“Is he dead?”
“That’s the problem he was dead to begin with.”
Believe it or not this is the last time Tim Burton will be making an appearance on this list. (Don’t worry, we still have better movies coming up, I just don’t think anything Burton has done makes it into the top 10—feel free to disagree with me).
Burton and Depp take a new direction on the classic story and make it a more action/adventure with a touch of murder mystery. With the usual Tim Burton weirdness. But it works. You spend most of the moving in a whodunit mode while equally being entertained by the outlandish behavior and contraptions of Icabod Crane, a wannabe CSI investigator long before there was anything that resembled forensics.
This is actually one of Depp’s more heroic characters. He’s not a perpetually drunk pirate, a mass murderer, or a lunatic of any kind. A deeply troubled man, yes, but one who does have a sense of right and wrong, and one who while filled with numerous fears can push past them and do what he needs to when he has to. And this is a good thing because it stands in direct opposition to just about everyone else in the film who, while not so public in their displays of fear, are paralyzed to the point of absolute inaction by their fear of death and dishonor.
And, personally, one of the things I love about Tim Burton horror films, is that no matter how much blood and gore he shows it’s always in that bizarre unnatural red that allows for just enough distance so that it doesn’t actually become revolting.
One of the great things about this film is that it pays homage to the other famous version of this story…the Disney version.
There is a point in Burton’s film that plays off the above clip in almost exact detail (down to the frogs croaking Icabod’s name) and it is a nice reminder that this is not the only version of this tale. (Honestly I was quite remiss in not listing the original Disney story of Sleepy Hollow in my list of honorable mentions, it should have been). The great thing about this scene was that it had the fake horseman cross the river (making it known early on to the audience to not expect such an easy save) and still kept the iconic image of the flaming jack-o’-lantern.
And then there’s the horseman. Even though he wasn’t in the film much, by putting Christopher Walken as the actor to play the Hessian when he still had a head allowed for a much creepier vibe about the monster even when you couldn’t see Walken’s trademark bizarre gaze.
All in all a good action film. A good adventure. A good murder mystery. And one of the better horror films ever made.