Release year: 1999
Director: Tim Burton
Screenwriter: Kevin Yagher, Andrew Kevin Walker, Washington Irving (short story)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration. 2 Oscar nominations: Best Production Desing, Best Costume. Best Cinematography. 2 Saturn Awards: Best Actress (Christina Ricci), Best Music.
Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the murder of three townspeople and is met with a kiss by young beautiful Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). It turns out the victims were decapitated and the townspeople tell him about the number one suspect: the Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken).
Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands 1990) makes fairytales for adults. His movies have a certain feel of adventure and, well, fairytales. Only it is fairytales à la the Grimm Brothers (who also used headless horsemen in some tales): dark, gloomy and bloody. With Sleepy Hollow Burton has used a beloved classic by Washington Irving as the inspiration for this atmospheric tale of wonder, revenge, love, and ghosts set in gothic surroundings and accompagnied by a sublime score by Danny Elfman. Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 2007), Burton’s frequent collaborator, is pure joy as the squeamish constable who faints more times than the lady he fancies. He delivers some wonderful laughs as he is sprayed with blood or almost looses his family jewels. Ricci (Cursed 2005) is sweet as the young woman that captures Crane’s interest the moment he sees her, it is altogether a great cast who has obviously been inspired by the wonderfully crafted sets they are surrounded by. Amazingly Walken (Seven Psychopaths 2012) manages to put an enormous amount of charisma and power into a part in which his head is as good as never shown. His Headless Horseman is a character that strikes fear in the hearts of men and inspires nightmares. He wields his sword with terrifying skill and somehow manages to make the Horseman’s intention known and fills out the part in a way that makes it seem impossible that anyone else could have done the same job. It is a bloody tale and it is no secret that heads will roll, but the blood is a thick, light red and unnatural looking sticky substance that adds to the feel of fairytale and makes it a bit easier for those who shares Crane’s squeamishness to watch. So there really is no excuse not to watch this beautifully crafted, well acted and near perfectly scored dark fairytale.
It was only after being cast as the Headless Horseman that Christopher Walken admitted to Tim Burton that he actually did not know how to ride a horse.
Picture copyright: UIP