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No, I'm Definitely Not Sleepy

 

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I keep waiting for Tim Burton to make another Nightmare Before Christmas. Since that hasn't happened yet (hey, I can hope), I'll take what I can get. Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that Burton comes closer than ever to Nightmare's whimsical ghoulishness with the nightmares and dreamscapes of Sleepy Hollow.  

Based on the famous Washington Irving story, Sleepy Hollow tells the tale of Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp), a scientist with an inventive bag of gadgets who comes to the eponymous town to investigate a series of murders by decapitation. Alas, poor Ichabod steps into a ghost story instead, as the locals attribute the murders to the Headless Horseman. Fortunately for Ichabod, he also steps into a love story when he meets the local virgin blossom, Katrina Von Tassel (Christina Ricci). 

Sleepy Hollow is a genuinely spooky film, with a spark of 100 percent circa Nightmare Tim Burton. (Jack Skellington even makes a cameo appearance.) Some critics opine that Burton doesn't delve far enough into his own fantastic landscape. Nonetheless, Sleepy Hollow offers an effective ghost story. And I've never seen such judicious use of a fog machine. 

Although the score (by Danny "Jack Skellington" Elfman) is brilliant, the gorgeous photography proves the film's standout element. When you see the movie, just watch for the visual image when "Directed by Tim Burton" is on the screen. It tells you all you need to know. Except for Katrina, Burton renders every element and inhabitant of the haunted town in muted and moody tones, drained of color. Crimson drops of blood provide the only real brightness. And there's plenty of blood.  

Equal parts macabre and good-natured, the script charts a satisfyingly twisty course through the movie. Although I found some elements of the resolution predictable, I would bet that the majority of the audience will be surprised to some extent.  

The cast gives uniformly excellent performances. Depp plays Ichabod Crane with a surprising amount of wit, and Christina Ricci has the radiant presence of a pale Botticelli angel. The headless horseman is sufficiently frightening -- especially when he wears Christopher Walken's head.  

The night I saw this film, we had some really powerful winds, which made it almost impossible to sleep. Before drifting off, I made the mistake of calling to mind a particularly frightening flashback scene from Sleepy Hollow (as if the kid who plays young Ichabod isn't frightening enough all by himself.) I remained awake for a good hour, listening to the wind making noises that sounded a lot like someone opening our front door and walking through our house. Visions of my head being skewered like an olive danced through my head. 

Finally, I got up and bravely went through the darkened apartment. I closed the windows. I locked the deadbolt on the doors. And, uneasily, I slept. 

Monique V.

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