Movie Review: Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is easily one of the most famous Halloween tales around. Who doesn’t know the story of the headless horseman? It’s part of American folklore. Its story of Ichabod Crane, school teacher, and his ill-fated meeting with the Headless Horseman.

Tim Burton approached the tale a little differently in his 1999 movie. He made Ichabod Crane an investigator rather than a school teacher. Heck, he took the tale and made it into a murder mystery. One of the ultimate who-dun-its that’s just so much fun to watch.


The set up for this movie was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. There was a murder in the town of Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod was sent up to the town to prove his methods could be used to solve crimes. In other words, he had to pit his reason (the scientific method, investigation, research) against age old superstition and ‘common sense’ explanations. The story was surprisingly complex and well done. There were so many subplots and themes running through the movie that came together at the end. Like Ichabod struggling with his mother’s execution by his zealot father. Or Ichabod’s reason clashing with Katrina’s witchcraft.

Here’s what I truly love about the movie. Ichabod saw the Headless Horseman kill a man right in front of him. Chopped off the guy’s head clean off.

1a25e6aeddc189cd01adddbe95d6bb31He lost his mind for a little bit after that. But when he was able to calm down, he realized the Horseman was after that specific man and left him alone. That told him that the Horseman did not act at random but was working on behalf of someone else; a mortal agent that somehow controlled the Horseman. His investigation then took two fronts. One of them examined who was targeted by the Horseman so far and looked for common links between them.

Chances are, you’ve seen this movie. If you haven’t, go see it. I don’t think it’s on Netflix, but you can pick it up fairly cheap on Amazon or any other site that sells DVDs/Bluerays. You’re in for a special treat. You can thank me later. Go. Now!

For everyone else…

You have to watch the movie again! It was made in 1999 and it holds up well! That’s because Burton avoided computerized special effects as much as he could, relying on set designs, wardrobe, and make-up to carry the effects. I have never seen such a masterful job. Burton went out of his way to create a visual experience that pulls the audience in from the first scene all the way to the last. Rather than going on and on and on, I’m giving you a small collection of pictures so you can see it for yourself. Take a look at how the colors are all intentionally dull, yet vibrant. They all call attention to the actor’s face, when appropriate. Or how the set design creates a place of looming darkness, where the hero has to succeed against unknown forces.

The last thing I want to mention is Danny Elfman’s soundtrack. This soundtrack is my 2nd favorite soundtrack of all time. Whenever I’m running Ravenloft, I play it. Heck, when I need to set a somber mood for any game I run, I play it. Listen to it for yourself. I just did. Man, it still sends chills up my spine. The small child’s high-pitched singing… the slow build of all the instruments getting louder and louder.. threatening to overwhelm everything. Man, Elfman outdid himself.

As I said, you need to see this movie. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, you have to see it now. If you already watched it before, watch it again! And you’re welcome 🙂


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