Sleepy Hollow has come back from the Holiday break to offer viewers a fairly good episode this time following Captain Frank Irving. Irving’s family, namely his wheelchair bound daughter Macey, is targeted by an ancient demon, Ancitif, who likes to jump from person to person each becoming the vessel for said demon to do his dirty work. While “The Vessel” is an entertaining episode with human possession always offering solid value in creepiness, the momentum Sleepy Hollow had built coming up to the Holiday layoff feels lost. Likely the creators and writers knew a month break would stall Sleepy Hollow’s progress, so they offered us an episode similar to “Blood Moon,” the episode right after the fantastic pilot. Both act like stand alone episodes, with only a few connections to the main story-line. This isn’t all that bad, as we’re not pushed into the deep end with Sleepy Hollow right away; rather, we are taken by the hand into the shallows with all the intentions of going deeper next week.
“The Vessel” begins with Ancitif bouncing from person to person and giving Captain Irving a phone call. Ancitif wants George Washington’s bible and threatens the life of Irving’s daughter to get it. As Ancitif makes his way through his human vessels trying to get to Macey, Ichabod and Abbie look for clues to defeat the demon. They come upon footage taken by recently deceased Sheriff August Corbin as he tries to release Abbie’s sister, Jenny, from Ancitif’s internal clutches. The scene is surprisingly frightening and kicks off an episode filled with possession, broken necks and the greatest dilemma plaguing mankind today – to wear or not to wear skinny jeans.
The problem with “The Vessel” is that unless done with a masterful hand, human possession becomes overdone if given too much screen time. Time and time again, as the scares dwindle and the character being possessed goes through the entire possession canon (hovering in the air, quick neck turns back and forth, deep creepy voice and rapid acceleration when moving toward someone) he or she becomes hokey. It’s a lesson that possession itself is difficult to pull off. Sleepy Hollow does a decent job, but the creators have not added anything new or shocking to the world of possession. It’s pretty standard, but on the whole, it works.
The dilemma of watching someone under the influence of a demon, to many of us, myself included, has been spoiled with William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Not only is it a terrific film, Regan’s possession is mesmerizing. It is real, horrific, and never overdone. It’s a testament to having the right people in place when casting and directing. While Sleepy Hollow’s Macey is more or less convincing when possessed, the threat of what is inside her is never translated to me, the viewer. At times it worked; I was creeped out. But this didn’t last long, and the head tilts and half blackened teeth became more amusing than frightening. Perhaps that’s the way the creators wanted it.
But if you’re going full possession you’ve got to go all the way.
That being stated, there is truly something that makes my skin crawl when I watch a demonic possession. The idea that someone could be taken over by a dark spirit draws far more fear from me than a man walking around with a machete or chainsaw. And it has to do with the element of the unknown. Sure, the ones carrying such weapons are formidable and usually never die; at least you can keep trying to kill them. Fighting a demon is like fighting a ghost – you’re dealing with supernatural powers, powers beyond your scope. It’s not as straight forward fight as the man in the hockey mask. He wants to kill you. Okay, now you run. Possession is something different and something that makes me want nothing of it even if possession is nine tenths of the law.