Plot – Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of three people, with the culprit being the legendary apparition, The Headless Horseman – Sleepy Hollow
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Walken
If you liked: The Legend of Hell House, The Innocents, Witchfinder General
When three people are decapitated in the sleepy rural hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, New York constable Ichabod Crane (Depp) is dispatched to uncover the culprit using science, but unfortunately for him and the residents, the killer is no mere mortal but the brutal Headless Horseman.
Sleepy Hollow happens to be the first film I ever bought on DVD so it might come as some surprise that I haven’t reviewed it until now. So, I figured it’s about time I share my thoughts on Tim Burton’s gothic reimagining of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Mars Attacks was a wild departure from the darkly comedic films such as Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood that had brought Tim Burton so much success in the past, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that it ended up not doing great at the box office and eventually causing Burton to take a four-year break from directing, thus it was only natural that people were apprehensive about which style they would get when he returned with Sleepy Hollow, but we needn’t have been worried as it most definitely marked a return to form Burton.
Going back to the style that had worked so well for him in the past, Burton moved away from Washington Irving’s classing short story, channelling his inner Bram Stoker’s Dracula, injecting the plot with plenty of blood, gore, beautifully dark visuals mixed gothic overtones, Irving would probably turn in his grave, but I love it.
Playing a man ahead of his time, Depp uses his great character acting skills to become the perfect person to play Ichabod Crane, a scientifically minded big-city police officer forced to realise that science can’t explain everything and ending up having to come to terms with the fact that supernatural forces exist, while Ricci’s provides a solid portrayal of Katrina Van Tassel, Ichabod’s love interest and heir to the richest fortune in town.
The character development for the rest of the cast is minimal at best, but that doesn’t hold the film back as everyone that appears on screen is so wonderfully over the top and reminiscent of the golden age of Hammer films, mixing stylish sets, dark humour, sex, building tension and great twists to produce a film which combines to make one of the best-looking and satisfying dark fantasy movies made since the ’60s.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t a couple of issues with the film that prevents it from being a perfect film, namely that although advertised as a horror, I’d argue that the film is never overly scary despite how much tension is built up, another of the aspects that take away from the film is the use of Ichabod fainting on more than one occasion to end a scene and explain a location jump, it works once but after a while; it feels like lazy film making.
Sleepy Hollow is a beautifully shot horror-fantasy film filled to the brim with blood, violence, gore, and great performances from Depp and Ricci that transports the viewer back to the golden age of Hammer Horror.