The year was 1820 and America was still a new nation not even a half a century old. The country was growing and the culture was beginning to take its own identity and shape. As a young nation the one thing the country lacked was its sense of mythology or legend. Englands mythology can be found in the tales of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. It even goes farther back with our mighty hero known as Beowulf and the Greeks have the myths of Hercules and Perseus. These myths may be fiction but establish an identity for any culture. They’re passed down as tradition and live as a certain moral compass for new generations. With a young nation like America making its way in the world, it was a perfect time for new heroes and tales to arise and become legend.
A thirty seven year old Washington Irving wrote a collection of short stories titled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. It is in these short stories that the story of Rip Van Winkle made their mark. Another well known tale is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which would be the short story that makes Irving famous. It would go down as one of Americas first shining examples of literature and live on today as a fan favorite story during the Halloween season. The story would be passed down from one generation to the next. It was even turned into a film in 1922 and then animated by the Disney company in 1946. It would be a two part feature called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. As all tales do, they’re eventually given new life and told through new forms of media. With Irvings The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, one reimagining that has always remained a favorite of mine is the movie called Sleepy Hollow.
Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 gothic horror film directed by American director Tim Burton. It stars Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Christopher Lee and Christopher Walken. The film is loosely based upon the American tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving and serves as a re-telling of the classic tale. The movies received positive reviews and lives as a seasonal fan favorite that is played over and over… and over again on basic cable stations.
As the world ushers in a new century a young rebellious detective by the name Ichabod Crane presses for a more civilized process in police and criminal investigation. His less supernatural ideals lead him to a small colonized settlement in upstate New York called Sleepy Hollow. There he must use his new detective skills to apprehend the one responsible for a series of brutal crimes. What unfolds with Crane turns out to be a nightmare made flesh and also a test of Ichabod Cranes ability to accept things he cannot understand.
Tim Burton Is Macabre Not Horror
Normally I don’t include many Tim Burton films in a horror marathon. Most of his movies tend to be more macabre and gothic than they are horror. Sometimes I think we can misinterpret gothic for horror and I understand why, especially during the Halloween season. Tim Burton films (or the old ones) always seem to give off a good Halloween feeling. Everything is dark and twisted. Exaggerated edges and intricate textures all give us a certain creep factor with their grayscale color scheme. His movies aren’t really scary, but there is an odd feeling to them and sometimes the odd kind of style puts us in the Halloween mood.
With Sleepy Hollow, I think it’s fair to say that it is a horror movie. It may be a horror movie mixed in with action and mystery but that just adds to the flavor. I absolutely love this movie. It is so much fun and a movie that keeps you interested from beginning to end. The entire film is dark and dreary yet completely beautiful. The visuals leave an imprint in your memory bank and captivate the early methods that made Tim Burton so good and original. Everything is rich and full of character that its like walking into a candy store. You just want to touch everything and shove it into your pocket because you know it has value.
So Much Blood
It’s also a complete gore fest of a film. People are getting hacked and slashed in this movie and it’s done with a guttural punch. The more I think about it, the more I see this movie mixing in the slasher genre because the horseman simply jacks everyone up. But the use of blood in this film is so awesome because it’s so rich and red. Whenever we see blood, it is prominent and a focal point on a saturated atmosphere.
What makes this movie so appealing for me is the character of Ichabod Crane. He’s a true hero and his story arc serves as well crafted plot device. Ichabod is a man of science and doesn’t believe in a headless horseman or witches and spells. He comes into the town as a man that has actually read Irvings The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. A tale that metaphorically tells us not to let superstition dictate the way we think and live. Unlike the short storied Ichabod, this movies version is stern and logical, much like Washington Irving probably was. Sleepy Hollows hero Ichabod Crane may very well be a homage to Irving himself. Sure Sleepy Hollow takes many liberties with the classic tale but this idea that its taking Irving personified in Crane and then challenging the ideas of the tale kind of makes it awesome. Also, I’m sick and tired of being that “That’s not how it is in the book” kind of guys.
But unlike the book that disproves the ideas of supernatural things like ghosts and spooks. Ichabod’s entire logical mind is challenged. The horseman is a vengeful ghost and he is looking for his head! This defies all that Crane believes and has forced himself to reject his entire life. As the movie progresses he loses his stern nature and begins to accept what can’t be explained and also love. But what makes this story work is that Crane’s ideas of solving mystery through science is not all thrown out the door. The story mixes the two methods of faith and science as one as the horseman and his murders have a logical understanding. Which Crane does end up discovering. This creates a great blend of a man coming to terms with what is and then changing his way of thinking and ultimately making the right decision. It is a wonderful heroes journey that has its ups and down moments that brings us to a tension built crescendo that certainly pays off.
Sleepy Hollow is a wonderful movie with a well written story. I love the scenery and costumes and feel the Tim Burton style gives it the proper tone that any fan of horror can appreciate. It often feels like a classical monster film at times. Johnny Depp is as always a great actor and is followed by other brilliant performances with Christina Ricci and Dumbledore. The mystery that unfolds should make any new viewer feel intrigued and suspended in wonder. Watch this movie and enjoy the craft and artistry of what it is and have a great day twenty eight for Horror Movie Marathon 2019!