Watch Your Heads
October Horror-thon continues, as does my pleas to get my friend Loni back into my reviews, with the Tim Burton movie Sleepy Hollow. I wasn’t really sure if this movie was actually intended to be a horror movie when I pulled it out of my collection, but I feel like it holds up. Plus, Johnny Depp is in it, so Loni should be in. Sleepy Hollow is directed by Tim Burton, and stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Lee, and Ian McDiarmid, as well as some stunt work by Ray Park, so I get to reuse so many people that have been in my reviews before and will be again when I lay down some Harry Potter goodness.
1799, New York City, constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a strange character and investigator of murders. His superiors do not agree of his scientific autopsy techniques, but they dispatch him to Sleepy Hollow to investigate some recent murders. Those murders involve the decapitation of 5 people, with their heads going missing. He gets there to investigate and is greeted by the cleavage of Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci). At first, his scientific mind leads him to believe that a mortal serial killer is using the towns mythos to hide his crimes, taking this movie dangerously close to the other Johnny Depp joint, From Hell. But Crane soon finds out that the killer is actually the mythological creature called the Headless Horseman (at this point, Ray Park). Crane is told that the Horseman was once a brutal and sadistic Hessian mercenary (Christopher Walken, when his head is on) who was beheaded for his brutality and has come back to life because someone stole his noggin and is using it to control him. Crane then systematically suspects everybody in the town until they come up dead and he starts suspecting the next person he sees.
This movie is pretty thoroughly meh, if I might scare Loni off again. There are lots of things that work and a couple things that don’t. The story itself is pretty solid but I found myself drifting out of it from time to time. Tim Burton, as he seems to like doing, has taken a classic story and made it more dark and twisted. This time, he took an older story from the 1800s or so that was then made into a Disney movie. I pretty much only knew about it from the Disney movie, and I don’t even remember that very well because I didn’t like it that much. But this is a story that works as a darker, gory version. Unfortunately, he also felt the need to add in things about how Crane wanted to use science and autopsies in a time where that was frowned upon and things about conspiracies in the small town. I had always heard the story that the Horseman took heads because he lost his and wanted a new one (and who wouldn’t want Johnny Depp’s head, am I right, Loni?), and that story would work on it’s own. And, according to Wikipedia, the Horseman was more than likely Van Tassel’s other suitor, Brom (Casper Van Dien), who killed Crane to get Christina Ricci (which I would totally do as well). Both of those stories work on their own, we don’t need back story about autopsies and conspiracy and some confusing thing about Ichabod’s mother. That stuff was boring. But the Horseman parts were pretty sweet.
As with most Tim Burton movies, the look and atmosphere trump all else. Sleepy Hollow and the surrounding area seem to be practically devoid of sunlight and are constantly drenched in fog and spooky looking trees. The coolest things were surrounding the gore. The decapitated heads were very realistic. I know 1999 isn’t THAT old, but I’ve seen big budget movies that have come out recently that have worse looking heads than this one does. All of those gory effects worked very well. And when Depp starts hacking into the tree that sits over the Horseman’s body, and the tree seems to bleed and have flesh underneath it, that was very well done and creepy as well. The costumes were nice looking as well. I especially loved the cleavage. Also, I wanna get one of them jackets like Johnny wears in this. I like those old style jackets and I need to find one that isn’t ridiculously priced.
The performances are mostly bland or hammed up. And this movie (I think) was going for a horror movie vibe, but had no scares. It had gore, so it could be a slasher film, but most of the main actors seemed to go more for an odd quirky comedy performance, and I didn’t think it fit. I didn’t really get the character Johnny Depp was going for. He was a constable, so you’d assume he’s seen death pretty frequently, and he was a big proponent for autopsies, but he gets squeamish looking at gore. Well, sometimes. Other times he dove right in. Christina Ricci made no real impact on me beyond her hotness. I got really sad when I recognized Dead Dumbledore was in this ’cause he dead now, but he did a fine job at his smaller part. But there were a lot of big actors with smaller parts in this movie. Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) was in this, Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson), Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths), the dude from Starship Troopers (Casper Van Dien), Spike from Stay Tuned (Jeffrey Jones), Sarumon (Christopher Lee), and Alfred (Michael Gough) were all in this, but all had pretty small parts. Christopher Walken was creepy, but kinda hammed it up as the Horseman. But that explains the greater majority of Christopher Walken performances. Creepy, weird, and a little hammed up.
That’ll do for this review. It’s a decent enough watch with a hit or miss story and matching performances, but you can’t deny the appeal of Tim Burton’s style. I’ll go ahead (get it? a head!) and give this movie “You are bewitched by reason” out of “He was dead to begin with.”
And, as always, please rate, comment, and/or like this post and others. It may help me get better.