Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Richard Griffiths, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Walken
Tim Burton may grate a bit these days, wearing out his kitsch-goth routine with increasingly lazy attempts to recreate his heyday in the nineties, and relying on the audience-pulling power of Johnny Depp more than anything genuinely worth seeing. With that said, his turn-of-the-millennium version of the Sleepy Hollow story (yes, with Depp) is a real labour of love and a reminder of Burton at his best; filled with black humour and proud of its own theatricality, the film has a fun, tongue-in-cheek Hammer Horror tone which makes it perfect Halloween viewing.
Constable Ichabod Crane (Depp) arrives in the town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders, all of which left the victims without their heads. Local legend of a cursed, headless horseman turns out to be all too true, and soon Sleepy Hollow’s sinister secrets start threatening more and more lives. The film has great mood, with evocative lighting and a typically solid Danny Elfman soundtrack which bleeds haunted house atmosphere.
Perhaps the best thing about Sleepy Hollow is the balance it strikes between the horrific and the funny – even when people are getting killed quite horribly, the film never takes itself too seriously and is full of darkly funny visual gags (such as a decapitated head rolling unceremoniously into the crotch of a terrified Richard Griffiths). Of course, this is helped in large part by effects work which – at least mostly – still holds up. One scene features a bleeding, corpse-filled tree/gateway to Hell, and today it’s still a terrifically nightmarish image.
Overall, Sleepy Hollow is undeniably a bit goofy, but it’s also very good fun. In maintaining a tone of almost winking, grinning mischief alongside the more traditional blood and screaming of its gothic horror trappings, it’s a film with blood-splattered, ghoulish charm.