Monday, April 2, 2012

If I Only Had An Uncle Teardrop

What can I say? I have a thing for scarecrow horror. When you think about it, those midwestern mascots are sort of like even more hideous combinations of dolls (which I’m scared of) and clowns (which who isn’t?), then dirtied up (which is icky), impaled in the middle of Children of the Cornfields (which sounds not ideal), and covered in bird poop (which no matter how many people tell you is good luck, I will still find unpleasant). Hence, when I discovered that a mid-90s scarecrow horror was on Instant Watch, I didn’t have to click my ruby slippers together to know I’d be streaming.
Quick Plot: The small town of Handford is on the brink of abandoning its farming heart for more urban ways, a controversial decision that brings prodigal mayor’s daughter Claire back to town. While she’s flirting with the honorable farming foreman Dillon (who for whatever reason, spells his name as if he were related to Matt and Kevin), the town punk is drunk driving a corn plow over an ancient seal while his pal takes a fateful Nightmare On Elm Street 4-esque leak on the ground below a lonely scarecrow.

The town punk is a doozy. After his second scene of crushing beer cans and smoking weed (town punks can never limit their vices to one), I noted “this guy looks like the younger stoner brother of John Hawkes.” Later, as I decided to investigate some of the names behind Night of the Scarecrow, IMDB told me that actually, it WAS John Hawkes. 

Seeing a twentysomething-playing-a-17ish John Hawkes mess around with the reverend's daughter = Reason 1 to watch this movie.

Reason 2 = The Movie.

Directed by Jeff Burr--he of the underhwhelming but Viggo Mortenson starring Texas Chainsaw III and more importantly, the underrated oddball anthology The Offspring/From a Whisper to a Scream--Night of the Scarecrow is '90s straight-to-video-in-its-final-days at its best. The scarecrow is essentially a simple slasher, except...well...he's a scarecrow, burlap stitched face and all. 

In case you didn't know, scarecrows are quite well-known for innovative kill tactics. The OTHER underrated killer scarecrow film on instant watch (1988's Scarecrows) features some nifty zombification, but the big bad of Night of the Scarecrow has even more tricks up his raggedy sleeves, among them:

-Sewing a victim's mouth shut


-Creative use of a plow

-Impregnating females by stuffing a seed down their throats, the quick birth of which involves hentai-ish tentacles

-Hurling a sickle at the window of a car speeding away so as to injure the driver and have her crash

-Elegantly removing his glove and blowing some dry straw in a manner that STABS A DUDE'S FACE

Even better, the scarecrow has his own sepia-toned origin story that involves hedonism, colonial times, and orgies. How did this film ever escape my teenage video days?

High Notes
The cast is composed of a solid group of enthusiastic actors, including future Office Space's Milton Stephen Root

Though Claire isn't the most interesting horror heroine, it's nice to see a not overly ambitious genre film center itself around a smart, brave,  and independent young woman who doesn't need to wait for the strapping hot guy to battle a killer scarecrow

Low Notes
I don't mind a filmmaker playing with camera styles, particularly in this type of film where anything new is welcome. But when an hour in, I've noted five cases of conspicuous and fairly clumsy POV shots, I'm a tad distracted by the thought that Burr's team was simply really eager to play with a new toy

Lessons Learned
You don’t mess with a homeboy (even if he’s white and from the midwest)
Everybody is just looking for somebody who will be there in the morning

In the early birth of the midwest, orgies were pretty lame
Sometimes, evil scarecrows can appear right in front of you as you run full speed away. Then sometimes they prefer to exercise more and chase you. Trying to figure out why and when they’d make such decisions is a task too difficult for intelligent film audiences to try to unravel, so just sit back and pretend it all makes perfect sense

Inevitable Dash of Wizard of Oz
Claire's big pre-Buffy zinger before blazing the bad guy is, you guessed it, "How 'bout a little FIRE, Scarecrow?"

If like me, you have a soft spot for '90s videos, scarecrow slashers, or solid straight horror films, Night of the Scarecrow  shouldn't be ignored. It's not necessarily scary or life-changing, but it's a perfectly solid genre flick with some sparkles--a young John Hawkes, a coolly designed killer, death by stuffing--that easily elevate it over a good 2/3rds of what else you'll find streaming in the horror section. A perfectly light and enjoyable way to slay 84 minutes of your life. 


  1. I too have an affection for Scarecrow flicks(even wrote a pretty cool script for one), but have never heard of this one. I mean...shouldn't they be sued 'cause of DARK Night of the Scarecrow? It has all the words but one? :)

  2. They can't be sued because a) this night is more brightly lit and b) this movie has John Hawkes. My logic is faultless. And you should get on that scarecrow script! We need more of 'em!

  3. Awesome review - never seen this one. Your Instantwatch is so much more comprehensive that ours north of the border. I have, however, see that '88 Scarecrows movie and it ain't half bad.

  4. But you've got poutine! I think that about evens things out.

    And yes in Scarecrows! A forgotten lil gem thats do odd and different from most of the genre stuff getting cranked out during its time.

  5. I remember watching this when I was a kid and being scared stupid. Great review, gonna go hunt down a copy of it now and enjoy it all over again.

  6. Thanks James! Hope it holds up for you.