Say what you like about director Tim Burton, even his lesser films - such as (Batman Returns and Planet of the Apes) - look good. But when he combines a superb story with his unique eye, the film bears his unmistakeable imprint, often copied but rarely bettered.
Sleepy Hollow is one of his successes, based on Washington Irving's enduring fiction. Burton strips the American folk tale back to its essentials. Johnny Depp is New York Constable Ichabod Crane, eager to drag the law and the courts into the scientific 1800s, but instead banished to investigate a series of murderous beheadings at the hamlet of Sleepy Hollow.
There, he finds everyone suspicious of his presence and fearful of the murderer: a headless horseman, the ghost of a mercenary Hessian who fought in the Wars of Independence. But as the body count (or rather torso count; the heads are never found) rises, so Crane begins to suspect a human hand. He begins to investigate the motives of village elder Baltus Van Tassel (Michael Gambon), his wife Lady Mary (Miranda Richardson) and his daugher Katrina (Christina Ricci) as well as notary James Hardenbrook (Michael Gough). Yet even Crane cannot imagine the truth behind the continuing beheadings, involving wealth, greed and a desire for one's own head to be returned...
The film, like Batman, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, is a delight to watch (look for the homages to Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas), but the real success is the mix of comedy, romance between Depp and Ricci's characters and some genuinely spooky special effects, plus a truly demonic horseman played, in flashback, by Christopher Walken