For the third of the four ‘horror’ movies I’m going to recommend for Halloween viewing this year – I’m going with Tim Burton’s 1999 Sleepy Hollow. I’m not quite sure it’s horror, but it is the movie I tend to watch whenever I’m carving pumpkins, so I’m sure it fits the theme.
The movie is set in 1799 when New York City police constable Ichabod Crane is sent to the quiet town of Sleepy Hollow which has been having a series of killings where the victim is found headless. Crane swiftly learns the townsfolk believe the killer is an undead Headless Horseman – who is the ghost of a Hessian mercenary from the American Revolutionary War. He comes up from his grave searching for his own missing head, and takes the head of whoever he comes across.
Crane begins his investigation, being squeamish and resolved that whatever is happening is based in science, not lore or specters. He is skeptical right up until the moment he encounters the horseman himself as it kills the town magistrate.
Crane begins a flirtation with the daughter of the richest family in town, the Van Tassels. Katrina Van Tassel may or may not know more than she is saying about what is going on. Crane has to get to know the townspeople and their lurid history to figure out what exactly the horseman is, who is controlling him, and how to finally stop him.
The movie is based on the legend and partially on the Disney movie, but is absolutely a Gothic Tim Burton-style flick. If you like his stuff, you probably love this. The entirety of the town was constructed specifically for this movie so that Burton could have exactly the look he wanted. It’s a completely beautiful movie with an interesting story and a wonderful cast.
- This is back when Johnny Depp and Tim Burton were still working well together and hadn’t fallen into self-indulgent pretentious nonsense. His take on Crane is as a man-of-science who is still very squeamish around blood, death, and the like. However, it really works here and Depp is a perfect fit for Burton’s gothic ‘hero’. His romance with Katrina is a little unsettling based solely on the age difference between the actors.
- Christina Ricci plays Katrina, and does a good job with a character that is obviously hiding something, but is perhaps not prepared for the ramifications of what she is hiding.
- Miranda Richardson plays Lady Van Tassel, and is both elegant and creepy.
- Casper Van Dien plays Brom Van Brunt, a hapless dolt in the town.
- Michael Gambon plays Baltus Van Tassel, Jeffrey Jones plays Reverend Steenwyck, Richard Griffiths plays Magistrate Philips, Ian McDiarmid plays Doctor Lancaster, and Michael Gough plays Notary Hardenbrook – filling out the townsfolk with some amazing actors.
- Christopher Walken plays the Hessian in flashbacks to when he had a head, which basically is him growling and leering at folks with sharp teeth.
- Lisa Marie plays Crane’s mother in his own flashbacks, in which Christopher Lee also appears as the ‘burgomaster’.
I really enjoy the movie, it’s creepy and weird, but also beautiful and elegant, and it’s another movie where the cast elevates the material. Side note – if you didn’t watch Sleep Hollow on Fox, you missed a great show, with an interesting twist on the story. I believe the first two seasons are on Netflix, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
8 out of 10 – A Great Halloween party flick!