Friday, September 26, 2014

Sleepy Hollow: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Created by the pair of writers of the reboot of Star Trek (2009) and Transformers (2007) comes this suspenseful and witty series inspired by Washington Irving’s supernatural classic. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), a British expatriate who dies in the American Revolution, is revived in upstate New York during the time of the cell phone – as is the evil Headless Horseman, who plans to annihilate mankind! Teaming with a feisty police lieutenant (Nicole Beharie), Crane races to vanquish the newly unearthed dark forces – or face the impending apocalypse. Own “Sleepy Hollow” Season One, and bring home a musketful of special features including commentaries, deleted scenes and more!

Show (4 out of 5 stars)
Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) was in the midst of battle, against a dangerous masked foe. Just as he takes a slice to the chest, Crane manages to swing a final blow, beheading his enemy. Crane collapses, waking inside a dark cave. After crawling out of the ground, he heads for the nearest light leading him to a forest. When Crane wanders on to an unfamiliar sight, a paved road it’s the first sign that something is not right. After almost being run down by two passing vehicles it becomes clear that this is not Crane’s time period. In fact, it’s been over a century since Ichabod was a spy in Washington’s army.

Crane’s wife Katrina (Katia Winter), a good witch put a spell on her dying husband after his fight with the hessian. Unfortunately Crane is in another time and he is linked with the headless horseman. In the present day, Ichabod becomes an unlikely partner to Lt. Abby Mills (Nicole Beharie). Abby’s friend and mentor was killed by the horseman and she wants to understand what’s going on and stop anyone else from dying. Of course, at first she doesn’t believe Crane is from the past, even as he asks when it became acceptable for women to wear trousers or asks the African American Abby about being freed from slavery.

As Abby and Ichabod investigate the whereabouts and lore of the Horseman, her boss Cpt. Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) is at first not a believer. As the supernatural elements begin to affect more and more people, Ichabod’s story seems more plausible. The Captain and his family are personally touched by the supernatural as Abby and Ichabod learn they are dealing with one of the four horseman of the apocalypse. Ichabod wants to save the people of current day Sleepy Hollow while finding a way back to his beloved Katrina.

Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow is by far one of my favorite movies. Whenever I want a little bit of darkness, fog and spookiness I pull out the film (starring Johnny Depp). I was extremely excited to hear that a television show of the same name was in the works, and also terribly worried they would screw it up. I’m happy to report that Fox put together a unique and interesting show and managed to keep the spooky factor, which I feared would be lost in a television show format. 

Tom Mison, an actor I’d never heard of is the perfect choice to play Ichabod Crane. We know that Ichabod is a rather eccentric and unusual fellow in his own time, but his matter of fact ways offer a bit of humor in this dark world. After losing a bet, Abby is allowed to update Ichabod’s wardrobe leaving him to discover the wonders of skinny jeans. While I did find it funny, I hope that future seasons don’t spend too much time dealing focused on Crane being out of place in many situations. It was appropriate for Ichabod to be bewildered at the sights and sounds (and the Starbucks’ on every corner) in episode one but I don’t want to see seasons of him walking around in awe of the modern day. He should remain focused on the doom and gloom of the apocalypse.

The show jumps right into the middle of the mythology of the Headless Horseman without a whole lot of background. It manages to give just enough information to keep you on pace with the show without overloading the viewer. As the episodes progress we learn more about Ichabod Crane and the Horseman and I like the way the story unfolds. You aren't jarred from the spookiness with harsh cuts to commercials and this plays better as a television show than I had imagined it would.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Sleepy Hollow is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in a 1.78:1 ratio. The show offers sharp detail and has an overall gothic appearance. The color palette changes slightly to sell the idea of the flashbacks and another time. The black levels and shadows are extremely important as the present day town is invaded by horrors from the past. This is a show that needs to be seen on Blu--ray, belonging in high definition.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Sleepy Hollow's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix keeps pace with the video presentation. The sound effects are authentic. The galloping of the horseman offers a true weight and realism. Additionally, the dialogue is clear and intelligible and I enjoyed listening to Mison’s accent, which is the right kind of British (the kind my American ears can understand without turning up the volume).
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
There are a decent number of lengthy extras worth watching, just make sure to watch the episodes first, or the features will ruin it for you.
  • Deleted Scenes – Over eleven minutes of deleted content.
  • The Corbin Files – A brief feature with excerpts from the Sheriff’s tapes.
  • Gag Reel – A 2 ½ minute gag reel, which I’m happy to see on such a serious show.
  • Audio Commentaries: - Commentaries for “Pilot” with Heather Kadin, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Len Wiseman and “The Indispensable Man/Bad Blood” final two episodes featuring Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Alex Kurtzman and Mark Goffman.
  • Welcome to Sleepy Hollow – a twenty minute summary of the characters and the story which is full of season one spoilers.
  • Mysteries and Mythology: The Secrets of Sleepy Hollow  - a nineteen minute look at the legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman.
  • Welcome to the 21st Century, Mr. Crane – a brief, but funny look at Ichabod adjusting to the modern day.
  • The Horseman – The actual horses used in the show and their handlers. 
  • The Horseman's Head – More about the mythology and the actual prop head.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Sleepy Hollow: The Complete First Season has done its job – it’s made me want to see season two. The first season made quick work of getting through a lot of the horseman mythology and kept a nice pace. I am happy with the actors and most of the characters. For a topic that’s been done many times, in many ways the show offers an interesting look at the town of Sleepy Hollow and all its mysteries. In season two, I hope the show focuses less on Crane being out of place and is able to keep the suspense and drama going. Overall, I like what I’ve seen and I look forward to the premier of season two. This is a show worth owning on Blu-ray.

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