy hollow poster 1999 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Creepy set, Hammer horror feel, good Halloween seasonal movie

Mystery is a bit weak

Movie Info

Movie Name: Sleepy Hollow

Studio: Mandalay Pictures

Genre(s): Horror/Mystery/Suspense/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): November 19, 1999

MPAA Rating: PG-13

sleepy hollow ichabod crane johnny depp costume

Ichabod proving weird people come from the city…

Constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) has methods which are considered unusual…and as a result, he finds himself shipped off to a little town outside of New York called Sleepy Hollow.  Something is happening in the Hollow.  Men and women are being decapitated, but Ichabod’s belief in science allows him to try see objectively past the superstitions of the people of Sleepy Hollow…unfortunately for Ichabod, sometimes supernatural rumors and ghosts stories are based in fact.

Directed by Tim Burton, Sleepy Hollow is a horror mystery.  The film is an adaptation of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as part of the 1819 collection of stories The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.  The film received positive review and won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction with nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

When I was little the monster that haunted me was the Headless Horseman.  A record a friend owned told the story of Sleepy Hollow and the idea of it terrified me.  As a result, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and anything tied to it has a soft spot for me.

sleepy hollow headless horseman set

I’m just misunderstood

The story is set up both as a horror movie and a mystery.  Aspects of the mystery work well, while other seem a bit too obvious.  As a horror movie, the plotting takes a lot of ideas from classic Hammer Horror movies and tries to recreate a modern version of the Hammer movie monster films…which it does succeed.

Johnny Depp was of course Tim Burton’s muse at the time and is an obvious choice for Ichabod Crane in that sense.  The decision to modified Ichabod and make him less of a “stork” looking character that the book describes is also probably smart since the movie tries to make him a likeable and unlikable character at the same time.  It is a bit creepy to have Christina Ricci as his romantic co-lead due to their age differences (and the fact that he costarred with Ricci in Mermaids in 1990 when Ricci was a child actor.  Depp is back with a nice supporting cast including Marc Pickering, Casper Van Dien, Lisa Marie, Christopher Walken, Ian McDiarmid, Richard Griffiths, Jeffrey Jones, and Miranda Richardson (who is a bit over-the-top in an over-the-top movie).  The movie also borrows from Hammer Horror’s remaining cast with actors like Christopher Lee and Michael Gough which is a nice way to bridge the gap between the modern and the classic.

sleepy hollow headless horseman skull christopher walken

The Headless Horseman having an existential crisis
“Am I only my missing head? Who am I as a complete person?”

Visually the movie excels and is a great use of Burton’s style.  Burton has kind of pigeonholed himself with his look, but occasionally on films like this, that completely works.  The look also blends in with the Hammer idea with a lot of the gothic and classic dark style of the story feeding into the look.  I particularly like the short part of the movie which serves as a mini-adaptation of Irving’s story (and the idea that the whole Headless Horseman is a joke played on Ichabod).  The horseman himself also is flawless and scary (and just as scary when he is restored with the insane looking Christopher Walken).

Sleepy Hollow is a movie that I enjoyed when I first saw it, but it has grown on me over the years even more.  It is a good blend of horror and Halloween, mystery and monsters.  It is atmospheric and relentless when it wants to be (earning its R-Rating at points).  The movie’s ending is rather open ended and it would have been nice to see a second movie in an X-Files-esque means of storytelling with the further adventures of Crane, Van Tassel, and Marc Perking investigating another American mystery…but alas Sleepy Hollow is a one-off and that is fine as well.

Related Links:

Sleepy Hollow—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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