Saturday, October 26, 2013

#1,167. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Directed By: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson

Tag line: "Close Your Eyes. Say Your Prayers. Sleep If You Can"

Trivia: This film features three actors who played Sith Lords in the Star Wars prequels: Ray Park (Darth Maul), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), and Ian McDiarmid (Darth Sidious)

Based on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow is a visual treat, supported at all times by its very impressive cast.

The year is 1799. Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp), a constable in New York City, insists that modern methods of crime detection should replace the archaic techniques currently employed by the police. As a way of testing his theories, the Burgomaster (Christopher Lee) assigns Crane to investigate a series of murders in the upstate farming community of Sleepy Hollow, where three people have had their heads lopped off. 

But when he arrives, Crane is horrified to discover that the locals believe these killings are the work of a Headless Horseman, a former Hessian soldier (Christopher Walken) who has returned from the grave to search for his missing head. 

With the help of Katrina (Christina Ricci), daughter of Sleep Hollow's wealthiest citizen, Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon), Crane sets out to prove there's nothing supernatural about this case, only to discover some legends are, in fact, very real.

As he did in Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, Johnny Depp delivers a strong, if somewhat odd performance as Ichabod Crane, a hero not by choice, but by circumstance. As the only lawman in town, Ichabod Crane must appear to be in complete control of every situation, even if what he's uncovering scares the living hell out of him. His first night in Sleepy Hollow, Crane meets with the town elders: the Pastor (Jeffrey Jones), the magistrate (Richard Griffiths), the notary (Michael Gough), the doctor (Ian McDiarmid), and Van Tassel himself. When Van Tassel tells him the story of the Headless Horseman (which includes a pretty nifty flashback sequence), a clearly shaken Crane tries to remain calm, despite being frightened out of his wits. 

Later, while walking with the Magistrate, Crane has his first encounter with the horseman, and it’s more than he can stand (he faints straightaway). Depp does a fine job conveying his character's fear while at the same time always pressing on, determined to solve the case no matter where it leads him.

The unique style that Burton brought to Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and the Batman films is again on display in Sleepy Hollow. The town itself is a dark, gothic place where the sun never shines, a mysterious fog emanating from every corner. At times, Burton’s singular vision even manages to get a few laughs; Crane’s first encounter with the "Headless Horseman" - who is actually Brom Van Brunt (Casper Van Dien) in disguise - ends with the constable getting a fiery pumpkin thrown at his head! Along with the humor, the story's more serious elements (like the various flashbacks to Crane’s traumatic childhood) fit just as neatly into the world Burton and his team have created.

In the end, Tim Burton’s oft-twisted imagination proved the perfect match for Irving’s short story, and with a little help from his cast he managed to bring this classic tale convincingly to life.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

I liked the Hessian before he got his head chopped off. Other than that...meh.