"Sleepy Hollow" was a film that, more or less, had the right elements in play before production even started. Who better to direct a wonderfully gloomy tale like "Hollow" than Tim Burton, and who better to star than Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci? Watching the final product, I have to say that all of the elements added up to something grand and impressive, with production design and cinematography that is nothing short of breathtaking.
This is not exactly the same story, but generally, is partially the story we all know so well. The story starts with a series of murders in the upstate New York town of Sleepy Hollow; we are then taken to New York City, where detective Ichabod Crane(Depp) has just been dispatched to investigate. He begins to meet the townspeople one by one, and comes to the conclusion that this is no "spirit", it's simply a murderer - and he sets out to find the criminal.
Soon enough though, he finds out up close that this is nothing of the ordinary, and that the horseman is a reality. Depp is absolutely perfect as Crane, a goofy, scared man who must face his fears - Depp not only dissapears into the role, he adds subtle touches of humor to the character that help along the movie quite well. As amazed as I was by the look of the picture, I was also a little grossed out by the violence, which shows just about everything. Either way, Burton has made a triumph of design; sets that are spooky down to the last detail, and a cast of well-written characters to populate this creepy little town. There's a few little things about "Sleepy Hollow" that didn't work, but for the most part, I found this to be a great film.
VIDEO: Paramount's anamorphic transfer for "Sleepy Hollow" is magnificent. It's not the most colorful picture in the world, no doubt, but it certainly is a beautifully gloomy one in its own ways, and the treatment it has recieved from Paramount is nothing short of top-notch. Images are razor sharp, and clarity, even in the midst of all of the fog and mist, is still very pleasing. Flesh tones are accurately pale and dreary, and colors, well... Colors are almost non-existent, save for the occasional red and some underlying browns.
I was instantly stunned by the look that director Tim Burton and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki("Great Expectations", "Meet Joe Black") were able to accomplish with this picture; I've rarely ever seen a film with a tone as strongly built as this one; there is a beauty to the gloom that's almost unexplainable. Well, moving on from my praise of the production, let me say that there are no flaws visible - no pixelation, no shimmering, and the print used is in absolutely crystal clear condition. Very fine work from Paramount, adding to their growing list of titles with strong image quality.
SOUND: The audio does become agressive at times, but the one consistent is Danny Elfman's fantastically spooky score; lingering in the air during the dialogue scenes, it gains full force during some of the more intense sequences. It, like the rest of the audio for the movie, can be both perfectly subtle and impressively powerful. Surround use is both effective and entertaining, making for an enjoyably scary experience. Dialogue is clear, but a little edgy now and then.
MENUS:: There could really have been some stunning animation put into play to introduce viewers into the world of "Sleepy Hollow", but Paramount has seemingly chosen to keep things simple with a very basic menu design that pretty much takes film-themed images to design the menus - they're easily navigated, but there's just not much to them.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Tim Burton. It's not quite as entertaining as the commentary that he provided with actor Paul Rubens for Pee Wee's Big Adventure, but it does provide some very interesting production details at times - we even find out what choice of horses were used for the characters and why.
The commentary mainly offers Burton giving a relaxed discussion of what is on-screen and what happened on the set, as well as some of the tricks that went into making some of the scenes happen. He also comments once on the violence that the film shows, saying "we decided not to shy away from that." He also jokes about an element of Depp's performance, remarking, "there he is, one of the best fainters in the business." There are quite a few funny comments scattered throughout the discussion, making for an entertaining listen.
There are definitely a few more pauses in this commentary than I'd like, but when Burton does chat about the film, he does provide a strong picture of what it took for the production of "Sleepy Hollow" to bring the film to the screen. It's not the best commentary I've heard lately, but there are some fun bits of information within.
"The Making Of Sleepy Hollow": This is a "making of" documentary that, pleasingly, lasts about 30 minutes and takes us deep into Burton's production of the horror tale. Although it's kind of promotional in nature at times, talking about the story and characters in a general way, there are also some great looks at the production, including on-set footage that was entertaining to see.
The interviews are interesting, but not the highlight. Once that's done, the documentary actually gets into the details of things like making molds of the heads and all of the physical and computer generated visual effects. The documentary even takes the viewer into the process of recording the score with composer Danny Elfman. I was really impressed by this documentary and I think it's one of the best I've seen included with a DVD this year so far.
Trailers: The theatrical and teaser trailers, unfortunately only in 2.0 sound.
Reflections on "Sleepy Hollow": Another documentary, this one mainly features interviews with the cast and crew, with a few little clips from the movie in-between; makes for interesting viewing once, but not beyond that. Burton, Depp, Ricci and more offer their viewpoint on the production.
Also: Cast/crew bios.
Final Thoughts: This is a fine job from Paramount; the audio and video quality are very, very good - the Burton commentary is a good, but slightly dissapointing as there are a few too many moments of silence. The main documentary is a very nicely done one, with looks at all elements of the production from the characters to the effects. As for the movie itself, I was impressed greatly - this is both entertaining and technically incredibly well done, providing an unbelivable sense of tone and atmosphere. I'm definitely going to recommend "Sleepy Hollow".
The Film A-
Video 97/A = (388/400 possible points)
Audio: 93/A = (372/400 possible points)
Extras: 85/B = (255/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- (140/200 possible points)
Value: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: A-
DVD GRADE: B