Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (1981)

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.


  1. I saw this one a long time ago, and suddenly I felt the urge to chase it on dvd, (ebay!!!) I think is a great movie that served its goal without gore, excessive cursing or sex scenes (ok, that part I missed, but I'll let it slide on this one, due to obvious circumstances)say what you will, but a lot of today's filmmakers could learn from this one.... Just my thoughts.

  2. When’s the last time you saw a genuine horror movie made for TV? They don’t even do Stephen King ones anymore.

    Desperation , late 2006?

    I never saw this one, and now I want to. Bring back WNDS!

  3. Last year Dread Central reported that Image Entertainment was finally putting out a DVD of this movie sometime this year.

    Here's a link to the article:


    I have yet to see it (I somehow missed it scarring my childhood) and want to check it out.


  4. This actually aired in Toronto last night in a "newly restored" form.

    I um, didn't see it. Kinda wish I had...

  5. I saw it last night at the Bloor. There was an added scene and the quality of the film was really good, plus the requisite Q&A with the director.

  6. Dude, I would let you borrow my copy, all you had to do was ask! I bought it like a year on Ebay,

  7. I have this on VHS tape. You should have asked me and I would have run you off a copy! :)

    Saw it years ago when it first ran, have enjoyed it occasionally ever since. I need to do a blog entry on it soon myself.

  8. First twenty minutes breaks your heart, last five minutes, brings a final warm smile of satisfaction, excellent.

  9. No mention of the scarecrow's costume? What an outrage!! That mask is bada$$, and it made my
    blood curdle back when I saw it on CBS when I was just 6!! this film has a GREAT storyline. And, what I like most about it is that there are no horny teeagers running around acting like the world owes them something. 10/10

  10. I just watched this movie last night, so I didn't have the fond nostalgia for it that many people have when they say they love this film. Even so, I thought it was a really fun movie. The Scarecrow itself looks awesome, and I thought the ending was excellent.


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