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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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Bruce and Christy and Jacob and Amy went to see this.  I tagged along.

It's a very Burton-esque film.  I recognized some of the visual style and techniques from Beetlejuice and Nightmare Before Christmas.  Also some of the humor.   In particular, they had an eye bug-out scene like Bettlejuice, and Ichabod's contraptions felt like they were from Nightmare.  Some of Burton's earlier movies didn't really grab me.  Sometimes his special effects get in the way and the actors come across flat.  But this movie worked pretty well.  Now that I think about it, there are several Burton regulars among the cast, as well.

Speaking of the cast, I thought everyone fit very well.  Depp played his role really well.  It was an interesting blend of confidence and wimpiness.  Some of his delivery felt a lot like he was parodying William Shatner.  Christina looked pretty yummy.  Christopher Walken played a pretty good monsterous bad guy.

I don't remember the entire story from my childhood, so I'm not sure how close this follows it.  I don't remember Ichabod Crane being a detective from New York.  I suppose they made him an outsider to provide an opportunity for exposition.  As with most supernatural movies, they have to do a lot of explaining.  There was quite a lot early on, and then they had the big bad guy exposition at the end to tie up all the loose ends.  And of course, since they couched it as a mystery there was the big revelation by Ichabod.  That sounds like a lot of talking, but they managed to space it out pretty well.  I don't think the movie dragged too much as a result.  I simply notice the expository scenes more than I used to.

One minor problem I had with the plot was that the names of too many of the characters were too similar.  I found it impossible to keep them all straight.  And since geneology and intermarraiges play a role in the mystery, that made it hard for me to follow.  There was no way I was going to solve the mystery on my own.

The movie has quite a bit of blood, and several heads roll.  But they don't dwell on the gore and try to gross the audience out.  Even early on when Ichabod studies his first body and they show the neck stump on the body for several seconds, it's sanitized enough that it's not too uncomfortable.  Plus, they intersperse a lot of humor to defuse the gore.  For example, twice they squirted blood onto Depp from off-camera.  It was so obviously from the wrong direction that I think maybe they did it on purpose.

Making Ichabod a detective who depends on rationality thrust into a supernatural setting is pretty interesting all in itself.  Sort of a humorous, supernatural Name of the Rose character.  They really make it work.  About midway through he buys into the supernatural situation, but they didn't try to turn it into a big life-altering event.  He just accepts it and plows on ahead, relying on what he does understand.   That works because it fits his personality.  He's very goal-oriented, and his goal is to solve this case.

I'm also glad they didn't payoff the suspenseful scenes with a cheap startling scare.   There's a little bit of that during the chase scenes, but they keep things moving and don't dwell on the cheap thrill like the bad horror films tend to do.  The final chase scene played a lot like a supernatural Terminator.  It just keeps coming and coming.

On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Rental with Dinner.  A fun horror movie.   They use lots of humor to break up the gore.

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Last modified: July 17, 2004
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