Sleepy Hollow (1999)

7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Creepy set, Hammer horror feel

Inconsistant characterization, plot problems

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



I think I’m going to contact the civil liberties union…this town just doesn’t like people without heads.

Constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is called to the little town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate the recent beheadings in the town.  When science fails him, Ichabod is forced to accept that an evil force is plaguing the town, but someone in town might be responsible for the attacks.

Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow went through a lot of changes before hitting the screen.  Originally planned as a slasher style movie, the horror was toned down to a PG-13 rating and became almost an action adventure at times.  Sleepy Hollow became almost a homage to classic Hammer films in look and feel.  The Hammer feel was magnified by roles by Hammer actors Christopher Lee and Michael Gough (it was also Gough’s last live action film).


Yep, I’m Ichabod and I’m f*&!ing weird!

The movie has a huge gothic feel to it in classic Burton style.  The set was one of the largest sets built in England and many buildings in the constructed town of Sleepy Hollow had designed interiors.  The forest designed had weather that could be controlled.  These all combined for a dark, atmospheric film that looks fantastic.

Johnny Depp got into the weirdness of Ichabod Crane.  Instead of being birdlike, he’s just more neurotic.  It is actually kind inconsistent and I have a hard time determining if he is any good as a police detective.  He has good ideas about investigation and how to handle a crime scene, but he’s played as a buffoon so that kind of discredits him as a serious officer.


I…I…I feel there is no chemistry between us.

The relationship between Ichabod and Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) also falls a bit flat.  It just seems underdeveloped and unrealistic.  It doesn’t help that in the 1990 movie Mermaids, Christina Ricci was Winona Ryder’s tag along little sister who was dating Depp…that just makes their age difference a little creepy.

The story also needs a bit of work.  The mystery of the person controlling the Horseman has one of the classic plot fails in that the filmmakers cast too big of a performer for a role that up until the big reveal, was way too small.  If you want to keep the real killer in a movie a secret and develop into a mystery, either make the person a major player in the story or have a minor actor play them.

One of the better parts of the movie is the nod of the hat to the Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  Ichabod finds himself riding his old horse at night pursued by the Headless Horseman and his flaming pumpkin.  The set up is great and has the croaking frogs seeming to be calling his name, and the revelation that the event is all a joke by Brom Bones (Casper Van Diem) and his friends all goes back to Washington Irving’s classic story.


Calgon! Take me away!

Though unbalanced, Sleepy Hollow is one of Tim Burton’s better “recent” films.  It has everything you love about Tim Burton, classic Johnny Depp weirdness, a relatively scary story, and incredible sets.  The Headless Horseman has always been a fear of mine, and it is brought to screen in impressive fashion.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @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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