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Dark Night of The Scarecrow (1981)

0 Comments 19 December 2010

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (19801)


Television Air Date: October 24th, 1981
Directed By: Frank De Felitta

Heart Made Out of Hay– Dark Night of the Scarecrow Reviewed

By Nick Schwab

PLOT

Bubba is a mentally challenged grown man that often plays childlike games with a local girl by the name of Marylee. His momma says that he “Adores children,” because even in his mid 30’s he still has that sort of kiddie mindset. However, a group of men led by the self-righteous tyrant Otis feels that Bubba is a physical threat to children, feeling like it is only a matter of time before he will cross the line in some manner, and they think of ways to stop that from occurring.

One day Marylee is thought to be harmed by the ostracized Bubba, and these four men then take their vigilante justice on him. When

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they find him hiding in the body of a scarecrow they kill him.

The men then find out that Bubba actually saved Marylee’s life from an animal attack.

They are tried but the men are never found guilty of any wrongdoing, as the judge takes their word due to lack of witnesses and evidence.

As Bubba’s mom hears them declared not guilty, she starts declaring that there is other justice in this world other than the court of law. When the four men start to

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die one-by-one, the dark night of the scarecrow has begun.

REVIEW

Dark Night of The Scarecrow, a highly sought after early 1980’s tele-flick, has for the first time ever been released on DVD/ Blu-Ray. Many cult horror-movie buffs’ beady eyes dilated as if they were a hawk descending on prey,

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One look at VCI Entertainment’s festive artwork and anyone can see that this release is an event for many. The front cover of

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the box depicts a cloaked scarecrow,

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pitchfork in striking pose in hand, while above the figure is the words, “The Original Classic.” Towards the bottom of the layout contains dark silhouettes and the hued dawn on the horizon, giving this artwork of a pivotal, jumpstarting scene from the movie a sort of beauty. Just as lavish as the coverwork, however, is the pull quotes from some very prestigious artists.

Below the title of the film contains a quote from Vincent Price, while on the back of the box there’s accolades from Re-Animator’s Stuart Gordon. Gordon’s quote states that the film is “Scary as hell,” while Price’s says that he was terrified. However, that is not all, above Gordon’s quote, the great writer Ray Bradbury gives his own honor to the film by commanding the script and the film as “Terrific.” It is too bad that anticipation for an event can be much better than the actual event…much, much better.

The other night was the first time that I had ever watched the film, and it might be one of the last, as this weak picture did not do much for me. Let me get this straight though, I was not expecting a classic, nor was I expecting it to be feeble, I was merely just hoping as always that the film would be at least average, in that I could take something, anything away from it. Sadly, I spent this hour and thirty odd minutes pretty much looking for a few minor positives in this alleged ’great’ film. A task that was more elusive than it had any right to be.

First, I will get a pro or two out of the way before the lynching party begins.

The main aspect that saves the film from being utter trash is the performers. Even while not given much to work with, Larry Drake (Bubba) is sympathetic. In the key scene in which his eyes are wild with fright before he is killed, one feels a sense of unjust loss during this scene of

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unprovoked punishment.

However, with that said Bubba’s scenes with Tonya Crowe (Marylee) come off as groaningly cute and are much too overtly cuddly in sentimentality in an aw shucks sort of way to come off as anything but cinematic. In other words it’s pretty hokey, thus it disserves the needed empathy to build a human emotion before the shit hits the fan.

Charles Durning as Otis is not a character that you will love to hate. As you will just hate him. Durning gives his character methodical and sinister intensity, as his character is one that does not care if he took the law into his own hands and killed someone. Instead he just looks out for his own neck.

It is within these villainous victims that this bleeding heart liberalist picture makes its biggest mistake. While anyone should hate these vigilantes that takes the law into their own hands sans evidence and especially after they see them show no remorse, it is this black and

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While many horror films may have stock characters there just to be camp cannon fodder for a slasher, even the bad ones know what a stock character should be there for– the first but least important is for energy simply to keep your movie going without getting the viewer bored. However, often the most important quality a victim should

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have is sympathy.

As even if the character has only a few lines before meeting their slice and dice, it is often important we like, relate, identity with or at least understand the character’s few qualities. In Dark Night of the Scarecrow, you only want to see these sadistic bigots get killed, so any suspense is zapped from it.

Since the film goes black-and-white in its obtuse characterizations we root for the Scarecrow. This makes it passive entertainment, nothing more than the recent torture porn craze, just here the kills are even offscreen.

The occasional good quality may come to the surface in De Felitta’s modestly invoked atmosphere, it is often held down by J.D. Feigelson’s screenplay that often forgets its own plot elements.

Any horror fan knows they can pick apart a film for the characters doing dumb things, many horror fans don’t understand that it is necessary to keep a story going. The one element that keeps a film from succumbing to stupidity is having a realistic reasoning behind the characters decisions. Therefore their actions come off as not cinematic, but natural to that character’s persona.

In the mostly by-the-numbers story of Dark Night of the Scarecrow ( I mean seriously, who has not seen the revenge for an unjust killing before. How many films can you name?) the courtroom scene has the four murderers defending their actions by saying that Bubba was threatening them with a pitchfork, and that was why they shot and killed him.

Then why may I ask, later in the film do the characters lines clearly give way to major plot holes and hoops. For instance, when speaking about Bubba not being dead Otis says that they are not sure if there was a corpse because they left him in there in the field.

So, why was there a trial again? If there may have not been a corpse. Thus the scene just comes off as filler.

While the film may make a few statements on personal justice, the most interesting point it makes is how members of the community can be thought of as threatening simply for being different, while the real monsters are veiled behind status. An interesting concept really, but it seems to be in the background of an otherwise ill-conceived film.

Yet, I will admit that despite all the blemishes, the film does have a memorable final few seconds. This scene shows that the film could have been much more if the writer and director seemed to actually work together and flesh out their good idea. Too bad their movie is too bloated with air and hay to work on any level but a vapid one.

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