MAY 30, 2011
I don’t know how many of you follow my weekly articles over at BadAssDigest, but it should be all of you! Anyway, one of my recent pieces concerned a few R rated movies that should have been rated PG-13 for one reason or another, and had I seen The Hollow before writing it, I may have included it. Everything about it seems aimed squarely at teens and even pre-teens, but they toss in a quick nip slip and a decapitation to secure an R rating that the rest of the movie doesn’t even seem to want. Very weird.
I also keep up with Formspring, and one of the questions I had answered right before watching The Hollow concerned what I thought would make for a good horror movie. Instead of listing things I’d LIKE to see, I listed 10 things I DON’T want to see, and it’s kind of interesting how the film more or less went by those rules. For starters, one thing I mentioned was unlikable characters, which I know I’ve complained about a lot here in the past. So I was somewhat charmed to discover that the folks in The Hollow were a largely pleasant, amiable bunch; even the obligatory rival for our hero wasn’t too big of a dick, and by the end they’re more or less pals (again, it seems aimed at kids). Our two leads are Kevin Zegers and Kaley Cuoco, folks who I don’t think COULD be unlikable in a movie because they’re so damn pleasant to look at. Cuoco’s a bit green here, and the plot has her unfortunately running around with ghost makeup for the second half, but the two have a charming chemistry that made their rather budding romance work despite having very little buildup. Zegers also seems to be having fun playing against the great Stacy Keach (two Keach movies in one week! Nothing wrong with that, even if one of them is Isaac’s Return), who is in sort of the Dr. Loomis role as a guy who actually knows what’s going on but looks/sounds crazy so no one believes him.
And yeah, the Halloween influence is a bit apparent, but more in spirit than direct reference. For starters, it takes place on Halloween, and then Zegers’ character had originally planned to stay in and watch a John Carpenter marathon on TV instead of hosting the town’s annual hayride (we hear some fake Halloween music on the TV). Plus Keach spends some of his time going around the town with the disbelieving sheriff. Hell, they even shot it in Los Angeles even though it takes place somewhere on the other side of the Mississippi (New York here, obviously). Good stuff. The film also has a pretty decent amount of Halloween atmosphere; there are pumpkins everywhere, some trick ‘r treaters, etc. And the town’s way of celebrating reminded me of Salem, MA, where Halloween is a big deal due to the Salem Witch story. Zegers’ character tells the story of Ichabod Crane in dramatic fashion in an early scene (on October 30th), and then hosts the hayride, which has ghosts and such popping out as the “terrified” folks drive past. Going on hayrides is something I definitely miss about the season (I wish Universal would put one together instead of just having us ride the standard tram), and I liked that this stuff felt not only nostalgic, but sincere (knowing that director Kyle Newman is a true geek didn’t hurt). It may not be as overall successful as Trick ‘R Treat in that regards, but I chalk that up more to a low budget (reportedly under a million, with a lot of familiar faces in the cast) than a lack of intent.
One odd thing about the movie is that I kept thinking it was a 90s flick for some reason. When Zegers pulled out a Red Bull I was momentarily confused, thinking that they didn’t have those back then. And there’s a minor plot point about Zegers’ dad wanting to change the channel and thus mess up his taping of the Carpenter marathon, which seems like a 90s thing – they haven’t figured out how to watch one thing while taping another yet? And why doesn’t he just have these movies on DVD? I was also a bit baffled by the fact that he took fencing class – do they even have that in high school anymore? It’s obvious WHY he is taking it, to set up the inevitable sword fight with the Headless Horseman, but they should have come up with something a little less anachronistic. Hell, Newman’s a giant Star Wars fan (his followup was Fanboys), they should have just had Zegers playing with a lightsaber in his spare time to set it up. Not like he pulled off any big fancy moves anyway.
I was a bit miffed that the Headless Horseman, um, had a head. Not a human head, it was some sort of demonic pumpkin-headed thing, but still – the visual of an actual HEADLESS figure riding around on his horse is a lot creepier than some Jack-O wannabe thing (the CGI is also less than stellar). I figured it would get knocked off early on and then he’d look more like the traditional figure, but it’s there until the end. They also set up a bit where he is able to escape his isolated wooded area and go to the town, but then he ends up going right back to the woods, instead of wreaking havoc in suburbia. It’s possibly another budgetary issue, but it’s a disappointment either way.
But again, it’s harmless, pleasant fun. If not for the nip slip and decapitation (both in one scene – it’s a misplaced but funny “head” gag featuring two horny teens – you figure it out), it’d be the type of thing I’d probably show my niece (who will be 8 this Halloween), or suggest for an upper grade school (6-8th grades) Halloween day party instead of rolling out It’s The Great Pumpkin for the 50th time. The themes are strictly young adult – Zegers has to prove to his dad that there’s more to life than playing football, for example – and the few other kills are pretty tame or off-screen entirely. Apparently it premiered on ABC Family and didn’t even need much editing; that should be all you need to know. So I’m not exactly the target audience, but as we’re in that terrible time of the year where the previous Halloween is long past but it’s still too far off to start putting up the decorations for the next one, I found it sort of soothing, for lack of a better word. Tivo the edited TV version for your kids this fall and enjoy the Judge Reinhold cameo for yourself!
What say you?
P.S. The jock is played by Nick Carter, of the Backstreet Boys and now NKOTBSB. He contributes a rock song over the end credits that’s actually not too bad as these sort of tunes go. So there’s something, but I think that one guy from N’Sync has done better for himself in his attempt to branch out into feature films.