Directed By Tim Burton
By: Eric G.
Tim Burton returns to theaters with a return to form. Mars Attacks! was an amusing satire, but it was hardly what Burton does best. Sleepy Hollow is not exactly the most exciting tale ever told, but Burton makes it funny and scary in this mock horror story. Andrew Kevin Walker took great liberties with Washington Irving’s classic story for the script to incorporate a comedic side. Burton relishes in the absurdity of the violence and even some of the dialogue: “You must be a witch, for you have bewitched me.” Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci both manage to keep from bursting out laughing at such exchanges. Depp’s character, Ichabod Crane, shines as a comic foil who is scared of spiders, incompetent under pressure, and susceptible to the charms of a woman whilst on the job.
Burton’s direction is feverish as the action races by, balancing suspense and surprise. The look of the film is patently the work of Tim Burton, where only dream sequences feature any semblance of daylight. The cinematography is stunning. The film has such a distinct look that even if the action were boring the film would be worth seeing just for the scenery. The violence is almost a character in the film. There are so many beheadings that it becomes almost comical when they occur. Spurting blood is portrayed as a farcical incidence. And Christopher Walken’s portrayal of the Headless Horseman is the funniest aspect of all. He is featured only in a handful of scenes, but he has no lines other than making grunting noises, which is a running joke by the film’s end.
Sleepy Hollow is quintessential Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp pads his already impressive list of offbeat characters with a cleverly cartoonish impression of Ichabod Crane. Miranda Richardson and Christopher Walken are both vital to the tongue in cheek comic horror that Burton envisions. Christina Ricci makes her first appearance in a major studio production in several years, and almost leaves behind her ice-queen indie image as a witch that woos Depp’s dithering Ichabod Crane. How Burton has managed to make a film this stylized into a commercially viable enterprise is a mystery, but Sleepy Hollow manages to go light on the usual film staples like plot and characterization, keeping the audience entertained instead with visual trickery and gothic ornamentation.