Hammer Times

Sleepy Hollow: adapted by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker from the Washington Irving short story; directed by Tim Burton; starring Johnny Depp (Ichabod Crane), Christina Ricci (Katrina), Miranda Richardson (Lady Van Tassel), and Christopher Walken (The Horseman) (1999):

Tim Burton’s homage to the Hammer horror films of the 1950’s and 1960’s looks terrific — it’s a triumph of muted cinematography, if nothing else. And after another 13 years of macho heroes, Johnny Depp’s perennially frightened Ichabod Crane seems a lot more palatable than he did in 1999. He’s another twitchy Depp freakshow, but he’s at least plausibly freaky and refreshingly low on testosterone.

The film turns the old Washington Irving tale into a somewhat creaky supernatural detective story without much mystery — you may figure out who’s behind everything in the first 15 minutes or so. And that’s OK. It’s really a movie about fog and darkness and creepy things.

Burton, as usual, goes too far at a couple of points with the visual effects. An homage to his own Beetlejuice is especially annoying. And the McGuffin is almost laughably banal. However, the cast is terrific, and Christina Ricci is both lovely and, as a heroine, has actual important things to do other than screaming. Recommended.

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