Night of the Scarecrow (1995)
NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW
WRITERS: Reed Steiner & Dan Mazur
DIRECTOR: Jeff Burr
STARRING: Elizabeth Barondes as Claire
John Mese as Dillon
Stephen Root as Frank
Bruce Glover as Thaddeus
Dirk Blocker as George
Howard Swain as The Scarecrow
Gary Lockwood as William
QUICK CUT: A drunken construction accident releases an ancient evil that comes seeking revenge on a small rural community.
Claire - A young woman, the mayor's daughter, a rebel, and someone who doesn't take any crap from scarecrows.
Dillion - A young man working construction on the big mall project that will revitalise the small town's infrastructure. Also a bit of a rebel, but also trying to just get the job done, and has a tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
William - The mayor of Hanford, the father of Claire, and the guy determined to get the mall built on his family's land to make Hanford matter again.
Thaddeus - George's brother, a local priest, and someone who may have all the answers, but has issues with giving voice to them.
Frank - Another of the brothers, and the local sheriff. The family's done well for themselves! They run the town, they're the law, and they're the voice of God! Er, Frank's cool. He does a good job taking care of the town, but he may be out of his element when an evil scarecrow comes to town.
The Scarecrow - Our villain, and actually a raggedy scarecrow infused with the evil spirit of a warlock that was buried at its feet centuries ago. The warlock is a notorious hedonist, doesn't take well to betrayal, and is back for vengeance.
THE GUTS: Halloween has come and gone, but now the time of the harvest begins, so I thought Trisk would celebrate November with two reviews about scarecrows, starting with this, Night of the Scarecrow! Well, three if you count my What I'm Watching review of "Scarecrow".
The movie has barely begun, when a crow alights upon a scarecrow, pecks at it, and falls over dead. So, who will carry HIS soul to the land of the dead?
After the credits, the movie properly begins with our heroine Claire driving into Hanford and attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the new mall. This will hopefully, finally bring some life into the quaint farming town.
While there, she meets a guy who starts badmouthing the mayor, and you just KNOW it's gonna turn out to be her father.
Right on cue, Claire's dad comes on over, and Dillon looks perfectly ashamed of himself. He slinks off, leaving the family reunion to occur. Mayor Dad's not happy his daughter's already flirting with a guy beneath her family's stature, and she lies about inviting the guy to dinner. Honestly, she's probably the sort that agrees with Dillon's badmouthing of her own father.
Meanwhile, there's another guy that Dylan fired off the construction project, that the mayor quickly makes him hire back, because his father and the mayor are friends. Ahhh, small town nepotism at its finest.
The little tool celebrates by hopping on a bulldozer and crashing his way through a cornfield. Ahh, small town vandalism at its finest.
Our drunknamic duo crash on through to the other side and find the scarecrow of doom. While there, they also break some stone tablet thing in the ground. That was probably important, and probably should've been better established, but we get there eventually.
The punk's friend then makes the biggest mistake of the movie so far, and decides to whiz on the scarecrow.
He loses it when a freak tornado touches down, and the corn stalks start attacking him, and I am resisting, for now, any corny jokes.
Dillon shows up for his dinner with Claire, and meets her extended family. For all this time we're spending on introductions, we better see a few of them bite it.
Most notable is her uncle George, who has been working the family farm. A farm that will soon be turned into the mall. A farm that houses our scarecrow friend. A farm that is described as having the best crops in the county, year after year, and has never experienced a drought or any hardships. Well, releasing the spirit fertilizing the ground isn't gonna be good for business!
Back in those fields, the moon is passing over the cracked septic tank, and the gas spewing out begins to spark and catch fire. Or something. And straw laying around gets sucked into the scarecrow, beefing him up and giving him life.
Oh, if he only had a brain.
Later that night, George heads home, and starts to hear noises. Yeah, just wait until the construction gets underway, you will never have a moment's rest.
He gets yanked out the window and spills his beer, so grabs a shotgun and goes to check out the barn where they keep the zombies at. Ahh, beer, guns, and darkness. My favourite horror movie hat trick for disaster.
All the lights start exploding, so either he has an imminent scarecrow problem, or Castiel is about to arrive. I'm hoping for the latter.
The scarecrow pins George to the wall, and mystically activate a thresher to do the dirty work. Call the ironic punishments division, because that sure applies.
Which is when Claire arrives to find the body, and catch a fleeting glimpse of the culprit slinking back behind the rows.
She gives her statement to her uncle Milton the sheriff, and he promises to get right on it when he solves the case of the missing stapler. Meanwhile, her other uncle the preacher has some suspicions and finds the cracked cistern in the fields.
After a long rest, Claire tries to escape the house, and is getting frustrated that everyone seems to know more about what's going on than they're saying. Her dad tries to convince her that George's death was an accident, but she's not too sure.
She runs into Dillon and they hit a bar and there's a brief scuffle with Danny and his friend, still sore over being not-fired. Sadly, no fights break out, just some really weird sexual tension.
Thaddeus heads to the church to work on his brother's funeral, and to ogle the notVictoria's Secret catalogue that arrived for the preacher's daughter. Which is when he begins to hear seductive female voices calling for him.
Which leads to a hilarious moment of him walking towards one of those statues of Jesus with its arms outstretched and welcoming, moaning "Oooh, come to me Thaddeus!" Whomever it was that put those pieces together is an evil genius.
So of course, the scarecrow shows up and shoves the priest around a bit. Thaddeus demands the creature speak, and there is just this suuuper creepy moment where the monster peels out the stitching symbolising a mouth on the mask, revealing a real mouth inside.
The creature demands to know where its book is, and does the whole 'speak now or never' deal, and begins to sew Thad's mouth shut. Okay, this movie just took a turn for the darkly macabre and weird, and it is all the better for it. Until now, it's been an okay little creepy movie with a monster lurking in the edges, and then BAM! sewing a guy's mouth shut.
Father Thad crashes through one of the stained glass windows, and plummets to his doom, or something. Either way, it doesn't look like he's in great shape.
We find Danny with the preacher's daughter, and they sneak off to make out and not disturb anyone, and I am honestly surprised they don't end up in a hay loft somewhere. Congrats on completely avoiding that trope.
Danny leaves the girl in his van to get a beer, and she flicks on a strobe light while she waits. Because the upcoming murder needed some style and seizures added to the mix.
Right on cue, the scarecrow shows up knocking out Danny, and finds the girl in the van. And remember how I said the movie was getting weird and macabre? Yeah, the scarecrow grows a seet out of its finger and shoves its fist down Stephanie's throat, starting to ramp that up even more.
Which is not the kind of 'planting his seed' I think the girl was hoping for, but I digress.
Danny comes to, probably figuring the concussion is just a hangover, and finds his girlfriend waiting in the van, and miraculously alive.
Not for long though, as it looks like she's about to have a little chestburster problem. But oh my, does it get much worse than that.
Because that's when cornstalks burst out. From her nipples. For starters. It's not long before they are sprouting out of every limb, and orifice the girl has. What even IS this movie? It starts off quaintly enough, but then we get cornstalk nipple tendrils.
I mean, sure, it's not repligator gay zombie levels of WTF, but we are getting close. And it's possibly MORE messed up than that, because of the wild tone shift, and the movie being fairly grounded.
And they're not just evil cornstalk tendrils, they're *intelligent* tendrils as they try and stop Danny from escaping the van, and then drag Stephanie off, and bury her underground.
Which, really? The scarecrow couldn't do that himself? We had to get surreal and disturbing? He couldn't just crack her neck, but had to do...that? Whatever that was?
Don't get me wrong, it's over the top and disturbing, and unique, and AWESOME, but it's a bit gratuitous!
Somehow, Danny survives, and tries to not have a mental breakdown while resting on some bales of hay.
A task which is about to become infinitely more difficult, because the scarecrow pulls a T-1000 and MORPHS OUT OF THE HAY.
What even IS THIS MOVIE?!
Rather than show us Danny's death, we cut to Milton telling us he was torn apart like something inhuman got ahold of him. Blew the budget morphing out of the hay, didn't we?
The mayor tries to convince his brother that Dillon's the murderer, at least of Danny, because of the fights they've been seen having. Or, more likely because he doesn't want Dillon sleeping with his daughter.
So we cut to a motel where we find out that ship has already sailed!
Fortunately they finished up and were getting dressed, because that's when Father Thad barges in so he can get his stitches removed.
Claire tries to get her relative to focus as he rambles on a bit, worried about his daughter and such. Every time he starts to get near the point, he careens off into another fit of panic.
Fortunately, he finally becomes Father Exposition and explains how the family came and founded the town, and it was full of troubles back hundreds of years ago. We even get flashbacks!
One day, a warlock wandered into town, made a deal with the Goodmans' ancestor, that the town would find prosperity, so long as he was allowed to do whatever he wanted. I mean, sure, sounds like a good deal!
Blah blah blah, Silas was a god fearing man, the warlock took his daughter and had his way with her, enough is enough with these motherfucking warlocks on these motherfucking fruited planes...
Silas steals the warlock's book, they drag him deep, deep into the cornfield, crucify him, burn him bury the remains, seal his tomb with a stone slab, and mark the site with the scarecrow as a warning. Y'know, just your average weekend.
We're back in typical territory now with our stakes being set, with everyone searching for the book, so he can be put back where he belongs, but if the scarecrow gets it, he can use it to become human again, and he'll become unstoppable.
Unless they crucify, burn, and bury him like before, I guess...
The scarecrow shows up at the mayor's house and has some fun trying to get that book back. He pins William to the wall, and shoves a piece of straw into him that magically grows and fills him up, bursting out of every place. Gyaaah, again. It's not a good movie to be an orifice in.
Dillon takes the preacher home, and finds his wife has been the next victim of the scarecrow, another one that happens off camera. Sigh. That is no way for Sister Hyde to die.
Unfortunately for Dillon, that's when the sheriff arrives, still under the impression he's a suspect.
They break into the locked room and find the happy couple unhappily dead, and Milton isn't entirely convinced by the locked door that Dillon didn't do it. So he cuffs the guy while they try and find Claire.
Claire arrives home and finds her popcorn...her strawdad? One of those. And the sheriff isn't far behind. And they're all pretty well taking this in stride. They're tossing off lines about how they need to find the warlock's book with far too much seriousness. This should all be major levels of WTFery for them.
The sheriff remembers William telling him about a hidden floorboard compartment in the attic, so they go to see if the book is there. Because what can go wrong in the attic!
Milton takes many, many shots at the scarecrow, and eventually gives up or runs out of bullets. So he resorts to beating him with a club.
Claire gets the book, and um, how's she gonna find the spell fast enough? I hope there's an index. "Spells, warlock killing. Page 346."
The creature grabs a nearby sickle and reaps the sheriff's throat, while Claire runs away with the book, taking a spill out of the attic along the way.
She finds Dillon still cuffed in the back of the squad car, and he's oh so helpful in shouting that the scarecrow is right behind her. I'm *pretty sure* she's aware of that, as she's still running.
Claire drives while Dillon reads, and he VERY easily finds out that there's a connection between the spirit and the bones. Meaning, all they have to do is destroy the bones and the warlock is dead forever.
Pffft, anyone who watches Supernatural coulda told you that.
But the movie needs one last plot complication to pad out the runtime, so they run into a roadblock with some cops. And you can imagine how it looks for two kids to be joyriding around in the sheriff's vehicle.
They hear their tires get popped, and go to check out the noise, despite Claire's warnings not to do so. The cops should've heeded the warning, because the scarelock has found a new weapon that it REALLY likes, and kills both of them with its new sickle.
Claire and Dillon go off-roading in the police car while the warcrow is distracted, but he throws the sickle after them, crashing through the back window. Claire loses control of the car and crashed it in the ditch.
They make it to the construction site and stock up on some fun burninating chemicals, as well as a hatchet, and also take the time to finally get Dillon out of the handcuffs.
Now that they're armed, the pair run out into the cornfield and let me tell you. "The tomb is in the center of the cornfield!" is not great directions. Do you know how easy it is to get turned around in there? The stalks are taller than you, plus this is at night. I'm half expecting them to run into Dawn Wells.
But they find the location due to plot convenience, and Dillon starts to crawl into the hole, with Claire holding onto his legs. He's easily up to his hips as he's in the hole, and HOW DEEP DID THEY BURY THIS GUY'S BOX OF BONES?!
He sees the container they interred the bones in, but can't quite reach it. Dude, you said the chemicals you grabbed would slice like a hot knife through stone, so just cover the box where you are and call it a night!
The scarecrow arrives and stomps on Claire's hand, dropping Dillon into the giant cavern under the cornfield. What is this, Wayne Manor and the Batcave?!
Our monster grabs his book and starts reading, while Claire holds him off with a torch. She also manages to drop the chemicals down into the pit of doom with Dillon so he can finish this.
The warlock's power is returning though, and he shatters the bottle in Dillon's hands. Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark. Or not, since it's never mentioned.
He pulls up his box of bones, but Claire uses the hatchet to slice off the arm holding them, grabbing the box like the prized football.
Before she can make a run to the endzone, the scarecrow uses its remaining good hand to grab her. When she and the box topple, the scarecrow wails, and she makes a connection between the two. She then proceeds to slam the small casket on the ground to cause the scarecrow pain.
That's...kinda clever, and they actually set it up earlier.
After a few smashes she runs off, and Dillon climbs out of the hole to join in the running. And uh, his hands are in pretty good shape.
Claire runs into the scarecrow and gives his bones a few kicks, but...but! SHERIFF MILTON RETURNS! Now that is one way to have a triumphant return, have him suddenly appear and pop a few shotgun blasts into the bad guy. Yeah!
But he soon runs out of shells, and bullets don't have much effect on this thing, so while yeah, it's a great triumphant moment when things look bleak, it is utterly pointless.
And because the movie hasn't gotten weird for awhile, the scarecrow pulls off a glove, blows upon the revealed straw, and covers the sheriff in tiny shards of needle-like straw.
They make it back to the site, and Claire trips right into the storage shed, spilling bones everywhere. Fortunately, the scarelock is like an elf that has to pick up every grain of salt, and starts picking himself up off the floor.
Fortunately, there's some giant drums of chemicals and gasoline or whatever, so Dillon uses a trail of gas to try and make an explosion. However, the movie isn't done yet, so they drag things out with a malfunctioning lighter.
Claire spies a flare before they have to run away, and even THAT they have trouble getting lit, because this movie is gonna milk every last second of runtime out, if they can.
FINALLY they get something to burn, and the scarecrow just stands there as the fire whooshes past him to the barrels, like he's thinking, "Oooh, pretty! What is this bright warming liiiFGFFGAAAGGHGH!"
And cue the exploding shed.
So, bad guy's dead, there's not...aww.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The scarecrow is still Not Dead Yet, and shambles out of the burning wreckage. I guess the explosion didn't take all his bones.
Still, I feel a *little* cheated that they're playing a little loose with their own rules.
He grabs Claire and ties her to a handy pole with some equally handy barbed wire he has tied around his body. But it's farm stuff, and he's a scarecrow, so I'll allow it.
Meanwhile, Dillon's recovering from being crowpunched and sees the box o' bones just laying where the explosion flung them.
The scarecrow gets another kernel ready for his latest victim, and Dillon grabs the box. Or rather, Dillon TRIES to grab the box, because fire is warm and the container is metal.
Before there can be more weirdness of exploding body horror tendrils, Dillon moves the box over and uses some of the construction equipment to smash it to bits, which I guess constitutes destroyed bones, because the scarecrow goes boom.
Claire is magically suddenly not tied up anymore, and spits out the kernel, which the ground quickly swallows. I suppose if this ever went to sequel, that would've been their way of bringing the creature back.
Not that there's much more family left for him to kill. It's pretty much Claire, and she walks off into the sunset with Dillon to live happily ever after.
But there are so many unanswered questions! Who will be mayor now? What of the mall's construction?? Will the town no longer be prosperous with their good luck corpse exploded all over the site??? Who will take care of the sheriff's kids???? WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS MOVIE?????
Video: Sometimes I come across something fairly unknown, and even though this is mid 90s and should look respectable, it still looks VERY good. It's not great, but it looks solid enough. And I've seen WAY worse from the same time period. Some cared enough to give this enough work that it's not crap, and everything is pretty easy to make out, even when the scenes at night are going on. This is the sort of thing you expect to look terrible, but is a pleasant surprise on that count.
Audio: All I really wanna talk about here is how super creepy the Scarecrow's voice is. Sure, it's just a simple processing technique, but it really works and has the right resonance and menace to it that I love it.
Sound Bite: "You gotta burn his bones, right?" "Fire!" ...Yes, that is typically how one burns things, yes.
Body Count: This movie also surprised me with a nicely sized body count that's actually rather motivated. Most every death makes sense for the Scarelock to commit, and my god, they are all so weird, diverse, and unique.
1 - Barely into the movie, and a crow falls over for the crime of pecking a scarecrow's face.
2 - 20 minutes in, and the first real death occurs when George falls victim to the arisen scarecrow. And a thresher.
3 - The scarecrow plants its seed in Stephanie and kills her with cornstalks exploding out of her that drag her off to be buried in the dirt. And that's a sentence I just typed.
4 - We hear about Danny being torn apart, but don't see the deed.
5 - Mayor Goodman becomes filled with straw and pinned to his wall.
6 - Thadeus's wife gets needlepointed to death.
7 - Thad's head gets wrapped in barbed wire and an inhaler shoved in his mouth.
8 and 9 - A pair of cops haplessly wander into the plot to slow the kids down, only to be sliced up shortly afterwards.
10 - Sheriff Milton wasn't quite dead before, but still ended up dead of straw overdose.
11 - And finally the scarecrow explodes into tiny bits.
Best Corpse: I...I... LOOK AT THEM ALL. It's a tie between Stephanie and the Mayor, since they're just so whaaaat and crazy and out there, and awesome. But ironic, because they're also so similar. I think Stephanie edges out her uncle because it's just a little bit more strange, the strobe light making it way more frenetic, and its the original.
Blood Type - B+: There's quite a bit of blood, with a lot of deaths to go with it, and some great makeup effects on things like Thadeus's sewn up mouth, the tendrils, etc.
Sex Appeal: Pretty much solely supplied by Stephanie as she and Danny try to have sex.
Drink Up! Every time the scarecrow does something that makes you go "WTF?!"
Sights and Sounds: Oh man, this is another movie where I was spoiled with choices. I could do the tendril explosion. The strawman mayor. Thad's attack. But instead, I give you the very silly moment where the Scarecrow pulls a T-1000, uses a bad pun, and is such a great short taste of this movie.
Movie Review: This is gonna surprise you, but this is actually a pretty good movie? I mean, by Trisk standards, that is. It has a plot, it moves along at a good pace, it knows what it is, and isn't afraid to be campy. The movie is well made, and does some great shots too. The dutch angle when the scarecrow bursts in, the scene in the church. There's some legit craft behind the imagery here. The acting is good too, largely because of the group of character actors that make up the Goodman brothers. The main cast is maybe a little less good, but they sure aren't BAD either. Claire does well, Dillon too, and I absolutely love the utterly camp Scarecrow, even if he may be a bit derivative of a certain Mr. Krueger. Four out of five demon seeds.
Entertainment Value: The single best reason to watch this movie is that Scarecrow. He is camp, he's *funny* AND creepy, and that is a TOUGH balance. By this point, Freddy was maybe getting too silly, and this guy would've swooped in to reclaim that spot, but nothing ever came of this relatively unknown cult film. The effects are great, especially for the time. The director bashes some of the CGI in the commentary with the disc I watched, but they still hold up well enough to other CGI, and especially for the mid 90s. And the acting is good, but still has some cheese around the edges, so there's actually a LOT in this movie to just enjoy from an entertainment standpoint. This movie was easily the biggest pleasant surprise I've watched for Trisk this year, and is pretty much the definition of a cult film, and deserving of that status. Easily worth checking out. Five out of five caskets of bones.