Entering a haunted house at an amusement park or during Halloween is a thrill like no other. You enter willingly (usually paying to do so) and at every corner, every twist and turn, you know something is going to try and scare you. Inevitably, an odd occurrence happens in your brain. You know no physical harm can come of you – you usually can read that on a sign outside before entering. Yet, the sounds, the screams, the anticipation don’t let your mind ease. It goes on red alert.
There just might be something in the walls.
This was the feeling I had after watching Sleepy Hollow’s “Sanctuary.” The episode begins with Ichabod and Abbie following the lead on a rich socialite who has gone missing in Sleepy Hollow. Her GPS has her last at an old abandoned home. Of note, a message was found written by her about the home, with the name Katrina C. at the bottom. Once Ichabod sees the colonial home, he quickly recognizes it. He had been there with Katrina hundreds of years previous. The home was a sanctuary for both free slaves and those fighting against the powers of darkness. But there is something sinister in the home. Once Ichabod and Abbie enter, the front door slams shut and locks. They are in a haunted house.
It’s as if The Amityville Horror meets Sleepy Hollow in “Sanctuary.” Clearly, it is the scariest episode to date. I was genuinely surprised by how claustrophobic I felt as Ichabod and Abbie made their way through the house and how classic haunted house scares (terrifying sounds, a scare around each corner) worked very well. Helping was the clear homage to films like The Blair Witch Project with its hand held camera angles jarring and disorientating the viewer.
Again, as with most of Sleepy Hollow’s first season, “Sanctuary” was not only scary but fun. The horror continues to successfully walk the line between enough seriousness that it’s not campy, but never so dark it’s depressing. Still, at episode’s end, we get a glimpse of the anger and rage in Ichabod as Abbie reveals to him a shocking revelation about his past with Katrina. Both Abbie and Ichabod are intertwined both in the present as well as the past. But the information puts Ichabod over the edge to a place he likely needed to go after missing the last 250 years. Bottled up emotion just needs the right catalyst to blow.
One clear scene stealer of “Santuary” was the tree-like creature stalking Ichabod and Abbie. At first, I chuckled, as it reminded me of one of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, only much shorter. But rather quickly, with it pursuing our captives through the long, tight corridors in the house, I became more impressed with the creature. Its noises were terrific; it’s look realistic and creepy – a job well done. Sure there were moments of laughter with the creature but not at the costume. It is reassuring that a believable creature can still be made by hand and not computer generated.
Coming out of the Headless Horseman story-line, I was expecting “Sanctuary” to be a flat episode. To my surprise, it wasn’t. The momentum has not been lost; in fact, the momentum has gained. Tackling a haunted house kept Sleepy Hollow creators at the top of their game.