Friday 12 April 2013

Film: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

I don't normally watch horror films, but this one seems to have been well regarded so I thought I'd give it a try. The year is 1799 and scientifically-minded law officer Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent from New York to investigate a series of killings in which the victims are decapitated. He is told of the local legend of a headless horseman, a mercenary killed in the Revolutionary War, who is blamed for the murders. As the disbelieving Crane systematically investigates possible motives for the killings he is disconcerted to meet the headless horseman in person, and his search then becomes a race against time to find a way of stopping the murders as the bodies mount up.

The film was directed by Tim Burton and is a visual pleasure, rich in atmosphere, with the impressive cast effectively conveying the superstition of the times.  However, it is decidedly "over the top" in cranking up the drama to levels which sometimes become rather laughable. I prefer more subtlety and ambivalence in dealing with this kind of theme; more uncertainty as to what is real, what is a product of the characters' imaginations and what might just be supernatural. The 2011 film The Awakening, which I reviewed here last August, is an excellent example of what I mean and is far more to my taste, with a much more adult and thoughtful script. In contrast, Sleepy Hollow is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. I can imagine horror fans liking it, but it left me unengaged.


I'm now into the second season of three SFF TV series I'm working through on DVD: Game of Thrones, Fringe, and Warehouse 13. What's more, the second season of Once Upon a Time has just started on UK TV. All very different from each other, but all delivering addictive entertainment. Next I aim to try Continuum, a Canadian series about a detective from the future hunting criminals who have escaped back in time – to the present day. Sounds promising.


Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I rather liked Sleepy Hollow.

Anthony G Williams said...

Well, if we all liked the same things it would be a boring world! :-)