The Test of Time: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, and Christopher Walken

With Halloween over and Thanksgiving approaching, we’re in that in-between time, where it still feels like fall (even though it’s 82 degrees here in Kansas) but we know winter is upon us. Fall remains my favorite time of year, so if any film can keep that feeling alive, I’m down. At the same time, since a HARRY POTTER spin-off will soon rule theaters telling us that a little magic does us good, it seems like a good time to revisit something in the horror/ fantasy realm, so why not a Tim Burton movie that actually remains worth a damn? Well, at least I hope it holds up against the Test of Time…

Under the examination: SLEEPY HOLLOW.

Crane should have his own line of glasses.

THE STORY: Offbeat, pale police constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to the foggy town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a strange string of murders, where the victims have had their heads lobbed off. Quickly, we learn about our potential murderer in the form of a sharpened toothed/wild screamer called the Hessian Horseman (Christopher Walken). As Crane keeps digging, it doesn’t take him long to not only find trouble and potential love (Christina Ricci), but to uncover a complicated conspiracy plot that includes good shit like murder, mayhem, and magic.

Walken reminds kids to always floss.

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Only a few weeks ago, Tim Burton had a $110 million film released, and I didn’t have a damn clue it existed. I don’t fit the target demo (obviously), but still, it’s the first film of his that I never heard a thing about. That explains something about where his career stands now as a filmmaker. The same goes for Johnny Depp. Most of his latest films have flopped, leaving me to conclude that his shtick has worn thin. They’ve sucked even the mud dry at the bottom of their creative well. But let’s not let that ruin what they did successfully, shown perfectly in SLEEPY HOLLOW.

While Depp and Burton collaborated on better films (ED WOOD remains their masterpiece), SLEEPY HOLLOW could be their most entertaining. It reeks of that Gothic style that Burton did so well, and Depp actually appears to enjoy the role. Even better, just as Sam Raimi loves beating the shit out of Bruce Campbell, Burton especially seems to dig making Depp ugly. Burton not only makes Crane (though intelligent) the ultimate wuss, but he appears to love watching Depp squirm and scream while drenched in blood.

Just another day without a head.

Then there are Burton’s collaborators. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who has provided lensing for THE REVENANT, GRAVITY, and CHILDREN OF MEN) makes the movie look timeless and perfect. The same could be said of Danny Elfman, who really captures the mood with a fantastic score. Sure, not as memorable as BATMAN, but still great. And let’s not overlook screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, who also gave the world SEVEN. It is a shame he hasn’t written a produced film since 2010’s THE WOLFMAN. Let’s hope he returns soon to give the world more cinematic darkness.

Depp's Blue Steel look.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: SLEEPY HOLLOW isn’t a perfect film, but if anything annoyed me, it’s those Crane flashbacks as a kid. Not only do we have lots and lots spinning around and around, not only do we get chubby faced little Crane (not sure why he bugs me but he does), but then there’s that damn cardinal in a cage sleight of hand that Depp and his mother keep twirling. We get it. It’s his crutch. That’s about as cheesy as it gets, and nothing is dated here yet.

Keep your eyes up here. 

THE VERDICT: SLEEPY HOLLOW serves as a fine example of Gothic styling as no one can combine horror, gore, and comedy with Burton in his prime. While he and Depp might or might not be able to recapture the magic they once had, at least we still have SLEEPY HOLLOW to remind fans what made their collaboration so good.



Depp looking into the future at his career. 

Source: Arrow in the Head

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