To round out the Halloween holiday season (my favorite), I decided to review another classic in the form of Tim Burton’s 1999 take on the legend of Sleepy Hollow. Starring Johnny Depp playing the lead role of Ichabod Crane, Burton’s version offers a dark overtone throughout the film while celebrating even darker and scarier moments while still offering some moments of levity to even the emotional pitch.
The story centers around Crane’s investigations of recent beheadings taking place in the village known as Sleepy Hollow. The village itself is comprised of mostly conservative types scared of their own shadows along with some more liberated minds that aren’t sure what’s happening either or how the strange killings in their quiet little town are all connected. Death and intrigue (along with some new victims) drives Depp’s character closer and closer to the truth as he reveals a nefarious plot at the heart of those who fall prey to the Headless Horseman and his mysterious quest for claiming certain people’s heads as a trophy.
I enjoyed this film quite a bit. The story is intriguing, never quite revealing the kept secrets until the moment is just right. There’s plenty of red herrings in here to keep it interesting and to keep everyone guessing. I know I wasn’t sure who it was up until close to the plot point that was the big reveal for the murderer’s identity. Well executed overall story-wise; the dialog was tight and matched the times, very little if anything seemed out of place from a script standpoint.
The design is amazingly authentic for such and ambitious period piece. If you watch the behind-the-scenes extras on the DVD you’ll see that they more-or-less built a town for this film. The backdrop is gray and foreboding, the hair pieces and clothing are grimy and the people look a bit sickly. In other words they went for a real look from that time, no people in fancy hair or high end makeup, the design here truly reflects the era and is presented expertly so.
Burton does a great job directing and pulls some great performances out of the cast. Depp’s scaredy-cat, jumpy Ichabod makes for an unusual hero archetype, while Christopher Walken’s portrayal of the Hessian Horseman is intense and brutal. The rest of this very talented lineup is comprised of Christina Ricci, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Miranda Richardson, and Christopher Lee.
Definitely add this one to your Netflix queue if you haven’t already…
reviewed by Sean McKnight