Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has deservedly been a
classic horror story for over 200 years. The spectre of the
Headless Horseman is one that can send a chill down the spine.
Strangely, Hollywood has never once been able to capture the story –
and they have tried many, many times.
To remedy this,
Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman, Ed Wood) has
decided not to even try. His version has little to do with the
original other than character names and the Headless Horseman
himself. His vision of the story is the scariest ever made on the
Headless Horseman, but not necessarily the best. The movie has a
tendency to run a very awkward tightrope between dragging on
aimlessly and then suddenly overwhelming the audience with horror
(and more decapitations than a Hun invasion.)
For some reason,
the character of Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is no longer a gawky
schoolteacher, but a gawky criminologist. Katarina Von Tassel
(Christina Ricci) is no longer a shy daughter of a businessman, but
has now become a sexually alluring white witch. All of these
modernizations work at cross-purposes, some are genuinely scary, but
they carve the imagination from the heart of the story.
Horseman is still an awe-inspiring sight. Scenes where he appears
-- particularly a series of shots where he seems to emerge in full
stride from the roots of a tree – are spine tingling.
Too bad Burton
didn’t trust the source material and felt the need to turn him into
the world’s first ghostly serial killer in what is essentially a
Victorian slasher film. (11/99)
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June 29, 2019.