As I sit down to write this blog post, I find myself posed with a difficult question: What do I say about a film that is hated by some, and beloved by others? Do I talk about how the film’s tone changes randomly throughout the film? Perhaps I should speak about this film’s Oscar win for set design, and how it is seen as a technical marvel by some critics. Maybe I should address the films use of atmosphere and style? Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter what I say, because I am just one person trying to answer a question that has been asked by many before me: What do I say about Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow?
Set in 1799, Sleepy Hollow follows Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, a detective who is sent to the small village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of decapitations where the only suspect is the legendary Headless Horseman. Had this film been done by anyone other than Tim Burton, that would be all this film is; a supernatural investigative film. However, Burton has used his wacky imagination to make a simple sounding story so much more. The films alternates tones constantly, playing out like a horror movie in some scenes, and a comedy in others. The film is, surprisingly, filled to the brim with gore, romance, character drama, surrealism and comedy, and somehow it all works together. Although the constant changes in tone can get a bit annoying, the film has an extra layer in charm and atmosphere that isn’t present in a lot of films these days due to this. The atmosphere of the film adds to every element of the film, with the dark color tone making the horrific elements creepier, and adding to an overall sense of dread that the film gives off.
Another thing that is important to note in this film is that a great amount of inspiration came from other; older films. Tim Burton as acknowledged that this film is greatly influenced by the Gothic horror films of Hammer Productions, a company known for their horror films in the 1950’s and 60’s. The company made classics such as “Dracula” and “The Curse of Frankenstein”. The company’s influence is seen in the minor details of Sleepy Hollow, but they add something to this movie that other wise wouldn’t have been there. The comically red blood in Sleepy Hollow, for example, is a staple of Hammer Horror, and isn’t used much today due to its unrealistic look. Tim Burton capitalized on this, and uses this blood to both horrific and comical effect. Burton also includes a cameo of the late Christopher Lee, who was Dracula in Hammer Horror’s productions. Burton also includes homages to other horror films and books throughout the movie, with entire scenes paying homage to one horror property or another. Small additions like this make Burton’s world a truly magical one to behold, even though many people may not understand many of the references that can be found throughout the film.
The creative choices behind this film make Burton’s adaptation of Sleepy Hollow a true gem in my eyes. Despite all my praise for it, however, I by no means expect everyone to share my love for it. For many people, this film is just one big, dumb adaptation that doesn’t deserve any praise. The film has its flaws, as all films do, but I don’t think this film deserves the amount of hate it receives. As you may have noticed, I have avoided mentioning too much of the plot, characters,or major themes of the film and that is because some of this movie just cannot be put into words, and has to be seen to truly understand it. I hope everyone who watches this movie enjoys it as much as I do, but if you end up thinking this film is trash, I can’t blame you.
By Mason Purnell