Written by: Daniel Hadley
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Casper Van Dien, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson
Going back through Tim Burton’s career makes it all the more perplexing when trying to understand his recent dip in quality. Though never pumping out a terrible movie (except for Planet of the Apes… I mean wow) his output post nineties has been, shall we say a little mediocre and sitting down to watch Sleepy Hollow I was made ever more aware of just how far he’s fallen.
Washington Irving’s original story The Tale of Sleepy Hollow is a far cry from what Burton put on the screen; taking only the essence of the story and making substantial changes to key characters and adding in a compelling mystery, Burton was able to craft something truly special.
The story follows Ichabod Crane here portrayed as an investigator with an interest in pathology (in the book he was a schoolteacher) who is sent to the town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders with all of the victims lacking a head. Upon arriving the towns people relay the tale of the headless horseman, and after witnessing the horseman carving up a new victim, Ichabod vows to bring him down.
With Halloween fast approaching I can’t think of a better time to revisit this movie. To those (un)lucky enough to not yet have seen it, well you’re in for a treat dripping with atmosphere and sporting some haunting visuals. If this movie isn’t on your watch list this Halloween then I urge you to make some room.
From the headless horseman to witches and flaming jack o’ lanterns this is a film that perfectly encapsulates Halloween, despite not taking place on the holiday or even mentioning it once. There’s also an impressive abundance of brutal murder. The Horseman’s preference for beheading is shown in some gloriously inventive ways and the effects still hold up despite being nearly twenty years old. Ghey stand as a testament to how CGI and practical effects can work in unison, the CGI being used to compliment the practical effects without being the main focus.
There is a lot I could say about this movie, from the great set design to the spot on performances. But to put it simply, everything here just works, each element complimenting the others to create a glorious concoction of gothic horror that makes for one of best Halloween movies that isn’t actually a Halloween movie I’ve ever seen. Evoking all the best elements of the holiday, Sleepy Hollow is never boring and always fun. Where else can you see Christopher Walken growl his way through a sword fight as he hacks off limbs with reckless abandon? Seriously how is this not a horror classic? It’s fucking awesome.
Although it’s been seemingly forgotten over the years, Sleepy Hollow stands as proof as to just how good Tim Burton can be when he’s firing on all cylinders.