FEBRUARY 18, 2009
I abhor downloading movies, for several reasons (poor quality, terrible presentation being foremost), but in the case of Dark Night Of The Scarecrow, I had to make an exception. See, I tried seeing the movie as a kid when it was on WNDS, a local NH station that aired tons of great horror movies, often with minimal (or no) editing. But the recording got interrupted or something, I can’t remember the exact reason, only that I woke up the next morning and found my tape still blank. Then I ordered a DVD copy of it last year from a “Vendio” seller, only to have her disappear off the face of the earth, to the extent that Paypal couldn’t even return my money. Quite frankly, I was sick of not being able to see the damn thing, so when I stumbled across a “public domain” site with allegedly legal downloads, I figured I had earned it.
Was it worth the wait? Sorta. I wish I had seen it as a kid, because it would probably have really creeped me out. Nowadays I don’t scare so easily (actually, even as a kid, movies that legitimately scared me were few and far between), and the scare factor is a big reason why the film is considered such a gem in the land of obscure horror movies. Whether it was a restriction for the TV station that produced it (CBS, if memory serves) or just a creative choice, I don’t know, but the cool thing about the movie is how they never actually show a killer. Throughout the film, we don’t know if these rednecks are being killed by the vengeful ghost (or zombie) of the retarded man that they needlessly killed, or are done in by basic karma. The final 5 minutes, of course, pretty much gives you the answer, but until then, it’s actually pretty admirable that they were able to preserve the mystery angle for so long.
For me, the creepiest moment was actually non-killer scarecrow related. During the tragic event that kicks the movie off (a girl is mauled by a dog, but everyone assumes that Larry “Bubba” Drake did it), director Frank De Felitta presents a series of shots of lawn gnomes while we listen to the girl’s screams and the dog’s growls and barks. Few objects are as inherently terrifying as lawn gnomes, so to see a whole bunch of them in a ten second span is pretty ghastly.
There’s a great moment near the end of the movie. Charles Durning whacks a guy on the head with a shovel, and as he pulls the shovel back toward his person, we see the victim’s hat stuck on the blade. It’s a wonderfully morbid sight gag, and I wish that the film had more of this sort of thing. Speaking of Durning, what a piece of work he is here. He’s a postal clerk who keeps a gun in a drawer by the teller window (in fact, it’s the ONLY thing in the drawer) and uses his mail truck to get around town in order to carry out his nefarious deeds. I’m sure the USPS is quite pleased about the depiction of their employees in this film. Did I mention Durning’s character is also alluded to be a pedophile?
One thing bugged me - after the trial and everything, the little girl goes to Bubba’s house and talks to the mother. Then she’s like “Where’s Bubba?” Now, I’m all for kids not understanding death*, but she just noticed now that he hadn’t been around? Unless the trial occurred the very next day, I call shenanigans.
Weird piece of trivia - when I looked to rent this movie from netflix a while back, my search turned up only Dark Harvest 3: Scarecrow, which I had already queued. Ten minutes after I began watching Dark Night of the Scarecrow, I got an email from Netflix telling me that DH3 was on its way. Creepy.
Anyway, it’s not the best movie ever made, but for a TV movie, it’s pretty damn good, and a sad indicator of how far the concept of “Movie of the Week” has fallen. When’s the last time you saw a genuine horror movie made for TV? They don’t even do Stephen King ones anymore.
What say you?
*Microsoft argued with my grammar for this phrase, and suggested “I do all for kids not understand” instead. I’ll stick with my version, thanks.