[Movie Review] Sleepy Hollow (1999) ★★★★★

Ichabod Crane

Sleepy Hollow conjures up a dark magical fairytale of death and rolling heads.

Sleepy Hollow is a supernatural magical fairytale brought to life by Tim Burton. It is based on the story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Isaac Washington in 1820. With a fantastical new spin, Sleepy Hollow is a mix between a quirky love story and a horror story about the Headless Horseman who cuts off the heads of the people in Sleepy Hollow. With great practical and special effects it turns into a dark fairytale for adults that children will also love. With some gruesome flashbacks, some killer scenes and beautiful art decoration and set design this is a perfect watch for Halloween or when the leaves are starting to fall. 

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New York police officer Ichabod Crane has his very own research methods and dissects corpses to find out more about the crime. Because he’s a nuisance to the New York police, he is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a strange death. When he arrives the whole town is under the spell of the Headless Horseman. But Ichaboc thinks there is a rational explanation for all of it. He gets help from a boy young Masbath and a beautiful young lady Katrina van Tassel. It’s not until he sees this Headless Horseman for himself that he believes something very sinister is going on and he is determined to find out what, if only to save Katrina.

Why you should watch it

Sleepy Hollow is a wonderful mix of a love story, a mystery, witchcraft, the supernatural, greed and revenge and a town full of cowardly people. It mixes different believes and concepts like witchcraft, religion and science, intertwining them into a compelling tale. The film looks absolutely amazing. The art decoration, the costumes, the set designs, it all feels like a dark fairytale. With a dark foreboding atmosphere, some gruesomely chopped off heads and a dark mystery with a lot of magical elements this is a delightful tale that feels like autumn.

The characters are very well-crafted. Ichabod is a bit quirky, smart, with his steampunk-like devices which he himself has invented. He is slightly comical, but he is also a bit of a coward and with a very dark past. His past is shown with ominous flashbacks and add to a surreal vibe, that was actually a real-life nightmare that he went through as a little boy. Young Masbath embodies innocence, bravery, loyalty and curiosity. While Katrina blends ratio with witchcraft and courage. The townspeople aren’t only under the spell of the Hessian brought back to life, but also live in fear of this supernatural force and in fear of religion that they think will save them. 

The magical fairytale elements, with the old crone, Katrina’s protection spell and the magical appearances and summoning of the Headless Horseman are visually scary and wonderful at the same time. And while it is a dark fairytale, it never feels childish or lame. It’s the typical style of Tim Burton who can bring a fairytale to life that is actually very believable and wonderfully creepy. The background is full with foggy grounds, scarecrows and pumpkins. The forest is covered with fallen leaves and you can feel the crispy leaves crackle under the horses’ hooves. The whole atmosphere breaths a spooky vibe, just by looking at it. The cinematography, the shots enhance a gothic dark style that perfectly befits the whole vibe of the story. 

The romance is intertwined with the mystery and sets Ichabod more than once on the wrong track. It really adds more body to the story, without becoming too much of a love story. In fact the original story was a love story. 

Tim Burton is a master in storytelling and in bringing the most fantastical tales to life. He really knows how to shape a fairytale into a dark atmosphere that is enchanting and terrifying at the same time. As always his characters are amazing, from the main characters to the superstitious townspeople. He mixes the art decoration, the lighting, sound effects, music and character development into an authentic vibe that is very distinctive and creates his own style of telling a compelling story that is heartwarming, scary and funny at the same time. 

My favorite part

The Tree of the Dead is indeed an element of horror and is the crown of the magical elements. Here everything comes together, the Headless Horseman, the one who summoned him, the love story, the heroes and the ending of the mystery and putting a stop to it all. It’s a great magical ending that has some horror elements, feels gothic and theatrical and sums up the whole film.


Rating: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★

Cast and crew

Sleepy Hollow is directed by Tim Burton and based on the novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow written by Isaac Washington in 1820. The screenplay is written by Kevin Yagher, Andrew Kevin Walker. It stars Johnny Depp (Ichabod Crane), Christina Ricci (Katrina Van Tassel), Marc Pickering (Young Masbath), Miranda Richardson (Lady Van Tassel), Michael Gambon (Baltus Van Tassel), Casper Van Dien (Brom Van Brunt), Jeffrey Jones (Reverend Steenwyck), Richard Griffiths (Magistrate Philipse), Lisa Marie (Lad Crane), Christopher Walken (Headless Horseman). 

Duration: 105 minutes. Music: Danny Elfman. Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki. Edited by: Chris Lebenzon, Jole Negron. Produced by: Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder. Production company: Mandalay Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions, American Zoetrope, Tim Burton Productions. Distributed by: Paramount Pictures.

Check the trailer below

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