The Hollow
Director: Kyle Neuman

Director: Tim Burton

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

With Stacey Keach playing the crazy old codger who guards the cemetery & retells legendary local history, I had kind of expected the film to be at least moderately well made. And Keach certainly does steal the film from its young stars, though that's a bit like taking candy from babies.

The film plays around with Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," though one wonders if anyone actually read the story. Teenager Ian Cranston (Kevin Zegers), after retelling the story at a Halloween event for kids , admits he never read the original, but had seen the cartoon. This may be the scriptwriter's personal confession, as nobody in this film is aware that there is no supernatural event in the Irving's story, but only a hoax that scared cowardly Ichabod Crane out of town.

On the other hand, there's a love-triangle in the story that vaguely parallels the original story although it reverses the notion that Ichabod is an old geeky creepy suitor, making Ian quite a sweety-pie worthy of the useless heroin's affection. To that degree this film is closer to the source material than any other version; even the Johnny Depp vehicle preserves less of the original.

Ian is the great-great grandson of Ichabod Crane. His family recently moved to Sleepy Hollow where his bloodline reawakens the Headless Horseman (or the pumpkin-headed horseman) to behead anyone he can in his quest to extinguish Ichabod's descendants.

There are a couple of nicely staged beheadings but in the main the gore is not well done & there's not much of it. It's mostly about teenagers on a hayride through the fakiest of cemeteries on Halloween night. Ordinarily hayrides are provided in horsedrawn cart full of hay so that kids can lounge comfortably on the hay experiencing the simpler entertainments of an earlier age. This version of a hayride means sitting on the flatbed of a truck that has a couple hay bails for seats.

The pumpkin-headed menace rides about on his sleek black horse & kills a cop & a couple of kids never being the least bit scary. There's one CGI moment of a flying flaming jack-o-lantern that looks like exactly what it is, a cartoon. When the required amount of time has elapsed to qualify as feature length (though only barely, at 75 minutes), the monster is summarily killed with stunning ease.

I can imagine a "family night" of home viewing & wanting to let the younger kids believe they've been allowed to watch a horror movie, but without risk of trauma. Despite the R rating, it seems conscioiusly to be a tween film for elementary & junior highschool kids. The tale is too imature to interest actual teens, but preteens might relate to Backstreet Boy Nick Carter as the jock, Kaley Cuoco as the cheerleader, & Zeger as the brave young lad who doesn't like football.

Maybe in forty or fifty years when this film has acquired at least the charm of being vintage, it'll be as much fun as a dundering incompetent Ed Wood film. But for the present it's got damnably little.

Sleepy HollowHaving next to nothing to do with the Washington Irving's 1819 short story, Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999) stars Johnny Depp as New York city constable Ichabod Cane, circa 1799. He is assigned very much against his will a case from a sleepy little village, where murders have been blamed on a headless horseman.

Ichabod is a scientific detective & well knows the headless horseman is a hoax. Solve who is faking the horseman & you solve the crimes. Even after his own first encounter with the scary damned fellow, his belief in science is unshaken. But eventually he has to confess to the reality of the apparition, even while taking some solice in finding additionally a living felon.

The film is a disappointment. Depp plays the same deadpan comic role he plays all too often. He would not long after play it in virtually the same costume for in From Hell (2001) as a detective on the trail of Jack the Ripper, a film itself imperfect though far better film than Sleepy Hollow. So whoever is rewarded merely by seeing Depp do his usual schtick will be sufficiently rewarded by this slick FX oriented feature. But whoever wants his work with Burton to be as good as when he played Ed Wood (1994) will not be as pleased.

The story is extremely foolish & does no service to the original tale. Some interesting actors including the visually delightful Christina Ricci can scarsely get beyond their costuming in these cartoon roles. When Christopher Walken & Christopher Lee have their cameos, attention is momentarily grabbed, but then they're gone & we have to watch the rest of the cast thrash about overwhelmed by their clothes.

The film is beautifully constructed except that the finished product still feels like a construction. It got a richly deserved Oscar for art direction, but nothing else is quite as meritorious as the sets & costumes & computer FX, & in particular nothing is quite as glorious as the death-tree. When the most exciting presence is a tree, you know the actors have been betrayed. Sleepy Hollow is like an ornately stylish grocery sack with nothing in it but a spotty banana & a soft tomato.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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