‘Member when Tim Burton wasn’t just phoning it in?

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I remembered liking this film when I was younger, but as I viewed it for a review, I realized how much of the movie I had forgotten. One thing that will stand out to anyone who views the movie now will be how many familiar faces are packed into this movie.

Tim Burton’s artistic integrity seems to be slipping as of late. Film after film with the same aesthetic and actors makes for a boring and predictable viewing experience. For Sleepy Hollow, it seems that he still cared here. The bleak design of the film makes for a decent atmosphere of carnival-like frights and a competent mystery. I cannot say how effective the mystery is as I remembered who the main villain was—though the film does have some interesting turns to throw off suspicion onto others.

The elephant in the room is how much the story diverts from Washington Irving’s original tale. Aside from location and character names, there isn’t a whole lot that links the story to its source material. Some people (heck probably some of my coworkers) would disavow this film for that reason alone. I give adaptations a lot of leeway; perhaps too much. It has never bothered me when a story takes liberties—no matter how much they deviate. Adaptation serves as a repetition with a difference. We should focus on the differences done and analyze them from there.

Here we have Burton’s Sleepy Hollow and not Irving’s. Which is better? Hard to say, honestly. I don’t know how a film of the original would be received by most audiences. Burton’s style plucked the more mysterious aspects and dropped some of the more troubling. Our smart, but cowardly Constable Crane works to figure out why the horseman has returned in this version.

Where does the film not work? Burton’s obsession with low cut dresses (including a scene with a mother and son that is oddly sexualized) distract from the plot. The decision to have the final act become an extended action sequence was also disruptive to the mood the film worked to create.

Burton has never captivated me in the same way that he has many others. This is a decent film with a fun aesthetic. Fun is a good way to describe this film—for a decent, fun, film with a gothic twist, this will serve well. 6.5/10

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