I remember a certain nun from my seventh grade class at the Catholic school I attended that loved one of Washington Irving’s short stories so much she practically pranced around the room. Sister Margaret Mary was not a small woman and she sure as hell wasn’t prone to displaying anything resembling joy unless she was whacking our fingers with a ruler, but the week our classroom spent reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Sister Margaret Mary was a happy camper. Looking back, I think Sister Margaret Mary may have been closet horror fan, but what would she think of Tim Burton’s version of the story? Grab your ruler and follow me.
Leave it to Tim Burton to take ownership of a story and make it better than the original tale and his casting Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane was brilliant. In the film, Sleepy Hollow, Johnny Depp plays a police constable, Ichabod Crane who is sent to the sleepy village to investigate a series of murders attributed to a Headless Horseman.
Already in deep trouble with his superiors in the New York City Police Department for going against the traditional methods of solving a crime, Ichabod who swears by modern crime solving procedures like forensics, finger-printing and autopsies is at first skeptical about the rumors of a headless madman. But, it isn’t long before he is sucked into the terror when he witnesses the Horseman behead one of the residents of Sleepy Hollow.
Ichabod Crane has to stay one step ahead of the Horseman while trying to find out the reason behind the killings. Everyone is suspect including the Van Tassel family in whose home Ichabod is staying as a guest. He’s even suspicious of their daughter, Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), the young lady who has stolen his heart.
While dealing with his own nightmare memories of his mother’s death at the hands of his brutal father, Ichabod comes to learn that the Horseman is out for revenge because someone has stolen his head from a secret grave by an old tree. No one is safe from the sword of the dark rider; not even children. Ichabod must use all the tools of modern deduction to find the person responsible for calling forth the Horseman. The job is made harder due to Ichabod’s fainting spells whenever he’s frightened. With the help of young Masbath (Marc Pickering) as a sidekick, Ichabod closes in on the person who has stolen the head.
When you consider the time period this story was written, you can understand how Washington Irving’s story could send chills down a reader’s spine. Irving was born at the end of the Revolutionary War and as a child had attended President Washington’s inaugural ball. The Hessians must have struck an ungodly fear into the hearts of the American Colonies and the atrocities committed by these hired German soldiers were most likely the basis for Irving’s story.
Johnny Depp has the knack of making every character he plays, his. Depp is Ichabod Crane. No one can play this part as deliciously as he does. Johnny Depp has a unique gift of allowing the audience to feel the emotions that he’s trying to portray during a particular scene through facial expressions and body language. He doesn’t need to speak, but you know exactly what he’s feeling.
Miranda Richardson was stunning in both her portrayal of Lady Mary Van Tassel. Christina Ricci played her part as the love interest for Ichabod Crane, and while I enjoy her acting in most films, in Sleepy Hollow; she was a pure delight to watch. Christopher Walken is one of the most talented actors in Hollywood. He not only dazzled us with his singing and dancing talents in the 2007 Hairspray remake, but Walken is the perfect boogeyman for any horror film. I love this guy and he did not disappoint me as the Headless Horseman.
Would Sister Margaret Mary like Burton’s version of Washington Irving’s tale? I think so. Sister would not only have loved it, I could picture her gleefully prancing around the room if she had lived to see it.
You can check out my “Sleepy Hollow” series recaps on here. Season two has already begun airing on Fox, Monday nights at 9:00.