Old habits die hard. As a young researcher, I was dogged about reading everything possible on a subject before writing on it. Both the profusion of information and the endlessly ticking clock of mortality now suggest that if you want to say something, say it. You need to do a reasonable amount of research, but you’ll never read everything. This is the kind of thinking I should’ve heeded before spending a couple of bucks on Headless Horseman. I should specify, the 2022 film by that name. The name has been used before and it has an unspecified coding. Often it has to do with Washington Irving, but not always. A 1972 Russian film by Vladimir Vajnshtok is titled The Headless Horseman, but it has to do with a completely separate story. In any case, Jose Prendes’ 2022 film isn’t what you expect.
Sophia, a girl with a former boyfriend who’s a drug dealer, gets engaged to Brandon. He’s not too bright, but he’s clean. When her ex, named Angel, tries to kidnap her back, Brandon dies defending her. The Devil shows up and a deal is made. Brandon has 24 hours to kill the gangsters. He’s given a bladed glove (where have we seen that before?) and a burning jack-o-lantern head (ditto?). Did I mention this all happens on Halloween? Well, Brandon just isn’t up to killing people and he fails in his mission, defeated by bad guys with holy water. So Sophia sells her soul to get Brandon back. She manages to kill the thugs, but gets shot in the process. Brandon make a third counter-offer with the prince of darkness, to harvest souls.
The pacing for the film is all off. The writing is about the worst I’ve ever heard. Someone being sucked to Hell stops to discuss semantics with his girlfriend? Really? And not only that, the special effects are sparingly used. You’ve got a flaming pumpkin head—use it! I guess part of me felt cheated by the premise that never materialized. The “headless horseman” isn’t trademarked, nor can it be copyrighted. It does, however, convey an expected story that viewers know. The point of this effort seems to be, if you sell drugs you’ll ultimately get yours. Those who are innocent will also get theirs, although perhaps will remain on Satan’s good side. For all its faults it does demonstrate how religion and horror play well together. Even when they haven’t much good material to work with.