Johnny Depp portrays Ichabod Crane, only instead of being a schoolmaster like he was in the original novel, he is more of a police officer and detective. He is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders in which the victims' heads were severed from their bodies. At Sleepy Hollow, Johnny Depp meets several people including his eventual lover Katrina Van Tassel (played by Christina Ricci), Reverend Steenwyck (played by Jeffrey Jones), Masbath (played by Marc Pickering) and Katrina's father Baltus Von Tassel (played by Michael Gambon). Depp portrays Ichabod as an outspoken, no nonsense fellow who also has a tendency to get nervous and overexcited (much like Edward Scissorhands). But like many of the characters Depp portrays, Crane just wants to get to the bottom of things and succeed at whatever he wants to succeed at, using a set of nifty glasses and all. I love the scene where he is chopping at the horseman's tree and as he gets deeper and deeper, blood starts pouring out, some splashing on his face. He is shocked at first, but brushes the blood off as if it were nothing. Then all the horseman's severed heads come pouring out and Crane looks like he's going to puke at first, but he eventually gets ahold of himself and keeps his cool (yeh, I just found a bunch of severed heads, no biggy!) Several of the film's main players meet their end in this film, either by decapitation or another gruesome way. I like the way the Headless Horseman kills Richard Griffith's character, slicing his head off and causing it to spin on his body for several seconds just before letting it plop to the ground and picking it up with his sword. The Headless Horseman has got to be one of the swiftest villains in cinema history, moving as fast as Woody Woodpecker on an all sugar diet. With his head, he is portrayed by Christopher Walken in perhaps his most over the top performance. With a set of blackish eyes and pointy teeth, he'll stop at nothing to chow down on a woman's face or hurl his flaming jack o lantern at you to knock you out. And who could forget that classic "NAAAAAAAA!" noise he makes. He sounds reminiscent of the Frankenstein monster or Sloth from The Goonies. I'd like to see him order fast food from a drive thru window!
This film is without a doubt Burton's first slasher flick. Some of the techniques he used in this one would later be used in Sweeney Todd, but this is really his first film with a maniac murderer and a body count. Audiences had never seen something like this before from Burton and his love for the darkness made this film stick out from all the rest. Sleepy Hollow is a crazy flick with enough blood and gore to fill a swimming pool or two. It's suspense is legendary and it's death scenes are some of the greatest death scenes in any horror movie. It is also over the top to the point of comedy and even in the film's most serious scenes, there is always something to get a kick out of. The headless horseman, while an intimidating villain can be a goofball and a bit of a shrieking brute and Johnny Depp's Ichabod Crane is one anxious, yet optimistic fellow, just as Washington Irving originally conceived the character. This is one of those movies I like to watch at Halloween each year and every time I watch it, I'm ready to embrace it's terrifying nature and it's cheesiness all at once. It's a chilling, thrilling and fulfilling experience that has my mouth gaping open every time I watch it. It may not be one of my absolute favorites, but it's still a treat to behold and a different take on a classic horror story.
After Sleepy Hollow, Burton was ready to take his first whack at the sci-fi genre. Toon in next time and we're heading to a planet full of apes.