Paramount, 1999, 105 minutes, R
actors: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Marc Pickering, Michael Gambon, Miranda Richardson, Jeffrey Jones, Ian McDiarmid, Micheal Gough, Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee, Casper Van Dien, Lisa Marie, Martin Landau
writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
director: Tim Burton
executive producer: Francis Ford Coppola
Taxonomy: New twist on classic tale flick.
Plot: Constable Ichabod Crane is assigned to solve the perplexing murders in the small village of Sleepy Hollow.
Okay. I’m calling an audible. I can not write out an outline of the plot as I usually do. Why? Because this flick is really rather complex. The more I think about it the more directions I want to go, but none of them do the film justice and would give too much away. I have a vision of a long wordy mess. So. Tell ya what I’m gonna do! I will throw a wide net, paint with broad strokes, lie and make shit up. That last part was a joke. I am going to just give you the big picture version of the set-up for this flick. I won’t mention specifics and I certainly will not tell you the ending. You will then do your part and watch the movie!
Remember English class? Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?” No? Well if you want a refresher, you can read the story. Briefly, Ichabod Crane is a gangly superstitious school master in a small New York village. He loves a rich farmer’s daughter and competes with a local young buck for her affection. He eventually is attacked by The Headless Horseman and disappears. The end of the story lets you decide if the supernatural was involved. Got that? Good. Now you can forget most of it.
In Sleepy Hollow Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is a young New York city constable who champions rational scientific investigation techniques. Today we call this forensics, but in 1799 they called it disrespectful to the tradition of law. The Burgomaster (Christopher Lee) challenges Crane to prove himself by sending him to the little upstate village of Sleepy Hollow to solve a series of murders where the victims were all decapitated.
Once Ichabod gets to Sleepy Hollow, the plot thickens like old oatmeal. The town elders tell him point blank that the murderer is The Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken), a revenant from the nearby haunted Western Woods. It seems the horseman is the restless spirit of a Hessian mercenary who loved bloodshed, filed his teeth to points to scare his opponents, and used a broadsword and axe to decapitate the enemy. Eventually, the Hessian was hunted down, beheaded with his own sword and buried in the Western Woods. This version of Ichabod Crane does not believe in ghosts and vows to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Ichabod takes up residence in the Von Tassel home and is soon smitten with young Katrina Von Tassel (Christina Ricci). Ichabod then proceeds to study a recent death scene, gains an assistant in the form of the latest victim’s son young Masbath (Marc Pickering), performs an autopsy (!), and begins to suspect a conspiracy. This is done very well with Depp portraying Crane as determined yet insecure. He does not like the sight of blood or dead bodies, for example. Depp’s Ichabod Crane comes off as sort of a prototypical Sherlock Holmes a century early!
Then things get a bit messier when Ichabod sees the town magistrate beheaded by The Headless Horseman right in front of him! The film starts to pick up speed and witchcraft, dream visions, the question of Ichabod’s past, the importance of the color red, more detection, supernatural fun in the Western Woods, and the question of why the horseman is killing certain people and not others all come into play. Nearly every character’s … uh … character is questioned and it all rushes to a climax that pays homage to the Universal Frankenstein movies as well as the Gothic flicks of Hammer and Amicus.
Babeage: For those who like Christina Ricci, they should dig her here as a blond. My pick for babe of the flick is Lisa Marie who plays … nope, not tellin!
Sleazeploitation: Some sexual stuff, not very explicit. Some bad family vibes.
Beasts, Freaks and Weirdoes: The Hessian/Headless Horseman, a cool witch, some neat scarecrows and of course Christina Ricci.
Violence: Yes indeed! The tag line on the DVD menu says, “Heads will roll” and they do! They also bounce, spin and fly! Some very cool fight scenes too!
Gore & F/X: The heads, lots of blood, a creepy tree and a neat transformation scene. Plus the great town which was built for the film.
Ichabod Crane: “I have found something, which was lately … a man.”
Burgomaster: “Remember, it is you, Ichabod Crane, who is now put to the test.”
Ichabod Crane: “We have murders in New York without the benefit of ghosts and goblins.” Baltus Van Tassel: “You are a long way from New York, constable.”
Ichabod Crane: “The assassin is a man of flesh and blood, and I will discover him.”
Ichabod Crane: “You have moved the body?” Dr. Lancaster: “I have.” Ichabod Crane: “You must never move the body!” Dr. Lancaster: “Why not?” Ichabod Crane: “Because!”
Ichabod Crane: “There is no horseman, there never was a horseman, there will never be a horseman!”
Ichabod Crane: “It is truth, though truth is not always appearance.”
Ichabod Crane: “You’ll soon get your bearings young Masbath. The Bronx is up, the Battery is down and home is this way.”
Moral: How many times do I have to say this? If your opponent is undead, guns don’t work!!
Conclusion: Sleepy Hollow is the best kind of ‘based on’ adaptation. It takes the best parts of the original source and makes them better by adding entertainingly original ideas to the mix. Believe me, if you think Irving’s story is a bore, then try this movie. I guarantee you will be swept up in the great combination of gothic horror, mysticism, Holmesian detective story, terrific action, wonderful effects and some very nice acting. One word of caution; some of the scenes in this flick would be too much for younger kids, just so you know.
Congratulations to Jeffrey Jones for being in three of the six Halloween reviews for 2006!
Do you believe in Pumpkinhead?
Ichabod Pumpkin Ale
New holland Brewing Company, LLC
Well, you knew I had to review a pumpkin ale for Halloween didn’t you? You remember from last year, I’ sure, that pumpkin ale is simply a light ale, possibly wheat, made with pumpkin and the traditional pumpkin pie type spices. This one opts for nutmeg and cinnamon.
ABV: 5.50% IBU: maybe 20 to 30
Color: A cloudy amber with just the slightest hint of orange. Cloudy from wheat proteins? Perhaps. However, it might just be from the pumpkin and spice.
Aroma: A very soft, slight aroma. The kind way to say this would be “delicate.” The accurate way to say this would be that there is very little aroma. I could not detect pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon or much hops or malt for that matter. Aroma hints at taste so this does not bode well.
Head: White, fairly dense and not persistent. Probably not much wheat. Another bad sign.
Taste: A slightly sweet start moves to a mild sweet and sour hint of spice middle and then to a small bitter finish and short aftertaste. I did not taste pumpkin.
Recommendation: I can not recommend this beer. It is very close to being bland. There are no high notes, nothing distinctive about it whatsoever. The label is the best feature of this beer. I will have to give New Holland brews another try, but this one did not impress. Walk on by.
Okay all you minions get back to … uh … minning. Whatever. Hope you have a great Halloween! Give freely to the weeners and as always: Watch fun movies and drink Real Beer!
Remember: comments, questions, suggestions, requests and contributions welcome!