Tons of blood and other flaws turn legend into strange film

Most know the story of Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman and the terrorized town of Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton and writer Andrew Kevin Walker have made the classic tale deeper and darker, weaving their own subplots and adding to the narrative in their feature film, Sleepy Hollow (Paramount Pictures).

Johnny Depp (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) stars as the ideal Crane, a cowardly New York investigator who gradually accepts that something unnatural is killing the townspeople of Sleep Hollow. Christina Ricci (The Opposite of Sex) plays Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of one of the village’s leaders. Ricci’s emotions seem hollow and her damsel-in-distress character undeveloped. Christopher Walken towers as the villain, a menace who just wants his head back and isn’t concerned with much else.

The movie doesn’t waste time. It quickly becomes violent, and conspiracies whirl about the force controlling the Horseman and how he chooses his victims. The plot thickens, as does the darkness surrounding the community, and events proceed predictably.

A boy offers to help Crane avenge his father’s death. Crane uncovers the secrets of the town’s history, and the body count rises. Then a series of flashbacks fills in the audience and the mystery unravels. A driving score from Danny Elfman sets the pace for the film. The combined talents of Miranda Richardson (The Crying Game), Jeffrey Jones (Devil’s Advocate), Christopher Lee (A Tale of Two Cities), Ian McDiarmid (Return of the Jedi) and Lisa Marie (Mars Attacks!) shine as members of the supporting cast.

For those who enjoy Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood or The Nightmare Before Christmas, you will love Burton’s style in this film, too. Powerful images and dark tones create a mood that measures up to, and perhaps exceeds, the expectations set by his other work.

The director’s hand is everywhere. Amazing images such as a gnarled tree, the hunched over Horseman with his beautiful sword and mourning growl and the creepy forest of Sleepy Hollow grace the screen.

The cinematography is not jerky or rough, and it draws in the viewer. There’s humor that is as repulsive as it is compelling. And there are the twists and turns that are necessary for any suspense thriller.

Sleepy Hollow is a disturbing fantasy that is beautiful to watch, but the film has some problems. It is boring at times, and it seems to wander at others. Overall the film tries to be many ideas at once – a love story, a horror film and a detective’s tale. And in the end, Sleepy Hollow winds up just being odd.

Sleepy Hollow is playing in theaters.

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