As far as modern Teen Horror flicks go, “The Hollow” has a rather novel premise, even if its execution proves to be sorely lacking. The script by Hans Rodionoff posits the question: what if Ichabod Crane, the hero of Washington Irvine’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, was a real person, and he survived his encounter with a certain headless horseman. Over the generations, the name Crane has morphed into Cranston, and it’s back at present-day Sleepy Hollow that we find teenager Ian (Kevin Zegers), an aspiring actor who is told, in no uncertain terms by crazy cemetery caretaker Claus (Stacy Keach), that the headless horseman is due to make a return engagement, and he still wants the head of a Crane.
That’s a pretty novel idea for a movie, you have to admit. Alas, whatever genius Rodionoff’s script may have had, there’s little magic in the movie that resulted from it. “The Hollow” is like all other Teen Horror films — full of cliché, stock characters, and Dumb Authority Figures. The film limps along, with only Stacy Keach to entertain, until the 50-minute mark when the film finally unearths its horror elements and the movie manages to salvage things just a bit. Or at least for the next 15 minutes, since the film barely hits 75-minutes of actual movie even soaking wet.
There is a surprisingly decent cast at work here, with vet Stacy Keach providing the bulk of the film’s entertainment value. As the Old Guy Who Knows Stuff, Keach’s character does all those things Old Guys Who Knows Stuff do in these Teen Horror movies — namely tell the hero about, well, stuff. The hero is played by Kevin Zegers, who is quite good as our young hero. Zegers has been in a number of big-budgeted horror films, including the recent remake of “Dawn of the Dead” and before that, “Wrong Turn”. So the kid is no amateur.
The rest of the cast is hit and miss. Judge Reinhold, many decades removed from his zenith in “Beverly Hills Cop”, plays Ian’s nagging father, whose sole goal in life, it seems, is to get his son to take up football. But son Ian is a bit hard headed, and constantly butts heads with dear ol dad. And is it me, or does Reinhold, who was 46 (or thereabouts) at the time of filming, still looks way too young to be anyone’s father, much less an old curmudgeon with a bad case of jock obsession?
Nick Carter, of the boy band “Backstreet Boys”, makes a decent effort as the clich’d jock who of course is an item with the hot cheerleader (Kaley Cuoco). As I said, “The Hollow” indulges in so many stock characters and clich’d situations that you wonder how the people who made the film didn’t realize it as they were making it and decided to mix things up a bit. Then again, I suppose if they did that there wouldn’t be so many generic and formulaic junk out there.
Real horror fans looking for a scare needn’t bother with “The Hollow”. Although the rating is supposedly an “R”, there’s almost no gore to be found. Butkus on the gratuitous (re: satisfying) sex and violence. Almost 90% of the film takes place at night, and apparently the production was missing a cinematographer who wasn’t blind. It might have just been the result of a terrible transfer to DVD, but “The Hollow” is a terribly grainy film, making everything onscreen almost incomprehensible.
Of course the overwhelming darkness was probably done to hide the prosthetic work on the headless horseman, who looks like a man with a pumpkin on his head in the few scenes we could actually make him out. It’s all of the blink-and-you’ll-miss variety, which is obviously the result of filmmakers who had no confidence in their make-up effects.
With most of the violence taking place offscreen (there are two offscreen kills in the first 10 minutes, then nothing else until the 50-minute mark), “The Hollow” won’t satisfy a lot of people. In the long and short of it, I suppose it’s an innocuous film that might be worth the price of a rental, but definitely not a purchase. The acting is, once again, surprisingly decent across the board, and as mentioned, Stacy Keach entertains in every scene he’s in. Nicholas Turturro (formerly of “NYPD Blue”) shows up as a Sheriff, but his total screentime is somewhere around 2 minutes before he loses his head.
When “The Hollow” finally hits the hour mark, things do pick up a bit. There are some reasonably entertaining moments, even if one will be hard pressed to make out any actual details in the film’s final 30 minutes. It just seems as if everyone goes out of their way to turn off lights so we can’t see anything. “The Hollow” is a grainy little bugger, made on a tight budget, and despite its “R” rating, this is really a PG Teen Horror film with some severed heads and a faux sex scene added in to achieve the desired “R”.
Kyle Newman (director) / Hans Rodionoff (screenplay)
CAST: Kevin Zegers …. Ian Cranston
Kaley Cuoco …. Karen
Nick Carter …. Brody
Stacy Keach …. Claus
Judge Reinhold …. Carl Cranston
Nicholas Turturro …. Sheriff Duncan