I love the films of Tim Burton. He is enough of an auteur to warm the heart of the least caheriste among us. If those mid-century film-critics, many of whom went on to be directors in their own right, revered films by directors whose personal style was immediately evident, they would have to look no further than Burton. There is no mistaking whose vision is behind masterpieces like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride and such noble failures as Alice In Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Dark Shadows. I haven’t seen his Batman films nor his Planet of the Apes, so I can’t categorize them, but I will be happy to watch them someday.
Sleepy Hollow is one of his best and most typically Burtonesque. I fear it is somewhat forgotten now, so this post is sleeve-tug to remind you about it.
Earlier in the year, I made a mental note to revisit Sleepy Hollow as part of my personal Hallowe’en horrorfest. I had seen it when it came out. I remembered really liking it, but didn’t remember much about it outside of the fantastic Burton atmospherics. When I mentioned to a few people that I was going to rewatch this, the reaction was always the same: “Oh (pregnant, thoughtful pause) that was really good.”
And it was.
Like many Burton adaptations, the plot of the film has next to nothing to do with the original Washington Irving story. Character names and location are about all that survive. What does survive is the gothic creepiness.
The atmosphere of 17th Century Dutch upstate New York is gorgeous. The settings and costumes in this film are more subdued than in other Burton features, where they tend to be more Rococo.
The quirkiest element of the film is figure of Ichabod Crane, played by Burton stalwart, Johnny Depp. Crane is no longer the awkward gangly schoolteacher of the Washington Irving story. Here he is an expert detective coming to the town of Sleepy Hollow from New York City, determined to prove that his new ‘scientific’ methods will be able to solve a series of ghastly murders (read: beheadings) that have plagued the town. His superiors in New York are only to happy to get this pest off their hands and to send him to the Boondocks, which he is equally unwanted.
Gradually, his quirkiness and unorthodox methods yield results.
Adding to the atmospherics and ghastly fun is (who else?) Christopher Walken as the murderous Headless Horseman.
But wait! There’s more! The great Miranda Richardson is on hand as the embodiment of (*spoiler alert*) cold-blooded revenge.
Please watch this if you haven’t seen it, or if you haven’t seen it in a while. It is so satisfying and Johnny Depp is so quirky and so pretty and a damn fine actor.
While you are it, have a look at a completely different Tim Burton masterpiece, Big Eyes.