There's an increasingly literary side to Fox's scary shows. "The Following," for one, made much of a connection to Edgar Allan Poe. Now comes "Sleepy Hollow," inspired by the Washington Irving story -- though, like "The Following," with its own direction to take.
Of course, Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has been fodder for fear for many years, not only on the page but in a Disney cartoon and in a 1999 movie starring Johnny Depp, though what scares audiences is open to interpretation; one critic said the Depp movie included plenty of beheadings but was "anything but scary." But there's no doubt that the Fox series, premiering at 9 p.m. EDT Monday, wants to make its viewers verrrrry uncomfortable.
In this retelling, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) has been asleep for centuries, only to awake in 2013 -- just as his old foe the Headless Horseman is also on the loose again. Crane wants to stop the Horseman, but to do so, he has to convince people that the threat is real and get their help; one important ally is a local police officer, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie). Even then, it soon becomes clear that the Horseman is not a solo menace; as Fox has said, this is "the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world."
In other words, this is a series that wants to run a long time. And, also like "The Following," it knows that the bloodshed may bring in the horror audience, but that's not enough to keep a show on the air. There has to be a larger story, even a mythology, that will have viewers asking questions about more than who is getting killed when.
That said, there is also plenty of killing in the premiere, and mild surprises about who is good and bad, as the show firmly embraces the current TV-series policy that just about anyone can be killed or evil at any time. I can't absolutely endorse it. "The Following" started off as effectively unnerving only to become progressively sillier. And "Sleepy Hollow" barely acknowledges that its main character's mindset is firmly in the 18th century -- although this show is nowhere near as ridiculously anachronistic as the CW's upcoming "Reign." Still, "Sleepy Hollow" has some spooky fun in the premiere -- and I know one viewer who, though no fan of horror, is eager to see more of this show.