Stars: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci
Director: Tim Burton
Not only do heads roll but bodies drop and they do all over the place in this strangely amusing retelling of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Except in this case, the dropping bodies come from characters fainting in fright rather than from the mere loss of their own heads.
Tim Burton’s accounting of the tale of the ‘Headless Horseman’ riding through the upstate New York community of Sleepy Hollow in 1799 lopping off heads as he goes is rich in texture, from the dark, dank winter scenery to the mood-enhancing fog that settles over the town and creeps wickedly through the woods. He knows how to set the mood. And the characters melt into Burton’s vision of colonial times amid ghoulish occurrences.
This is a classic Halloween tale done well. Too bad it didn’t get to the theaters in time for the holiday.
Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, now portrayed as a constable from New York City who’s adept in advanced detection techniques, rather than Irving’s hapless schoolteacher. Crane is ordered to Sleepy Hollow to solve three dastardly murders involving decapitations. He arrives with a haughty attitude and a bag filled with potions and strange optical devices only to learn that the town’s leaders believe these are no ordinary murders, but that they’ve been committed by a Hessian mercenary (Christopher Walken in flashback) who was slaughtered by colonial troops years earlier, beheaded and finally buried in the Western Woods at the base of one of the scariest looking trees seen on film.
Christina Ricci plays Katrina, the love interest and daughter of Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon) in whose home Crane is housed during his mission. Now blonde, Ricci is quite lovely here playing a far more subtle character than I’ve ever seen her play before. It suits her.
Depp is well disposed to play Crane as the know-it-all detective who displays an incredible amount of cowardice when he discovers the true murderer and it’s quite humorous at times. My only problem with this is that he goes from coward to action-hero in a single leap and then back to coward again. It’s really my only complaint and frankly it’s a small one because I really enjoyed the film.
The horse and horseman are spectacular as is the effect of the two of them coming alive. Burton has set a sumptuous feast in this film.
Miranda Richard stars as Lady Van Tassel and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers & Tarzan) plays Brom, Katrina’s suitor.
Lotta says “Sleepy Hollow” is a most enjoyable but be prepared for many headless bodies. The horseman’s sword swings hard and fast.