, Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson
This Thanksgiving, director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Batman) provides reason to be thankful. In Sleepy Hollow, Burton has made a period horror movie of astonishing visual beauty that masterfully treads the fine line between laughter and terror. Hollow is one long, bloody blast, stuffed with enough decapitations to appeal to those who crave being scared silly while keeping a smart enough head on its shoulders to pull in folks who normally disdain grisly chillers.
The dim outlines of Washington Irving's classic 1819 tale are visible here, but Burton and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven) have spiked the yikes quotient. A headless horseman (Walken) still restlessly roams a New York farming community, but now he murderously lops off the heads of villagers as easily as if snapping tulips off their stalks. Ichabod Crane (Depp), a constable from Manhattan (he was a schoolmaster in Irving's story), is dispatched to investigate. Initially scornful of ghost sightings, he becomes a believer after an uncomfortably close encounter with the cranially challenged equestrian.
Much of Hollow's considerable charm derives from Depp's deft shake-and-quake performance. He is a reluctant hero, as liable to faint as to fight. Ricci, as a villager for whom Depp falls, mixes in just the right hint of mystery. And then there is the movie's look. Burton and his team bring an almost painterly feel to Hollow, as if varnish had been poured over every foot of film and then the whole was polished to a dusky sheen. (Note: Hollow is too gory for under-12s.) (R)
Bottom Line: Many cuts above the usual slasher fare