Review by Michael Jacobson
Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Casper Van Dien,
Director: Tim Burton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: May 23, 2000
Tim Burton does much more than
make movies…he creates entire worlds of endless fantasy, dreamlike atmosphere,
and limitless potential for comedy, horror, or magic…or sometimes all three.
He was responsible for the zany comedy classics Beetlejuice
and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.
Then the world was taken aback when it was learned that he, of all
directors, would bring the much anticipated Batman
to the big screen. He silenced
critics by creating a dark, ambient, moody comic book world the likes of which
had not been seen in cinema—but then, fell out of favor just as quickly with
the sequel Batman Returns by focusing
a little too much on the dark atmosphere and neuroses of the main characters.
Throughout his career, he has given fans much to marvel at, including his
animated production Nightmare Before Christmas, his touching fairy tale Edward
Scissorhands, and his masterpiece tribute to the life and times of Ed
Those latter films teamed Burton
with actor Johnny Depp, and the two reunite once again for the director's
latest opus of vision and fantasy, Sleepy
Hollow. Depp, an actor with
amazing range and depth, and seemingly a new voice for every occasion, plays
Washington Irving's legendary character Ichabod Crane.
And by the way, if you don't yet know who plays his nemesis, the
Headless Horseman, don't let ANYBODY tell you until you've seen for
Crane is a New York constable in
1799, and is a man of science in a judicial world that still practices torturing
confessions out of suspects. He
believes forensics can take police work into the next century, and his superiors
give him a chance to prove just that by sending him to the little town of Sleepy
Hollow. There, he must try to solve
a series of bizarre murders involving decapitations and missing heads, holding
on to his scientific beliefs against a town given to superstition.
Or is it superstition?
After witnessing more and more inexplicable events, Crane begins to
wonder if the legend of the so-called Headless Horseman is indeed frighteningly
As mentioned, Depp gives another
excellent performance in this film, as do the entire cast of supporting
characters (Christina Ricci in particular).
But the heart of the picture is Tim Burton's vision, and it is one of
the most amazing he's ever offered. The
town is quiet and dreary, seemingly a lost remnant of somebody's dream.
The mist that rolls in actually seems to weigh heavy, even extinguishing
the torches it covers. The woods
are a twisted, wretched, creepy throwback to the best of German expressionistic
horror, and the way Burton uses his “natural” images to frame foreground
action will remind you of some of the classics of the genre, including Nosferatu
and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Burton and his team also weave
impeccable art direction and set design with flawless special effects and
CGI's, which bring the horror and suspense that much more to life.
I should take a moment and point out to fans that this picture is
considerably more violent than what you might expect from Tim Burton.
It's not overdone, but there are enough disturbing images to satisfy
the nature of the story.
In the end, I think this picture
could be considered one of Burton's finest efforts. I have read a critical complaint or two that proclaim this
movie shallow, but in all fairness, you could say the same thing about
Washington Irving's original story. It
was never meant to be a deep, provocative character study. It was meant to be the kind of creepy campfire story that
would keep you up in your tent all night, ever watchful for the distant
footsteps of the ghostly equestrian.
This is an outstanding anamorphic transfer from Paramount,
a studio that is steadily climbing in terms of quality DVD's, in my opinion.
Some have referred to this movie as being a color film shot like a black
and white one, and I think this transfer really helps one appreciate that
notion. There is a wide array of
bright whites and light colors contrasting against deep blacks and strong darks,
which helps the picture create its off-kilter image.
The results are beautiful: no
evidence of grain, compression, color bleeding or distracting nicks and scars.
Images are crisp and sharp when called for, purposely a bit softer in
certain segments, though there's no doubt when and where they are supposed to
be that way. Color rendering is
excellent, and detail is consistently remarkable, even in deep focus shots.
A real treat.
The 5.1 mix featured on this disc is extraordinarily
dynamic…almost too much.
It will proceed at a normal level for a period, then come exploding out
of your speakers at such a high level, you might have to make a dive for your
remote. The .1 channel is given
good use in stormy sequences and sudden bursts of bottom end from Danny
Elfman's score, along with a few good rumblings during action scenes.
I only wish the rear channels had been accessed a little more.
There are a few too many long stretches where they aren't noticeable,
though when they kick in, the overall audio ambience is quite satisfactory.
The disc contains a commentary track by director Burton, a
“Behind the Legend” featurette, a collection of cast and crew interviews,
two trailers, talent files, and a photo gallery.
Consider Tim Burton's version the ultimate Sleepy Hollow film…if all you've ever seen was that goofy Disney short with Bing Crosby, you haven't experienced the true surrealistic horror of this classic American fairy tale. This is a beautifully realized movie on an outstanding DVD; a richly drawn fantasy world as only Burton could deliver, and one you might want to visit time and time again.