Headless Horseman (DVD)
Reviwed by The Foywonder
Starring Billy Aaron Brown, Rebecca Mozo, Richard Moll, Arianne Fraser, Trish Coren, Vasile Albinet
Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante
Distributed by First Look Pictures
Sleepy Hollow meets Wrong Turn meets 2000 Maniacs in Headless Horsemen, the new supernatural slasher flick premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel from Boo director Anthony C. Ferrante. The classic tale of the Headless Horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is merged with the timeless slasher movie scenario of a bunch of teens on a road trip who decide to take a shortcut through the backwoods only to wind up broken down in the middle of nowhere and being stalked and killed by a homicidal maniac.
In this case, seven good-looking young friends from all walks of life headed to a party take a shortcut through flavor country and wind up in a tiny hick town that holds an annual "Headless Horseman" festival every Halloween. The version of the tale Washington Irving made famous in his classic literary story was the white-washed version, according to the townsfolk; the real version has more to do with a murder in 1806, Faustian pacts, and a headless horseman that returns every Halloween in search of seven heads to take back to hell lest the town itself get taken straight to hell. Suffice to say, the local inbred redneck populace are quite happy to have seven unwitting heads to offer up to their town's curse on All Hallows Eve, but if the potential decapitees (yes, I’m just making up words at this point) can get their hands on a special sword that might be able to slay the supernatural decapitator, with an assist from a local babe in Daisy Duke shorts who'll do anything to escape the podunk hellhole she's tired of calling home, they just might escape with their necks still in one piece.
Enjoyable as it might be, there really isn't a whole lot of depth to this one. Zachary Weintraub's Headless Horseman script is competent, sometimes even imaginative, yet for the most part is perfectly happy wading around the shallow end of the pool with familiar circumstances and characters that are more personality archetypes than flesh and blood people. The townsfolk are pretty much your stereotypical Southern fried redneck lunatic types, none more so than scenery-chewing Richard Moll (House, "Night Court") as a Confederate-accented loon named Kolchak (wink, wink) whose almost crazy/menacing enough to warrant his own horror flick. The victims, though, are just your usual assortment of good-looking guys and gals, their names you'll never remember. Aside from one or two of them done so intentionally, the script does earn points for not portraying them all as complete dimwits. Still, there's still not much of a reason to root for them to survive.
Then again, is rooting for them the point? Aren't most slasher movies really about having a cool slasher killing people in creative fashion? Headless Horseman succeeds in that aspect. Heads roll and blood splatters as the neckless boogeyman on horseback hacks, slashes, and impales victims before chopping their blocks off with his might axe. One particularly great kill has the Horseman flipping over a speeding convertible and still managing to sever the head of the driver while upside down in mid-air. Let's see the Jeepers Creepers monster pull off that stunt.
Admittedly though, the Horseman never quite reaches the level of badass he probably could have had the film been much darker and more serious than it is; but as far as low budget inhuman movie slashers go of late, he's a no-nonsense beheading machine. The more heads he lops off en route to achieving the magic number of seven heads and then depositing them into his express whirlpool bath to hell, the more something resembling a head begins to take form on his own body. This'll lead to some nifty moments like when he wears a jack-o-lantern for a head and when some veiny tendrils protruding from his neck stump begin flailing around trying to grab hold of those too close like they’re octopus tentacles. A little gooey neck tendril action goes a long way in my book.
Unfortunately, something you probably won't ever feel watching Headless Horseman is fear. Scary this is not. Ferrante is initially hindered in the atmosphere department; a headless horseman in broad daylight just isn't all that scary-looking, but once the sun sets, it may not achieve the classic horror atmosphere of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow; it does finally take on a Halloween spookhouse quality. The film doesn't, however, achieve a fear factor any higher than that of a lesser A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel.
Like most Halloween treats Headless Horseman isn't terribly nourishing or filling. But it is fun enough to make it worth a look - primo trick or treat entertainment - even though it's still an instantly forgettable fright flick of little consequence.
3 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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