The Hollow (2004)

The Hollow asks the viewer to swallow any number of silly-assed things over the course of its admittedly mostly painless 83 minutes: Former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter as a jock so obsessed with his town being recognized for its connection to Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” story that he almost abuses a girl for not being into it enough. Nicholas Turturo as a sheriff. Stacey Keach as filthy, drunken groundskeeper Claus Van Ripper, affecting a strange accent for no real reason and who knows all the ins and outs of the Headless Horseman. A Headless Horseman who may be pranking our hero’s dad by ringing his doorbell and then running away. Twice.

I would remind myself though that I knew this was an updated take on Irving’s famous folk tale starring Kaley Cuoco when I started watching and I had to expect some updates might not necessarily be improvements. (Just to be fair to the film, the addition of the girl dressed as a slutty nurse who wanted her man to show her what “boneyard” meant and then called him a little bitch for not wanting to screw her in the graveyard, but then got himself decapitated while going down on her, certainly made this hollow a little less sleepy.)

Where The Hollow really lost me was when it introduced Judge Reinhold as the hard ass high school football coach. As in Judge Reinhold from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Vice Versa. When he’s talking in his wimpy voice about how he had to be “hard as nails” when he played ball in an effort to inspire his clearly apathetic team, you can understand why his son didn’t want to play for him.

A very lame effort is made to further show that he doesn’t understand his son when he refuses to go watch him tell the Sleepy Hollow story to school kids and hosting the local haunted hayride. There’s even such a gulf between these two that he turns the TV channel to a football game even though his son wants his mom to record scary movies while he’s at the hay ride. (The movie thus puts the audience in the strange position of not believing anything about Judge Reinhold’s performance but at the same time loving it because his kid is such a loser! I mean, he skips football practice to go to fencing practice!)

You can be forgiven if you find the most shocking moment in the movie is that this small town high school has a fencing team. But once you realize that it exists to explain how our hero Ian can hold his own in a sword fight with the Headless Horseman, it all makes sense. Or at least as much sense as anything would where Ian gets a sword from the grave of Van Ripper’s Revolutionary War ancestor because he says they need a weapon from the same time as the Horseman to be able to send it back to hell. (How Van Ripper knows any of this is never explained with any credibility.)

Fencing poof Ian is at the center of all of his because he is a descendant of Ichabod Crane. The Hollow apparently posits that “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” really happened, that the Headless Horseman was defeated by Crane and now that he is back, it will take another Crane to defeat him!

Why is he back? Don’t know. Why does it take a Crane to defeat him? Don’t know that either. What are the odds that a Crane who doesn’t even know he is a Crane is living in the town on the exact same night the Headless Horseman comes back? Beats me but I’d guess about the same as Kelly Cuoco turning down a Backstreet Boy for a date so she can see a guy who starred in several Air Bud movies.

Perhaps owing to its origins as a movie made to be aired on the ABC Family Channel, the slasher elements are fairly lacking with a minimal amount of kills and the Horseman suffering from a dearth of screentime. (What violence there was though was apparently ramped up a bit for the version released on home video and you even get to see the girl lift the severed head of her boyfriend up from her crotch during the cunnilingus murder scene which was a welcome and surprisingly sleazy touch for such a bland affair.)

Characters are forced to behave stupidly as you might expect in an effort to build suspense though most normal folks would simply try to escape as fast as possible from the Horseman’s wrath. Despite crashing the truck full of hay ride customers through the graveyard fence to apparent safety Ian and his girlfriend go off in a different direction before splitting up from each other for no reason. Then Van Ripper suddenly advises that the Horseman is now after Ian’s dad instead of Ian, this knowledge based on nothing other than the assurance that the Horseman will just go after any old Crane he can find causes Ian to race back home to chase off old Headless only to have to race back to the bridge that he can’t cross

The last third of the movie is that kind of scattered mess, people just running here and there without any dramatic rhyme or reason. For instance, Nick Carter’s jerky jock is talked into being a good guy and helps rescue Ian’s girlfriend from the Horseman’s hideout and even survives despite taunting the Horseman, but still doesn’t get the girl. And we still don’t like him.

Once the Horseman inevitably blunders past a certain point at the bridge, he burns up like he always does in these movies (see also Headless Horseman) and you’re left wondering what the point of all of it was. Why was he chopping heads off? Why did he come back on that night? What stops him from returning? Why didn’t Van Ripper nip all this in the bud when he first noticed the signs that the Headless Horseman was coming back?

Interesting only for the strange collection of familiar faces that also features the Oscar nominated Eileen Brennan from Private Benjamin in a bit part as a crabby old lady, obviously tricked more than treated by signing on for this humdrum Halloween dud.

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