What I'm Watching: Scarecrow
The harvest time is upon us, so I thought it was FINALLY time to get around to this supernatural thriller from Syfy Channel, starring Lacey Chabert, and Robin Dunne from the third Species movie.
We've actually got quite a few familiar faces to Canadian cinema and television, even beyond those two. And that's one endearing factor to the movie for me. I love playing "Spot the Canadian Actor You've Seen in a Dozen Guest Spots Last Year".
The movie sets up a bunch of kids who've gotten into trouble over some vague stuff that really doesn't matter to the plot. Regardless, they got detention for it, and are being punished by getting used as cheap labour to move a scarecrow from a nearby farm into town.
See, the town has some local folklore about a scarecrow that tormented the town back in the day, and to commemorate their survival and defeat, the townspeople have their festival. But the farm where this happened, and thus the site of the festival, is being sold so the festival is moving, and the kids are doing the work.
And surprise! The legends are real!
Honestly, that's a pretty solid recipe for a good, fun seasonal horror flick, and the movie delivers quite well. It wastes no time delivering some scares, and the acting is pretty solid from almost everyone.
With so many characters, the kids suffer a lot on the side of characterisation, but Lacey and Robin are the leads, and get fleshed out rather well.
It's not long at all before the eponymous scarecrow monster shows up and our cast holes up in a nearby building as best they can. Now, a lot of movies would stop there, and just have everyone get picked off in that one building over the next hour. I appreciate "Scarecrow" mixing things up and actually changing locations a few times during the course of the movie. There's arguments for both formulas. Stuck in one place gives you that sense of being trapped, something always right there, but there's something to be said for trying to run, and being unable to get away, no matter how far you go, or no matter what you do.
And while the kids could easily have fallen into the unlikable asshole stereotype, they wisely avoid that, and only have a few jerks in the cast. There's very few characters you WANT to see get killed by the monster. Even for a group of kids that are supposedly on a detention trip. A number of movies, again, would make them all your typical delinquents, but most of these kids are just your average students who made a bad decision and got in trouble for it.
The best part though, is the monster. It is genuinely unique, actually works as CGI, and gives a great vibe of creepiness, and should scare a good number of people. It pushes at the edges of a few of my personal buttons, and while it's your typical evil force with no real character, the design really shines and is such a great look, of this shadowy thing made up of branches and darkness that barely can be described as human. It also works as something you can slice and shoot at with little to no effect. It has a few Terminator 2 nods because of that, but I am sure those were deliberate. And well done, for the scarecrow.
I was pretty surprised with just HOW quickly the movie chews through the cast. Most of the deaths involve variations on stabbing or crushing by the monster, so there's not much creativity there, but it's still pretty fun. They mix things up just enough, and the means of HOW they end up in the place to get stabby that keeps things interesting.
The plot unfolds a bit too lopsided for my tastes as well. There's a lot of running and death and more running before they decide to stop and say, "Oh yeah, here's WHY this is all happening and what's going on!" At least, in anything more than throwaway lines. It's still mostly satisfying, and the plot rockets along so fast that you almost don't notice that all you're doing for half the movie is watching carnage before story.
There's no real twists, save for one major character turn. You can pretty much figure out the course of the plot pretty quickly into the movie. Probably even from this review. The plot is pretty basic, and ultimately doesn't serve up enough answers, or have a really proper ending.
It's a solid enough movie, with a decent and engaging cast. It's well made, and has a unique monster that's genuinely creepy. I've had worse times spending 90 minutes watching a movie. I've also had better, but this is a solid little popcorn flick that is perfect for the season. It may not have a great resolution, but it's got a good ride with some fun times, and is very entertaining in all the GOOD ways. Definitely worth seeking out and having a fun November movie night.