Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How About a Little Fire, Scarecrow?

Ever had a movie scare you even before you've seen it? In the middle school circles I ran in, the movie Dark Night of the Scarecrow was a topic of much discussion, so much so that I knew just about everything about the plot years before I saw it. In this made for TV movie, a group of angry redneck townspeople, led by a sinister mailman blame Bubba, a kindly mentally challenged guy for hurting a little girl and go to his house to deliver some vigilante justice. Bubba's mom tells him to play "the hiding game," so he hides in a scarecrow. The gang finds him and shoots him, then they are picked off one by one by an unseen force after seeing a creepy scarecrow.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow
was recently reissued on DVD, so I decided to face my fears. Hell, I did it with SSSSSSS, so why not give this one a shot.

Holy crap, I can't believe this was on regular old TV, for little kids and old ladies and whatnot to just stumble upon. Everything about it works, lots of atmosphere, actual characterization, and you're constantly wondering who is really knocking off the gang. That little girl who keeps singing all creepily? Bubba's mother? Is it one of the gang trying to ensure their secret stays secret? Or is it Bubba the scarecrow back from the dead? And hey, are they implying that the mailman is a pedophile? Could you do that on TV back then?

The weird part is, even though I never saw the movie, the shot of Bubba's frightened eyes seen through the holes in the scarecrow's face before getting shot has been burned in my brain somehow. I guess all that playground talk soaked in.

The last five minutes or so are some pretty creepy stuff, even if one of the victims is being menaced by a tractor and never, you know, just steps out of the way. Even discounting that, the final shots made me recheck that all the doors were locked, even though I have done nothing to anger any mentally challenged scarecrows that I can recall.

It helps that scarecrows, like mummies, are inherently creepy, even though they're not the most mobile creatures, and most people won't have the opportunity to stumble across a real one. Zombies and vampires have had their time in the spotlight, evil scarecrows will be the next big thing. Trust me on this one.

So yeah, use the Netflix and get this one in time for Halloween. Now if I could only get my hands on a copy of The Legend of Lizzie Borden, my childhood terror re-viewing would be complete.

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