There’s nothing like an indie slasher made by a filmmaker that clearly loves the genre. Even better when it’s another Halloween horror film to add to my collection and to my annual October viewing list. That’s why I’m happy to have Sleepy Hollow High and Beg in my life.
SLEEPY HOLLOW HIGH (2000)
Made way back in the pre-Scream days, Sleepy Hollow High can easily be written off as no budget trash, but considering the kind of direct-to-video garbage I grew up on in the 1980s, this one was a treat for me. The rough, low budget look of the film brought me back to the days of films like Splatter University from the 80s and Jack-O from the 90s.
While the film is about a headless horseman killer beheading a bunch of delinquent high school kids assigned to keep things in order in Sleepy Hollow Park on Halloween, the highlight for me is a couple that is not only funny and entertaining, but also comprised of two of the best actors in the film. From the moment they kidnap a dude and tie him up shirtless, I was hooked.
There are slo-mo kills with plenty of blood splatter, plus, the film manages to keep the dialogue and interaction between the characters very realistic, with some pretty damn clever lines sprinkled throughout the movie.
As the group discovers what exactly they’re dealing with, the guy playing their chaperone gets some comic and heroic moments, and then a bunch of them face-off against the headless horseman by a campfire.
The “twist” ending definitely comes as a surprise – one that might really piss viewers off.
But the dialogue that follows the twist is once again clever enough to make this horror fan give the film—and it’s surprise ending—props.
I’m surprised this indie Halloween horror flick hasn’t gotten a bit more attention, because it has a hell of a lot going for it despite its flaws.
For starters, Beg is most definitely a love letter to the original Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises. If you’ve seen those films a million times, you’ll catch obvious references, like a party at which one guy is dressed in the Michael Myers sheet and eye glasses costume, while another is wearing the Jason overalls and sack over the head costume from Friday the 13th Part 2. But there are also re-enactments of detailed shots from those films, such as the POV from a car as the killer follows a victim, or a shot of a puddle in the woods as both the killer and a potential victim step through it during a chase. There’s even a fun nod to the scene of Sally being chased through the woods by Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Next, there’s a Halloween reunion. Both the original Lynda (PJ Soles) and Rob Zombie Lynda (Kristina Klebe) appear in Beg, and one of the stars is Tony Moran, the original unmasked Michael Myers from the end of Carpenter’s Halloween.
On top of that, we get cameos by plenty of horror icons: Tiffany Shepis (the queen of shower scenes); Debbie Rochon (who gets a great suspense scene with perfect Halloween atmosphere), Michael Berryman (back to his The Hills Have Eyes roots), and Tony Todd as a schoolteacher giving a lesson about Halloween.
As for the plot, a killer in a pumpkin mask is hacking up pretty young things in Salem while they’re trying to party it up at Halloween time. Meanwhile, Tony Moran is the detective on the case when he is replaced by a new, young, fucking hot as hell detective.
While the two branching perspectives—the teens being targeted by a killer and the conflicted detectives —eventually come together, the parallel stories cause some pacing issues and create jarring shifts in tone.
On the one hand, there’s an awesome low budget slasher loaded with 80s throwback kills, effective jump scares (thanks to classic orchestral stings), and old school slasher gore. The pumpkin head killer wreaks havoc all over, going from a rapid-fire takedown of an entire sorority (including a great kill gag at a hot tub), to wiping out a shit load of campers by a lake in a matter of minutes. The big shocker here is that the only time the kids aren’t in danger is when they’re drunk and having sex at a Halloween party! Heh heh.
It’s the focus on the lives of the two troubled detectives that tends to get in the way. Despite both men giving good performances, their story is often a bit melodramatic and adds nothing to an otherwise fun slasher.
In fact, they kind of drag the film down with various scenes that kill the pacing. For instance, despite adding both some (out of place) torture porn and boobs to the mix, a trip to a strip club that leads to a flashback is totally unnecessary to the plot and could have been taken out completely…as could some other scenes with the detectives, which would have brought this film down from a 106-minute running time to a much healthier 85 minutes. On the bright side, we get to see a lot more of that dreamy new detective.
For me, the icing on the Beg cake (the hot detective is the creamy filling) is the final sequence, which does indeed tie together many seemingly pointless aspects of the film from earlier on. It’s such a delicious little twist that shows the connection between the detective story and the slasher while celebrating the mystique of Salem and Halloween. Awesome.