Thursday, November 19, 2020

Headless Hackers: Sleepy Hollow high (2000), The Hollow (2004) and Headless Horseman (2007) Triple Bill Review

It may no longer be Halloween as of writing this, but it is still Fall season and nothing spells Autumn ghost stories than The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a 1820s Gothic tale by author Washington Irving which tells the story of one headmaster, Ichabod Crane, and his encounter with a headless Hessian one ill-fated night in the titular town of Sleepy Hollow. Adaptations of this story are plenty, ranging from animated Disney shorts to Jeff Goldblum-starring TV flicks spots, and you can bet your cheeks we have slasher varieties from time to time, one of the more known ones being directed by Tim Burton with a supernatural slasher-fantasy feel, 1999's Sleepy Hollow

But if you're looking for trashier, sillier and cheesier rounds of headless horsemen hacking the hapless helpless, then head no further! Here are three slashers titles taking their own twist on the Sleepy Hollow story and, my god, aren't they something~


Sleepy Hollow High (2000)
Rating: **
Starring: Meagan Lopez, Ruben Brown, Antonio Benedict

After getting caught pranking a snitch one night, five delinquents from Sleepy Hollow Highschool (who curiously look like people in their 20s) are punished to do community service by cleaning up a nearby park ground or else they'll get expelled. A counselor aptly named "Mr. E" (*muffled screams*) accompanies the gang to the clean-up so he can keep an eye on them but, in the midst of yardwork, money-funded teen drama writing and supposedly captivating red herring-filled thrills, the group will soon find out someone is taking their local legend way too seriously as a pumpkin masked killer shows up to collect some heads.

But who could it be? The snitch who is subtlety (as in, totally on our faces) seen giving them the stink eye while packing away a headless horseman costume at the trunk of his car? "Mr. E" (*even louder muffled screaming*) succumbing to his collar-grabbing short-fused temper? Or perhaps it's the headless horseman himself? Twirling his sword around and looking like a dork in a medieval fair, itching to punish some terrible people?

Strongly resembling a student film project that somehow got home video distribution rights, Sleepy Hollow High (2000) tries its hardest to be comprehensibly entertaining and, through small hoops and loops of unintentional hilarity, this micro-budget Breakfast Club (1985)-meets-supernatural slasher hybrid succeeds. By a molecular thread. 

As a slasher, it inevitably fails to impress; the janky mess that is this movie's editing made all of the pumpkin killer's slayings and brief chases barely watchable. Its use of shaky cam, near-absence of lighting and early 2000s CG bits somehow cheapening every sword swing and flying Halloween décor body parts even more than it should be possible. The worse to come, however, is this movie's own conclusion in which it pulls a Slaughter High (1986) twist on us that doubles down with a rather pointless implication before the credits roll, which ultimately adds very little to the already generic backwoods slasher plot. These peeves trip and bog the movie down drastically and I would have trashed it as dumpster fire if it wasn't for some of the laughs I got out of it.

Granted the movie also suffers from characters being detestably annoying and unengaging in their bad boy/girl melodrama, and the movie's poorly composed production rivaling your annoying uncle's home grown vacation videos, Sleepy Hollow High (2000) still has the ludicrous saving grace of being as interesting as a lumbering flaming wheel rolling down heavy traffic; tragedy bound's to happen but you just can't look away, much like how this film's misplaced attempts of seriousness clash so horribly with its inept quality that it's comical. It's so bad it's forgivingly good in a way (?), but I cannot deny that's a statement true to only a few people and plenty would likely just skip this one over. And I wouldn't blame them. 

As much as I like some slasher titles with dangerously high levels of cheese such as ThanksKilling (2008), Nail Gun Massacre (1985) and Truth or Date: A Critical Madness (1986), I still have to draw the line somewhere and Sleepy Hollow High (2000) almost got past that line if only it didn't fell apart stupidly in the end. Better luck next time, movie!

1 female killed with a sword
1 female decapitated with a sword
1 female decapitated with a sword
1 male had his hand lopped off with a sword, hacked
1 male pulled through a sword, impaled
1 male sliced down in half with a sword
Total: 6

The Hollow (2004)
Rating: ***
Starring: Kevin Zegers, Kaley Cuoco, Nick Carter

This movie is just, for a lack of better term, cute!

In this made-for-TV cheapie chiller with a surprisingly large count of familiar faces, it's nearing All Hallows Eve in Sleepy Hollow and new-in-town high schooler Ian Cranston was just enjoying the festivities when he sees himself followed and pestered by the local graveyard's groundskeeper Claus Van Ripper, who calls Ian "teacher" (more often than one could stand, if you ask me) and believes he and his family are the latest descendants of one Ichabod Crane, thus the only ones who can stop the Headless Horseman upon his return.

Ian, of course, dismisses the ramblings, and the same goes for the rest of the town as everybody disregards the groundskeeper's fear of the Horseman's wrath and his consistent demands to call off the festivities. But as you would've guessed, the dark rider of the legends does arrive from the other side to hunt down horny teenagers and a few unfortunate bystanders around Sleepy Hollow, leading Ian to brave the night, heed Van Ripper's guidance and accept the role as the town's only hope for surviving that night. 

Despite the lack of gratuitous and exploitative elements likely to be found from its gorier slasher kin, I'm honestly surprised at how fun The Hollow (2004) got with its back-to-basics approach on awkward teen subplots and supernatural spookiness, both hardly that complex but appreciatively enjoyable nonetheless. Yes, it still has its cliched runs like Ian having a coach dad who's disappointed at his son for not embracing football, or how there's a love triangle between our hero, a pre-Big bang Theory Kaley Cuoco-lead cheerleader and her soon-to-be Ex played by a bullying Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys fame, but the main story of the Headless Horseman's hellish return and Ian's discovery of being the great great grandson of Ichabod Crane has the strong points of being a strange mix of seasonal coziness and late night popcorn movie silliness that knows it exists just to simply entertain.

Its lack of a high kill count, splashy murders and a more inventive look for the headless Hessian (Like, for real. Another literal pumpkin head?) may stray away slasher fans looking for a full-on hack-a-thon with chunky gore, as the Hessian doesn't really appear on screen until the last third of the movie and even by then, there’s not that much bloodshed committed and whatever grue we got is relatively tame. Overall, though, this doesn't detract how much I enjoyed this forgettable yet competently modest Halloween slasher and I think it deserves a few more genuine views from curious horror fans out there looking for a light fright flick.

Flawed but fun, The Hollow (2004) is far from a terrible pick; a mindless time-waster guaranteed to keep the Autumn spirits up and do a fair job bringing in the small thrills.

1 male killed, body seen dragged away
1 female attacked with a flaming Jack-o-Lantern, killed
1 male beheaded with a sword
1 male beheaded with a sword
1 female beheaded with a sword
Total: 5

Headless Horseman (2007)
Rating: ***
Starring: Billy Aaron Brown, Rebecca Mozo, Richard Moll

Everything you know about the story of Sleepy Hollow? Throw it out of the window because, according to this movie, it's all whitewashed! 

Seven teenagers driving to a party in Kansas make the unfortunate mistake of taking a shortcut down into the woods, which trail just so happens to be rigged with bear traps. As their car hobbles down with a snared tire, a young tow truck driver named Candy just happens to be around and agrees to take them to the small and nearly isolated town of Wormwood Ridge to have their ride repaired.

In there, the teens learn through Candy that the town's preparing for the Headless Horseman Celebration, which is held every Halloween since 1806, the year a serial killing Satanist horseman named Calvin Montgomery preyed on the town's children for his rituals until the residents caught and hanged him, body left to rot and his head torn away. But unbeknownst to our gang, Montgomery, now a headless specter called, well, Headless, cursed the town with misfortune and will continue to haunt and prey upon it unless the townsfolk help him collect seven heads for a pact he made with his dark master. 

Now trapped in a hexed town desperate to end the horseman's nightmare, the teens will find out the measures these townies will go to keep them from escaping, as well as the decapitating, supernatural threat that is Headless.

Basically Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and Wrong Turn (2003) with one headless killer with fleshy tentacles growing out of his neck stump, I find Headless Horseman (2007) completely bonkers in the right way; the characters are your typical B-grade horror fodder devoid of depth and acted clunkily (a few more annoying than the others), and the plot makes very little sense and even feels a tad too convenient at times, but the sheer amount of cheese, insanity and blood warped around its run and the admittedly creative take on a lore inspired by the Sleepy Hollow tale make this film a shred more tolerable to sit through than it should be.

It's nothing we wouldn't expect from a predictable and sleazy made-for-television SyFy shlock (back when it was decently called "SciFi"), bad early day CG, banal writing and all, but the movie doesn't shy away from embracing the outrageousness of its story. That said, expect a lot of genuinely fun and cheeky moments thrown in, like how Headless is one part eldritch abomination slowly growing its head back the more he decapitates his intended victims, or how he badassed his way out an exploding garage by riding a motorcycle!


The horror elements just work in the simplest sense; though the deaths mostly lead to decapitations, the kills have variety and the gore is surprisingly done with well enough practical effects. Headless also himself proves to be an efficient villain to dish out these murders and put up a good fight, and, again, the brazen Satanist-cum-Lovecraftian angle they went with his origin does warrant good points for how off-the-wall it is. The pacing does plod off whenever the film feels the need to dump some expositions, but it fortunately rewards our patience with a good climax trailing straight down to a nifty three-against-one final brawl.

As dumb this movie can get, Headless Horseman (2007) still has enough fun content to make up for its drag and slop. It's not gonna be everyone's humble horror pie, no doubt about that, but as a harmless slasher effort? I say track this down and give it a try! Could be worth some laughs!

1 male found headless
1 male decapitated with a thrown blade
1 male decapitated with a car's trunk
1 girl decapitated with a sword (flashback)
1 male attacked with a sword, hanged and pulled until decapitated (implied in book)
1 male shot a car's gas tank, immolated
1 female bashed with a flail, decapitated on a bear trap
1 male beheaded with an axe
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male decapitated with a sickle
1 male shot
1 female decapitated
1 female shot
1 male shot
1 male shot to death
1 male ran over with a truck
120 individuals disintegrated into dust
Total: 136

1 comment:

  1. Nice one, or should that be nice three? I like the sound of Sleepy Hollow High. Not heard of that one before but I'll keep it in mind as one to check out in future.