Tuesday, October 9, 2012

[Review] Night of the Scarecrow

Back in the 1800's, the small farming community of Hanford had its fair share of problems. The land was virtually unfarmable and the good people lay dying of disease and starvation. A stranger suddenly enters the picture; a man who claims he has the power to help these people with all their needs. In return, he expects to practice his witchcraft, free of prosecution. The deal is made, and at first, everything seems perfect—except for those random wild orgies that even the senior citizens were joining in on. Realizing this man's power has taken over their town, the people turn against him, crucify him and bury his remains in a cornfield.

Seems like a pretty solid idea, right? For over a hundred years, the town has experienced nothing but peace and prosperity—And then the 1990's happens. In a matter of seconds, two drunken idiots manage to accidentally release the warlock's spirit from his tomb, allowing him to posses a scarecrow and go on a revenge-filled rampage. Those grungy, plaid wearing teens were just so darn pesky! Damn the '90s!

Other than passing by the VHS cover a few times in the video store back in the day, I hadn't known anything at all about Night of the Scarecrow, and quite frankly, I forgot it even existed. Having finally seen it after all these years, I have to say I'm rather surprised! Night of the Scarecrow is surely a typical piece of '90s schlock—but it works, and works well.

The characters in this film were mostly a welcome departure. We've come to know horror movie heroines as timid, soft-spoken virgins, but this certainly isn't the case here. Claire isn't afraid to speak her mind, and seems to have been around the block more than a few times. In fact, the male love interest explains to her that he's the one who continually gets used and abused, but all he really wants is love. The sheriff is even surprisingly competent—and even helpful. I know, it's a shocker, right?

That's not to say this film doesn't have its share of cliches. There's a town hiding a dark secret, a priest who does nothing but blab about evil, and a mayor who cares only for appearances rather than the safety of his people. These types of characters and situations have been done to death in the genre, but fortunately they're not overused here and they never really become bothersome.

The scarecrow is almost creepy, but never quite makes it. Once he removes the stitches from his scarecrow mask and begins talking, it sort of ruins his mystique. But as a horror nerd, I found his appearance very pleasing, overall. Scarecrows are generally pretty badass, don't you think? A simple potato sack or even a pillow case over someone head says so much more than an overblown, grotesque mask. He's quite a cool looking dude and an entertaining villain.

Because we're dealing with a warlock for a killer, the death scenes were given plenty of creative freedom. As a result, the concepts behind each kill generally don't make all that much sense, but they sure are entertaining to watch. There was a very old-school vibe to it that somewhat reminded me of the slasher films of the '80s. The kills are twisted, a bit gory and just plain weird. A decent body count piles up by the second half, leading way to a fun finale.

Night of the Scarecrow is a surprisingly good supernatural slasher that's more entertaining than it has any right to be. If you're familiar with '90s horror, then you'll basically know what to expect here. Surely it's a little silly and slightly dated, but it's simple old-school fun from beginning to end and a worthy watch around the Halloween season.


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