Sleepy Hollow (1999)
5th January 2001
When a budding forensic policeman is called in to investigate a series of murders in the small village of Sleepy Hollow in the 1700s it is far from a open and shut case. The victims' bodies have all been found without their heads and legend has it that a headless horseman roams the haunted woods at night.
At first Crane does not believe in the headless horseman thinking that the myth is being exploited by a murderer. He uses what seem to be odd devices to the people of Sleepy Hollow to track down the horseman, but as he gets closer, he realises that the horseman is a very real threat.
The region one NTSC disc picture quality is reasonable, but not as good as Paul expected it to be. He felt that they should have gone the extra mile to ensure the dark picture was as good as it could be. However, the region two PAL edition, with the extra picture information, gave some excellent results with some fantastic amount of detail.
Although the colours were deliberately bland, with only the bloody remains standing out, both discs managed to produce a sharp and concise picture. If the film companies spent more time and effort, and with earlier release dates, on the non-region one editions then there would be no problems with imports. The superior PAL picture should always win, and with this virtually continuously dark picture it does. However, the bleaching process used to "tone" the picture down was, I thought, a little over the top and spoilt the picture somewhat. Perhaps this problem is exasperated by the NTSC to PAL conversion process on the region one disc.
On both discs the sound is excellent, with superb use of the surround channels both in effects and music. When you pump up the volume and shut your eyes you could almost be back in a cinema as the headless horseman charges past you from the front to the rears. There's plenty of spooky ambient effects in the rear channel along with the usual haunting Tim Burton soundtrack booming from each channel. At the time of the region two release there were rumours of the region two disc coming with an additional DTS soundtrack. Unfortunately this never happened as Pathé backed down, which is a shame as I'm sure that a DTS soundtrack would have mind-blowing.
Although the extras on both editions are virtually identical, but if a little bland with a hap-hazard director's commentary from Tim Burton, the region two edition does come with some pleasantly animated menus. The region one edition looks like someone has just scanned in a poster and slapped menu items over it.
The film is based on a fairy tale and is brought to life by the master of dark and gothic movies, Tim Burton. It has a very Batman feel about it with dark eerie scenes everywhere. Even in the light of day, it looks like a storm is going to break out at any moment.
The ever versatile Johnny Depp is superb as the slightly cowardly Crane, and actually comes across as quite funny. As ever, Christina Ricci looks her lovely self, and a far cry from her days in the Adams Family. As usual, Christopher Walken plays an evil character and looks particularly menacing, well at least whilst he has his head on, with his pointed teeth and pale skin.
As far as the film goes, it's all very enjoyable, but ultimately a little shallow. Certainly some things don't make sense like the Windmill exploding when it was merely on fire and there were no explosives in it!
It certainly looks like the region two edition is the winner over its region one big brother, proving that it is sometimes worth the extra wait. It's just a pity that DTS soundtrack never made it to the region two edition. If you enjoy the twisted world of Tim Burton then you'll love this film. You might even want to consider his classic Edward Scissorhands but then again, you probably already have...