Directed by Tim Burton [Other horror films: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Dark Shadows (2012)]
Tim Burton didn’t make that many horror films, but after seeing this, you really wish that he would. I’m not going to go as far as to say this rendition of the classic story is flawless, but Sleepy Hollow is a hell of a lot of fun, with a fantastic cast and a mystery that’s actually quite engaging.
Of course, you have some Burton staples here, such as very artistic scenery (especially during flashbacks and dreams), and there’s admittedly some questionable CGI during the witch scene, but overall, this is 1990’s horror done right, and I can only imagine how fun this was to see in theaters.
That cast, tho…
Johnny Depp (A Nightmare on Elm Street and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) is a no-brainer casting choice here. Utterly love his performance, and I like how he’s not as weak as other portrayals of Ichabod Crane tend to be. Christina Ricci (who I best know from the 1990’s Addams Family movies) did great as an innocent young woman with a secret.
No one here, though, did a bad job. Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice and Ravenous), Michael Gambon (Dumbledore from the third Harry Potter film onward), Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone and Batman Returns), Michael Gough (Alfred from 1989’s Batman and it’s sequels), and Christopher Lee (don’t get me started) were all great. Seeing a cast of this caliber was more fun than I can say. I mean, I’ve seen this movie before, to be sure, but I forgot just how good it was.
With as good as the cast was, though, let’s not downplay the intriguing mystery playing out. There are multiple red herrings, and a lot of potential suspects, and given that the mystery was actually good, it was a very pleasant ride throughout, especially once we’re shown at the end the various clues to the ultimate solution. Very satisfying story, and I commend it heavily for that.
Crane’s more scientific mindset being at odds with the Headless Horseman was an interesting route to take. I don’t know if it was used to as much effect as it could have been, but I did love his defeated attitude once he actually saw the supernatural being in action. He overcomes his fears, though, and really works hard to figure out the mystery and save the town.
The Headless Horseman (played by Walken) had a pretty fun origin, and overall, I really liked the design of the Horseman. Related, that first tree scene always stuck with me – the blood just spurting from the tree was always a good time, if not a bit gruesome.
Sleepy Hollow isn’t my favorite horror film from the 1990’s, but it’s an enjoyable ride through-and-through. Artistically, it’s quite beautiful, and the setting is stellar. Honestly, I don’t think most would expect anything less from Tim Burton, but Sleepy Hollow is certainly worth a watch, and worth the praise.