Night of the Scarecrow (1995)

Night of the Scarecrow (1995)

A terrifying evil is about to be unleashed!

A group of teenagers accidentally release the spirit of an evil warlock who possesses a scarecrow in order to kill the descendants of those who killed him many centuries earlier.

 

Not to be confused with Dark Night of the Scarecrow from 1981, Night of the Scarecrow is a solid if limited slasher which seeks to utilise one of horror’s most underused gimmicks – that of an evil scarecrow. Come on, you’ve never thought that the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz wasn’t just a tiny bit unsettling?

Despite the presence of some supernatural elements, this is a straight-up slasher with a killer scarecrow. The old ‘once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all’ slasher mantra is in full effect here. Characters live up to stereotype. The situations and settings are overly familiar. The plot unwinds exactly as it should do. Within even a hint of attempting something a little different, Night of the Scarecrow plays it all safe……a little too safe. Director Jeff Burr has made plenty of low budget horror sequels including a couple of Puppet Master sequels and an installment of the Pumpkinhead series. He knows his way around a horror film even if the direction has been pedestrian. The film does look good for its budget and production values are high.

The ultimate problem with Night of the Scarecrow isn’t just the repetitive nature of the slasher approach – it’s in the title character. Many slashers in the past have looked like they were going to bomb, only to be saved by the presence of a unique-looking killer. Not here unfortunately. He looks really cheesy – your stereotypical killer with a flour sack over his head (think Jason in Friday the 13th Part 2). I wonder why they couldn’t have taken a leaf out of the book of Scarecrows and made the scarecrow look really authentic and frightening. This guy just isn’t scary in the slightest and looks like someone dressed up as a scarecrow. At one point towards the end, I was dying for him to remove his mask and unveil his true identity in a Scooby Doo-like plot twist. He also speaks a lot, despite his mouth being sewn shut, which makes him sound like some jock dressed up for Halloween. He should have been a silent killer to make it more effective. At least this one has the foresight to include a cornfield during a rousing set piece. Too many scarecrow themed horrors shy away from living up to scarecrow stereotyping but why not? Cornfields are rather eerie, menacing places and a scarecrow without a cornfield is like a king without a castle.

The cast is full of the ‘I know the face but not the name’ actors who all fill the various stock character roles. There’s the local priest, the town mayor, the farmer, the sheriff, etc. It’s a bit uncanny how they’re all supposed to be members of the same family. Talk about keeping it in the family, it’d be hard to break into their grip on power in this community. Elizabeth Barondes looks great and injects some life into her character. Matters are not harmed by her inevitable T&A scene but she’s feisty enough through the rest of the film to make a likeable heroine. Unfortunately she has zero chemistry with her male counterpart, John Mese. The rest of the cast are rounded out by a great bunch of characters actors including Stephen Root and Bruce Glover. Glover, in particular, enjoys a good role as the local priest who enjoys one of the film’s standout set piece moments when he gets mouth sewn shut by the scarecrow.

Special effects all round are very high as the death scenes rely on them a little more than old fashioned blood and gore. Another highlight sees a character suddenly sprout straw from their eyes. At least someone on the effects team was trying to keep the theme of a killer scarecrow alive.

 

If you want a decent horror film about killer scarecrows then check out Scarecrows, which is creepy and gory. If you can’t get hold of that then this will have to do. Not a great slasher film by any means but you can do a lot worse than Night of the Scarecrow.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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