Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Christopher Walken
In this filmic retelling of Washington Irving's short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, director Tim Burton's dark, quirky style is a perfect fit. Burton is a master at creating murky worlds just beyond the edge of reality, and his treatment of this classic tale blends the story's inherent gore with a somber elegant atmosphere. In Burton's version of the 1799 tale, Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) plays a New York City constable pioneering the new field of forensic science. In an era when torture, not rehabilitation, is the justice system's modus operandi, Crane's call for evidence and investigation is a thorn in the side of his supervisors. In an effort to rid themselves of the problematic Crane, they send him off to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow, to solve a rash of decapitations. However, Crane's supervisors omit one detail: The townspeople believe that the decapitations have been committed by a headless horseman -- the ghost of a slain mercenary with a score to settle. Upon arriving in Sleepy Hollow, Crane -- a man of science -- cannot believe his eyes when he stumbles headlong (so to speak) into the sword-wielding apparition of the Headless Horseman. But, believing that the unworldly equestrian must somehow be controlled by human accomplices, Crane turns his investigation to discovering the motivation behind the carnage. It's at this juncture in Sleepy Hollow that its plot turns into a typical conspiracy tale, leaving little intrigue for astute viewers. That said, while we may have already anticipated what's to come, the film's captivating atmosphere (along with Depp's performance as the faint-hearted Crane) does manage to score a direct hit: Employing dark, muted colors, Burton and crew sustain a sinister, haunting setting. Weak-stomached viewers beware: There is no lack of detail in Sleepy Hollow's grotesque decapitations. However, in the end, the film's visual intrigue tempers its gross-out factor, and it's final resolve leans more toward fairy tale than Friday the 13th.