I disagree somewhat with your review of Sleepy Hollow [November 19]. While Burton takes excessive liberty with Irving’s story, what he does succeed in giving his audience is a genuine tale of horror. Arguments that Burton overdid the special effects may be worth considering, but any judgment of this sort is subjective. The central problem of this film–any horror film, for that matter–involves an audience so inundated by special effects that many viewers may find nothing at all terrifying in Burton’s version.
In short, it is left to the viewer to judge whether or not Burton delivers. I for one think that he did. The dark dismal backdrop creates an almost unbearably oppressive tone for the movie; the decapitation scenes amount to a continued assault upon the viewer’s sensitivity and taste; the creation of the bleeding tree of death, the horseman’s portal into this world, and the development of the good witch/bad witch conflict, and the horseman’s tearing-out of the bad witch’s tongue in one of the final scenes verge on the purely brutal and satanic. In short, Burton’s movie did exactly what a horror movie should do: push the reader to a dark edge so that he/she leaves the theater feeling overwhelmed, unsettled, even numbed.
In relying upon what some refer to as excessive gore, Burton is in good company. The master of the horror genre, Edgar Allan Poe, wrote several stories that depended for their effectiveness upon a mixture of darkness, gore, and timing. Try, for instance, “The Masque of the Red Death.” Or the final scene of “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
Burton’s Sleepy Hollow is a near masterpiece that has plenty of creepy substance for those critics who, failing to pass up a good pun, belabor the invalid point that the film is as hollow as the title. I say two thumbs up to this film.