While Johnny Depp may not be the first actor thought of at the mention of horror films, he has starred in two movies of supernaturally mythic proportions. FROM HELL deals with the Jack the Ripper murders and SLEEPY HOLLOW finds him facing off against the headless horseman.
Depp makes a memorably heroic lead in both tales. He first came to prominence as a star of Fox’s TV smash 21 Jump Street, in which he starred as an undercover police officer fighting crime in high school. After the series he became a leading man of offbeat films. He is certainly a favorite of fantasy director Tim Burton, with which he has collaborated often and had a number of successes. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Depp, he has starred in a few movies I liked greatly. One is the 1995 black & white western Deadman. In that movie he portrays an Easterner out of his depth after a smoke strewn train takes him west and on the run as a fugitive. The memorable supporting cast includes Lance Henriksen, John Hurt, and Robert Mitchem.
While Halloween is many moons away, I recently watched and enjoyed Sleepy Hollow. From director Tim Burton, the film is based on the story by Washington Irving which tells of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane’s journey into the colorfully leaf strewn autumn New England countryside. There certainly is plenty of color in this movie, especially blood red.
While the story of the legendary ghost seeking a head stems from Irving’s pen, Burton reinvents much of the tale for the film. Ichabod is still slightly awkward, but is now a police constable instead of a meek school teacher. The Headless Horseman’s origin is revealed and actor Christopher Walken revels in the horrors the specter unleashes as well as engaging in exciting swordplay. A copious amount of magic and mystery is added. The special effects are tremendous as a world of dreams (or nightmares) is conjured. I liked it.
There are several versions of the long lived tale. I must admit a definite fondness for the 1980 TV film version starring Jeff Goldblum. There’s no digital effects, but the simplistic story is well served in its family friendly rendering. It retains a scary atmosphere.
And then there’s From Hell. Once again, Depp stars as a police officer. This time he is residing in London’s Whitechapel district when the Jack the Ripper murders occur and must be dealt with. The film is based on the comic book series and deals with theories attached to the mysterious murders. There is enough blood and mayhem to label it for adults.
It’s interesting that both films transpire in the autumn. The ideal time for a mysterious murder?
Well if you want to indulge in a fictional murder for Fall, these are two good bets. Until then, happy Halloween.