America, just before the end of the 18th century, and the small town of Sleepy Hollow is experiencing a spate of grisly decapitations at the hands of a ghostly headless horseman. New York City Constable, Ichabod Crane, is dispatched to establish who, or what, is behind the strange murders and in the process he finds himself caught up in deadly small town politics.
Tim Burton's take on this classic ghost story is at once eerie, atmospheric, and darkly humorous. As with most of his films it is extremely rewarding visually, and in this case is shot with such diluted use of colour as to be almost black and white in places. Depp's performance as Crane, is a sympathetic one, earnest and intelligent, yet squeamish at the sight of blood and highly sceptical of the supernatural. In fact, all the performances from the stellar cast are strong, although some of the characters remain underdeveloped. Christina Ricci as the love interest, Katrina Van Tassel, is somewhat cold and aloof, and Miranda Richardson as her stepmother is woefully underused, despite her potential for delicious wickedness.
The pace and tension are both kept up throughout the film, aided and abetted by Danny Elfman's dramatic score and the remarkable visuals. There is, however, surprisingly little warmth or connection between the audience and the characters. For ghostly aesthetics this film takes a lot of beating, but in striving to achieve the perfect atmosphere, the rest of the film is left out in the cold.