Halloween Horror Month: ‘Sleepy Hollow’


Tim Burton’s adaption of ‘Sleepy Hallow’ is a perfect movie for those interested in getting in the Halloween spirit. This mysterious and spooky make of ‘Sleepy Hallow’ is a must watch and a Halloween classic. Graphic by Emily Malone.

Emily Malone, Photographer

A more horrific twist on a story we were all told as children Tim Burton’s adaptation of Sleepy Hollow deals with murder, a deal with the devil, and revenge on a town. Hitting the theaters in 1999 the movie is described on Google as a gothic/fantasy and you could not use any more perfect words to describe Tim Burton and his movies. You cannot have Halloween and not watch at least one Tim Burton movie. People often go for his classics like The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride, or Beetlejuice. Sleepy Hollow should be right there with them as it provides a different perspective of a timeless children’s Halloween story.

Sleepy Hollow is a story we are all familiar with. If you haven’t read the short story by Washington Irvin or seen the short animated movie by Disney you still know the name and have heard of it’s iconic antagonist the Headless Horseman. Tim Burton took that and twisted into a movie full of blood splatters, mystery and a twist ending. Sleepy Hollow focuses more on telling Burton’s version of the classic story then scarring the watcher till they have nightmares about the movie years later. This is not the only time Burton has done this as he has his own adaptation of Alice In Wonderland. I personally love the way Burton makes well known stories his own. Rather than making another Cinderella story, Burton twists stories and makes them new and unique. He loves highlighting the oddest of characters because he was once an odd character himself and felt outcasted because of it. I love the way Burton does that and gives children the realization that they are not alone and it is ok to be weird. While the film does fill the watcher with a sense of discomfort. Ichabod, a self proclaimed man of science, goes into the town immediately feeling uncomfortable and a dark presence he tries to ignore. In the story, the town is said to have some kind of dark influence hanging, pervading the town. The influence is felt in the movie and by the watcher. The atmosphere of the town tells you something  is wrong and misfortune is bound to ensue. It’s unsettling and mysterious as you do not know what it is that makes you feel this way or what will happen to you, but you can’t shake the feeling something will. I am not really a fan of horror movies but I still want to watch spooky movies in the spirit of Halloween and Sleepy Hollow, really any Tim Burton movie, is perfect to do that.

The movie adaptation strays slightly from the original story, changing Ichabod’s profession from school teacher to constable sent to investigate the three recent decapitations in the town. Along with changing the profession of the main protagonist, the amount of witchcraft featured is also shifted. The changes are interesting and give the story a different edge. You see a man of science have his entire world view changed with the knowledge that witchcraft is possible and I think that just makes the story more interesting. Ichabod tries to explain the supernatural and unreasonable with science and reason, which is something we can all relate to.The story takes place in the 1700’s, a time in which witches were burned at the stake, however in the Washington Irving story the town is plagued with witchcraft. The town itself is said to have a depressing veil over it and it’s towns people are no strangers to magic and curses. In the story Ichabod himself dabbles in the dark arts, however in the movie he refuses to believe in curses specifically that of the Headless Horseman. Witchcraft is limited to three characters in the movie rather than the whole town. The magic that is in the movie is used by one character to raise the Headless Horseman from his grave to get revenge on the town her family was wronged by. I loved the way Burton twisted the use of magic into a revenge story. It shifted the story from a ghost haunting a town to a spirit being used for the bidding of a witch. I love Tim Burton’s movies as a whole but Sleepy Hollow remains one of my favorites. 

To add a horror effect, the movie is sprinkled with flashbacks to Ichabod’s childhood mixing fond memories of his mother with haunting memories of his abusive father giving us a backstory to this disturbed character. While there are aspects of horror with the decapitations, fearful images of the headless horseman and haunting characters, it may not be the best choice if you really want to be scared out of your mind. However if you’re someone who wants a slight scare in the spirit of Halloween but doesn’t like real scary, horror movies then Sleepy Hollow is great for you.