Welcome to A-Z Movie Reviews. Every Sunday, for the next several months, I will be posting a review of a film in my home movie collection. How it works is, I will be reviewing movies in alphabetical order until I get to the letter Z (Yes, I do have a film that ends in Z). Now I realize there are many ways to alphabetize a film collection, but this is mine so don’t judge me. This is simply for fun.
The first time I watched a story about the headless horseman was when I was a kid. I cannot recall the exact age I was. All I remember is I was young, and it was the Disney version. Some of you may or may not be familiar with it, if not, in 1949, Disney released an animated version of the headless horsemen which was titled “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Now, I did not see the film in 1949. I am not that old. Anyway, I loved the cartoon, and it was scary to me so I knew that the live action film Sleepy Hollow, would be just as scary. Especially with Tim Burton at the helm.
What it’s about:
Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of three people, with the culprit being the legendary apparition, The Headless Horseman.
Like I said, I love Tim Burton. I think he’s such a creative genius and what he comes up with when he creates films is incredible to watch on screen. I think we all know the story of Sleepy Hollow, but we do not know the Tim Burton version. Ichabod (Depp) is a constable living and working in New York. He is smart and unlike the people he works with, he believes in using your brain to solve a case. He is sent upstate to the town of Sleepy Hollow to solve several murders that involve the victims being decapitated. He is reluctant to go and when he arrives, he learns that he is not searching for a human criminal but a supernatural one.
The people of Sleepy Hollow inform Ichabod that what he is chasing is pure evil. They tell him the man behind the murders is a former Hessian mercenary who himself was decapitated and buried. Ichabod is skeptical of course because the killer couldn’t possibly be a supernatural one. He changes his tune after he has a run-in with the horsemen. As he works on the case, he then discovers that the horsemen is being controlled by someone and the murders are targeted not random.
Sleepy Hollow is filled with talented cast members, but my main draws were Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp, but mainly Johnny whom I have always been a big fan of (See my previous installments of A-Z Movie Reviews). Yes, I know there is a lot of drama surrounding Johnny Depp right now, but nobody can deny that he is an incredibly talented actor. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Johnny Depp has an amazing power to transport in any and every role he takes on.
As Ichabod he really brought something to the character. In interviews he had said that he wanted to do the whole prosthetic nose and all that to get the Ichabod look we know from Disney, but Tim Burton thought it worked better to just showcase Ichabod’s awkwardness through Johnny’s body language etc. and it really worked. On the outside, he appears to be this confident man but inside, he’s just as scared as the next person.
Another actor who deserves his props would have to be Christopher Walken as the headless horsemen. He really freaked me the hell out. Those blue contacts, the razor-sharp teeth, and his ability to kill indiscriminately was just scary.
If you have been following my A-Z Movie Reviews for a while, then you already know I love watching the behind-the-scenes stuff. Movie magic is so exciting and interesting to me. The entire set for the town of Sleepy Hollow was built in England from the ground up. The Church, covered bridge, windmill, all of it, was built by Tim Burtons team. If you read my A-Z Movie Review for Dark Shadows, then you know he also had the town of Collinsport built as well.
This kind of thing is just beyond cool to me. I also learned that the windmill was five stories high so it had to be put together outside because it could not fit inside of a soundstage. I was even more intrigued to learn that the entire set for the Western woods where the horseman resides was one of the largest soundstages in the world and the team was able to create entire weather sequences there.
Who doesn’t love special effects? Sleepy Hollow is filled with them. To create the horseman’s victims, the special effects team took plaster molds of the cast members to make their decapitated heads. Then after all of the details were done, they would take them and place them on a platform to spin because Tim Burton wanted a head spinning motion each time the horseman sliced someone’s head off. Not only did they have to do this, but they also had to create body’s that would have crumpling knees for them to fall to the ground once they were killed.
Another special effect I found interesting was how they were able to create the headless horsemen once he no longer had a head. They took a blue hood and placed it over the stuntman which then showed on the computer as a black screen to give the illusion that the horsemen had no head. They also had to create a digital collar that would match the movements of the stuntman as he would turn and things like that.
There are two more special effects I loved, and they each involve transportation. To create the horsemen’s horse Daredevil, they got the mechanical horse Elizabeth Taylor used in National Velvet. They took the horse and turned it into Daredevil. It really was a very cool fact to learn that they were able to use something so old that was still in good condition. The final thing I thought was cool was that they created 5 different coaches that were used for various reasons in the movie. For example, in the coach chase sequence, there is a coach designed for pyro moments and one for the stunt people. It’s always neat to learn about all that goes into making such epic film moments special.
Last thing I have to talk about is the musical score for Sleepy Hollow. It was done by one of my favorite composers Danny Elfman. If you don’t know him, he’s the man behind the scores for the Fifty Shades film trilogy. He of course has done several scores for Tim Burton already so it was no surprise that he would be the one to score Sleepy Hollow. Danny Elfman always hits the mark with his musical scores, and he knows how to make you feel the emotions you should be feeling when you watch certain moments on screen.
Sleepy Hollow is such a classic film and I honestly think it belongs in the same category as movies horror movies like Frankenstein (1931). There are some elements that remind me of it. Any fan of the horror genre will love Sleepy Hollow because it’s scary, but it’s also got some humor. I should also add even though there is a love story of sorts in the film, it is not one that would pull a non-Romance fan out of the movie.