Such as it was in the case of Edward Scissorhands and their newest collaboration Sweeney Todd, some material just seems made for director Tim Burton and his frequent muse and star, Johnny Depp. And in the case of-- as they sang in the Disney animated version-- “Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod Crane,” and Washington Irving’s entire Legend of Sleepy Hollow, again we are faced with one of those quintessential situations best delivered to audiences via Burton and Depp.
Sensuously heightened and painterly in scope, the photography by Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The New World, Great Expectations, Like Water for Chocolate) is one of the most startlingly original artistic achievements in years and well-worth the audience investment even when the film grows increasingly bloody with each passing scene.
Set in 1799, Sleepy Hollow (which incidentally was filmed precisely two hundred years later) follows scientifically inclined constable Ichabod Crane who leaves his post in the big city to travel to the small village of Sleepy Hollow in order to investigate the suspicious deaths of numerous citizens who are left decapitated in the night by a villainous horse-rider that the town has dubbed the Headless Horseman (played by Christopher Walken, of course).
Emphasizing the unattractive qualities of his intense fear, shyness and peculiarity rather than the historic homeliness of Crane, Depp is wonderful, delightfully gasping and fainting when he comes face to face with not only the village horrors but also the beautiful young Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci), whose family he stays with during the investigation. Earning a sidekick in not only Katrina but Young Masbath (Marc Pickering), a servant boy whose father was one of the unfortunate victims, Crane sleuths out the case, only to predictably find himself the center of increasing jeopardy as he detects some of the shocking little secrets being hidden by the town's elders (including the judge, reverend and others).
Although as IMDb reported acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard was tapped to complete an un-credited rewrite of the script to tone down the excessive violence of Andrew Kevin Walker’s original work, blood spills and heads roll aplenty but luckily, Burton never fully relishes in the gore as some directors may have, instead, as a former Walt Disney Studios animator, he found himself inspired by the style of Disney’s version in the creation of his own (IMDb). However, as true with Sweeney Todd, when it comes to this Burton/Depp venture, it’s best to leave the kiddies at home and like Todd, their fans wouldn't have it any other way.