Title: Sleepy Hollow
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: based on the classic story by Washington Irving. Written by: Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Lee, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken, Marc Pickering, Lisa Marie, and more.
Tim Burton’s 1999 retelling of the classic ghost story by Washing Irving is a delight. It’s a film that has a dual nature; it’s often as darkly amusing as it is grim and horrific. It’s a story that involves nearly every ingredient you would expect in a good Halloween; witchcraft and spells, ghosts, supernatural creatures, and horrible death.
Burton is right at home here, creating a gloomy 18th-century small town in upstate New York that serves as the setting for mystery and supernatural adventure involving lots of severed heads, a conspiracy of men, and an intrepid constable in a tale of bloody revenge. The primary setting of the film, the small rural town of Sleepy Hollow is perpetually overcast and gloomy; the sun never shines here, and it isn’t always readily apparent whether its day or night.
The film’s all-star cast is remarkable, and do a stellar job as persons of interest in this movie that, at the outset, is strongly reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery. The camera lovingly examines their faces, each displaying varying degrees of guilt as a lineup of the usual suspects in the horrific crimes that are taking place.
Christopher Walken is perfect as the Hessian Horseman, the spectre that is committing the series of murders. Described as a man who was in war because of his love for the carnage he is like a demon in his visage. His appearance is fierce and frightening with his teeth filed to fanglike points and with behavior more like a beast than a man in his savagery. Likewise, Miranda Richardson is genuinely sinister as the evil Lady Van Tassel.
Depp is amusing as the detective determined to get everyone on board with the new scientific way of doing things, and Butron supplies him with an array of unusual tools and gadgets designed to help him do his job, including an absurd pair of glasses he sometimes fastens to his face. He plays the role without any exaggerated eccentricities or personal traits to define his character, which is a good thing. Although Crane is given to fainting and on the surface seems timid, he proves himself intelligent and even heroic after a fashion, and he remains dogged in his investigation and searches for the facts which he eventually roots out.
Crane arrives during a local celebration and makes a friend in the form of a young woman, Katarina Van Tassel. Another murder occurs soon after he enters the town, and afterward, he finds he has acquired a new manservant in the form of the victim’s newly orphaned son known as Young Masbeth. These allies prove to be an invaluable resource and when the film ends they both join him when he returns to New York City. He has acquired a family during his journey
Crane eventually discovers the reality of the case is not something that fits into any readily available scientific explanation but is in truth something genuinely supernatural and manages to deal with it as such. It’s a heck of ride along the way and a visual feast worth watching again. Happy Halloween!