Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of three people, with the culprit being the legendary apparition, The Headless Horseman.
This movie is so fucking great.
Tim Burton is phenomenal at creating mood — he even uses the opening credits to build mood and plant questions to entice the audience as the hero journeys through moody forests to the scene of the crime, the sky gray and cloudy just as winter days are here, the light weak and pale even during the day. He didn’t have to show that journey, but it builds our anticipation for what is to come. Love the desaturated look for the whole movie, the way he twists the idyllic to become sinister. The design of the evil tree is fantastic, and the costuming is great. I love the callback to the original Frankenstein movie in the climax.
The movie doesn’t take itself seriously, reveling in ridiculous fake gore humor, and casting Christopher Walken in a role where he mostly doesn’t have a head, and when he does his only line is a growl, delivered through teeth “filed to points.”
The plot nails its beats — I have had my head in a beat sheet for the last three weeks and in delight watching a master storyteller showcase the key beats. One quibble with the plot motivations: the magistrate didn’t have a reason to give him a tip.
I like that they pulled in the original story element of Ichabod being a coward while giving him depth of character and a commitment to overcome his fears and dislike of blood. It feels uncommon for a cowardly character to nevertheless be the hero of the story. The visual symbol of his beliefs — the spinning cardinal disc — is used brilliantly to complement his story arc. I find this character much more compelling than Jack Sparrow, though of course this weirdo artsy horror movie with the “beta” hero isn’t going to be the role that sticks in the collective consciousness 🤷♀️
A few quibbles: I would have appreciated Ricci’s character to get one more scene, or at least a few more lines, at the climax. Technically it doesn’t fail the Bechdel Test, but not by much.