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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Monster > Gothic > Sleepy Hollow (HD-DVD)

Sleepy Hollow (1999/HD-DVD)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: C-



Johnny Depp is hotter than ever commercially and it is no surprise Paramount has made his star turn in Tim Burton’s Francis Ford Coppola-co-produced Sleepy Hollow from 1999 as one of their first HD-DVD releases.  He plays Icabod Crane, the man haunted by the murderous, legendary Headless Horseman.  Unfortunately, the film was never great, was the third of a disappointing trilogy of classical monster films Coppola (usually so great) started with his own Dracula & Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein and just drags on and on.


As a matter of fact, when asked what I though about the film upon its initial theatrical release, I would tell all that “it made me sleepy because it was very hollow” or some equivalent that would get a laugh.  Seriously though, Burton once again seems more interested in a mood piece or trying to be artsy as if being scary is below him and he never has made an effective Horror thriller unless he was yucking it up on some level.  You can think of this film as one of his Horror/Comedy projects minus the comedy.  Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Jeffrey Jones, a very wasted Casper Van Dien just off of the far superior Paul Verhoeven epic Starship Troopers and an even more wasted Christopher Walken as The Headless Horseman (hardly given enough screen time to scare anyone) also star.


Of course, there are people who like this and think craftsmanship and technical efficiency are enough for them to go out and get this film, but you would think that Se7en and 8mm writer Andrew Kevin Walker could (with co-writer/co-producer Kevin Yagher) have had more excitement than the final product does.  This could not even put a patch on the even darker Depp film From Hell, the Hughes Brothers’ grossly underrated jack The Ripper film.  As a matter of fact, the animated TV version is more entertaining and with a cast like this, this live-action Sleepy Hollow remains a huge disappointment.  


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot very stylistically by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki with production design by Rick Heinrichs so close to the sketches, it seems too plastic.  This is one of the films that set the dangerous precedent of synthetic-looking films where the unnatural is somehow an acceptable substitute for the natural, which has only grown worse with the digital age.  Color and detail is still a little better than the now-older standard DVD, but it is limited by the compromises made to create the surreal look of the film.  The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 and DTS 5.1 are both problematic with a sound imbalance throughout that has too many sudden volume bursts and sound drops.  I don’t remember this being a problem on the standard DVD.  Be careful when playing this one back on your system.  Extras include two featurettes, audio commentary by Burton, HD teaser and HD trailer.


Overall, a real disappointment from a greatly overrated film that always falls short.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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