A group of drunk teenagers accidently set free the spirit of a warlock, which possesses a scarecrow. The scarecrow goes on a bloody rampage killing the descendents of the men who had killed... See full summary »
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In a small country town, the retarded Bubba Ritter has the mentality of a child and is the best friend of a young local girl. When the girl trespasses the yard of a house and is attacked by a dog, he saves her, but is wrongly accused of killing her by her mother. The postman Otis P. Hazelrigg joins three other vigilantes' friends of him and the group executes the poor man, who was disguised as a scarecrow in a cornfield. They forge some evidences that Bubba had attacked them, and they go to a trial but they are declared not guilty. They are released, but justice comes from the grave and the men are mysteriously killed, one by one, in the revenge of the scarecrow.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is directed by Frank De Felitta and written by J.D. Feigelson and Butler Handcock. It stars Charles Durning, Larry Drake, Tonya Crowe, Jocelyn Brando, Lane Smith and Claude Earl Jones. Music is by Glenn Paxton and cinematography by Vincent Martinelli.
Small town Americana and Bubba Ritter (Drake), a friendly but mentally challenged man, is falsely accused of attacking and severely injuring young Marylee Williams (Crowe). Four of the town residents, with hate and ignorance driving them on, hunt down Bubba and find him hiding as a scarecrow in a field. Murdering him, they claim self defence and walk free from court. It's not long afterwards, though, that the men start to see a scarecrow in their midst
Some things from movies just stay with you from when you were a wee youngster, I still remember the first time I heard the anguished cry of Bubba Ritter stating that he didn't do the crime he was being hunted for. Dark Night of the Scarecrow stood out by some considerable mile as one of the best TV horror movies I saw as a youth, not for things that I would later appreciate in film making as I got older, but just for sheer terror of a scarecrow stalking his prey for divine retribution. How wonderful to revisit the movie three decades later and find that it is still one of the best TV horror movies out there.
Oh it doesn't terrify now, though it still packs a sense of unease and keeps scarecrows firmly in the realm of creepyville, but it has a style so sorely lacking in many of today's horrors. There is no need to bludgeon us with slash and stalk, showing us gore front and centre, the makers here are subtle, refusing even to put the scarecrow in the limelight like Michael or Jason. There's a smart ambiguity about the supernatural elements, keeping the mystery element strong as the guilty men begin to crack and head towards their real judgement.
Simmering away nicely in the narrative is of course the vile stench of bigotry, and the pain inflicted by such narrow minds. There is also a dark thread left dangling that suggests one of the guilty men is impure of thoughts towards little Marylee, one of the very things he whipped up as reason to hound Bubba for. Some thought went into the screenplay, and it's credit to the writers that it never becomes a moral crusade, while the crafting of the lovely innocent friendship between Bubba and Marylee is beautifully born out by actors and technicians alike.
Durning and Drake dominate the movie with classy shows, impressive in Drake's case as he is only in it for a short amount of time, but the work of young Tonya Crowe puts her in the club that houses best child performances of the 80s. Her reactions to Bubba and Otis (Durning) naturally call for different human emotions, and she in turn nails the aspects of youthful innocence and mature awareness of who the monster actually is. The photography is textured, the music equally so, and there's even some shards of humour and irony along the way.
I can imagine many of today's horror fans going into Dark Night of the Scarecrow and being very disappointed not to get a Voorhees type movie, while some more sensitive viewers may find the portrayals of backwater folk as being ignorantly stereotyped by the makers. It isn't for every horror fan, without a doubt, and clearly it's not perfect, but to those who loved it back when it first showed, those who are jaded by how this type of sub-genre of horror has evolved into bloody overkill and remake/sequel hell, then Dark Night of the Scarecrow is in fact a minor classic. 8/10
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