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Just in time for Halloween, I re-watched Tim Burton’s 1999 treat, Sleepy Hollow for my podcast Depp Impact and this movie is a wealth of riches. Christopher Walken plays our Headless Hessian and doesn’t say a word, Christina Ricci is delicate and beautiful, and Johnny Depp is using an actual American accent. Burton is at the top of his atmosphere game and gives his female characters something to work with. It’s not the Disney animated movie The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but it’s just as good! Wow! The gifts never stop giving!
It’s a story about Icabod Crane (the Deppster), a squeamish constable sent to Sleepy Hollow to prove a paranormal presence is not guilty of beheading many major clergymen and midwives in the small town, and instead it is some insidious real people shit.
SPOILER ALERT. It’s spooky witchcraft from hell AS WELL as insidious real people shit and the whole town is in on the treachery. If you haven’t seen the film yet, it came out in 1999 and it is on Netflix, but I won’t spoil too much.
The reasons I love this movie are copious. It’s a movie that explores the idea of pompous dickheads being clueless when it comes to the way the world works and if you are a corrupt jerk, you might get a stake through the heart. Science and religion are endlessly compared, but actually have compelling arguments of how both can exist in society, as long as we respect each for the hope they provide their biggest fans, and maybe don’t kill people in the name of either. Ricci and Richardson drive the plot forward and right the wrongs of the more trigger-happy men. They’re methodical and passionate without being boring. They’re bad when they gotta be bad and we’re better off for it. This was also the time when Burton was in love with Lisa Marie, so her beautiful bodice shows up and show out. It’s a highlight.
Burton is operating in peak Sad-Pale-Town-Land and Depp is at his everyman-est. I always say Depp is best when he’s listening and allowed to be squirrely, and this is a great showcase for that. He’s weird without being WEIRD. Miranda Richardson is the true star of this film. She kicks axe (lulz) and takes names and “gets the man” in the end. Christopher Walken says nothing but “HEH” to a horse for the runtime. Sometimes the dialogue is corny in that 1999 way, but the story and the special effects still hold up. There’s also a horse leaping out of a bloody tree, making this the greatest movie ever made.
But truly, this movie is a joy to experience 10 years after I first fell in love with the aesthetic. Sure, the men at the heart of this film are troubled in our modern lens. Burton has been quoted as not believing people of color fit his aesthetic (…what…) and Johnny Depp is… well, Johnny Depp…but Burton’s work is a gateway to horror movies that are often beautiful and moderately disturbing, while still being accessible in their bizarreness. As a kid, I loved spooky things but was so scared of spooky movies. Through movies like Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, and Sleepy Hollow I was able to explore more traditional, and lesser known, cult films , shaping my tastes to this day.
Original article appears on cinema76.com