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Sleepy Hollow

Rated R
Starring Johhny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken and Casper Van Dien

CineSight Rating ** 1/2

Constable Ichabod Crane (Depp) is a progressive New York cop, well, progressive for the year 1799 anyway. He's a man of science and logic, traits frowned upon and barely tolerated by his superiors. The city magistrate (a brief cameo by the legendary Christopher Lee) decides to test Crane's capabilities by sending him to investigate a bizarre case.

In the tiny upstate hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, people have quite literally been losing their heads. Crane sets up shop at the manor house of the wealthy Van Tassel family, and begins sleuthing. The new stranger attracts the attention of Katrina (Ricci), Van Tassel's curious daughter, and they strike up a friendship which inevitably blossoms into much more. Crane questions the prominent townsfolk and soon learns the terrifying story of the Headless Horseman. A Ruthless Germanic mercenary who was beheaded 20 years previously, the Horseman (Walken) has apparently returned to take his revenge on the town.

However, Crane is far from convinced with this superstitious explanation. He believes the killer is one of the local residents and vows to solve the crime. He doesn't have long to wait for hard evidence. Another victim is discovered and his examination provides some disturbing results. It isn't long before Crane comes face-to, er, neck with the angry apparition, trailing the Horseman to his burial place in the woods outside of town. In so doing, he uncovers a conspiracy in Sleepy Hollow connected to the increasing fury of the ghost.

SLEEPY HOLLOW is a mixed bag. While Washington Irving's classic short story is the perfect vehicle for oddball director Tim Burton (BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS), he tends to go a little over-the-top in trying to portray the rampant superstition of the eighteenth century as it clashes with the revolution in thought and technology. Also, in making his homage to the classic Hammer horror films of the 60's and early 70's, Burton sometimes pushes the 'gore factor' further than necessary.

Having said that, the film's greatest strength is it's rich production design. The tudor-meets-Scooby Doo architecture of the town is always draped in a veil of mist, which thickens to a creepy fog with the arrival of the Horseman. And the woods, filmed mostly outside London, England, convey the beauty and menace of isolation. The script has been well crafted, painting Ichabod Crane as the pecular outsider, a hero-figure that Burton really seems to identify with.