Many of you grew up hearing the story of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman, but if you were like me when I was made aware of this old story, I was a child watching the Disney version of it. From childhood, I had an eerie idea of what Sleepy Hollow must be like, after all, the ending scene in the Disney movie was terrifying to me at the ripe young age of 8 or 9. I remember Ichabod Crane dashing away on his horse, hysterical in panic, with the headless horseman grasping at his coattails. When Ichabod was almost out of the legendary tunnel of the city, the horseman took his pumpkin head from his shoulders and hurled it at Ichabod. The scene cut, and the cartoon story finished at the funeral of Ichabod Crane. Of course this was a kid’s movie so the story was toned down for the young audience it was aimed at. I grew up being scared of this story, but also slightly intrigued. Last year, I found the 1999 movie of Sleepy Hollow, staring Johnny Depp, and it kindled a love for this tale of haunting, be-headings, and quirky adventure.
The movie from 1999 was much different than the childish cartoon I once watched (obviously, since it had an R rating). In this movie, Johnny Depp performed brilliantly as Ichabod, being the odd man he is and having a knack for mystery. The movie itself was very dark in mood and in color throughout the movie, which I am personally a huge fan of in a movie, giving this eerie tale a visually stunning depiction of the terrors that took place in this fairy tale. There were scenes that made you question reality, others that made you queasy, and still more that gave you this uncomfortable feeling of dark forces being present. I remember one scene in particular that still is embedded in my mind because of it’s wonderfully horrific imagery.
-Spoiler alert, beware-
The scene was just before the climax of the movie, Ichabod and his female accomplice had finally figured out where the horseman’s portal to hell was located, and they were going to destroy it to finally do away with this evil force. The portal was at the base of a tree, this large, old, dead oak tree. The bottom of it had many vines and branches that covered it’s base, but Ichabod was determined to find this portal to save the town from any more blood shed that would come if he did not. He takes a hatchet to remove the branches from the base of this old oak tree, but something disturbingly odd happens. With each hack at the tree, more and more red sap came out, but you probably guessed it, this wasn’t sap. The tree was filled with the blood of those the horseman had claimed, covering Depp in blood by the end of his way through the branches at the base of this tree, but this was not the end of the disturbing secrets this tree held. After cutting away all the branches, the heads of every person the horseman had killed came tumbling out onto the feet of Ichabod, the pale cold heads without bodies brought about panic on the part of the characters in the movie as well as the audience.
This scene was only one of the many great illustrative cinema moments involved in the film, but this one struck me the most because of its creativity as well as gore involved. I am very much a gore hound, but when it is used in a creative and demented way such as this, I absolutely love it. It reminds me of nightmares I might have after watching a movie or hearing a terrifying story, except in this case, the producer put the nightmare in my head. The whole movie did this since it maintained such a heavy and dark mood along with great story line and acting to go with it all. This is why Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp is by far one my favorite horror movies of all time.