Movie Review: Scarecrows (1988)


Zombos Says: Good

Scarecrows is one of those horror movies that with better acting and better direction, and a more coherent script, would be quite compelling as a good example of a horror movie. As it is, it’s still creepy with effective makeup and gore effects, and does manage to maintain its mood of unknown evil biding time in the corn fields. A plus here is there are no dumb—but pretty—teenagers getting offed one by one, just very dumb misbehaving adults, so there’s a refreshing change of pace you will enjoy at least.

Similar to the story in Dead Birds, there is a precipitating robbery, an abandoned spooky house in the middle of nowhere used as a refuge, and demonic evil happening without explanation, spoiling that refuge. The soon-to-be-victims are satisfactorily witless enough to run around aimlessly before getting killed, one by one, in ways they should have avoided.

Escaping in a hijacked plane with a pilot and his daughter after a lucrative robbery, para-military crooks are double-crossed by one of their own: a very nervous guy named Bert (B.J. Turner). Bert’s first mistake is made when he jumps out of the plane with the big—and very heavy—box that holds all the stolen money, with no plan on how he's going to carry it once he’s on the ground. Being the dumbest of the bunch, he’s murdered first, but not before he finds the Fowler residence, nestled snuggly amid lots of ominous-looking scarecrows perched all around the wooden fence covered with barbed-wire and lots of warning sign saying “stay away.” The weird weathervane on the roof, with the pitchfork and pteradactyl, is a clear sign this old homestead is more deadstead than homey. Bert makes his second mistake when he ignores all the warning signs.

Until then, we hear what he’s thinking through his superfluous voiceover as he, way too easily, comes across the key to the decrepit truck in the yard. He hoists the box onto the truck and makes his getaway. Sure, why not? Decrepit trucks lying dormant for years in yards always have lots of gas in them, especially with today's prices, and car batteries last and last, right?

Although he wears night-vision goggles to walk through the foliage and find the house, he TAKES THEM OFF to drive the truck away and TURNS ON the headlights instead to see where he’s going. The rest of the crooks, still circling in the plane, spot the headlights.

Brilliant. He deserves to die he’s so stupid.

I’m not sure why he needed night vision goggles in the first place since every scene is brightly lit, from the interior of the plane to the night-time scenery, even the house. The cinematographer was either myopic or recently
graduated movie school, or he had to deal with really cheap moviestock and a skimpy budget.

Bert meets his demise when the truck dies in the middle of nowhere and the scarecrows get him. One nice touch, and there are a few of them, is when he opens the truck's lid after stalling out. I won’t ruin the hair-raising surprise, but any fan of American Pickers on the History Channel will pretty much know what to expect with rusting derelict trucks.

The story-sense, what less cinema-minded people call common sense, falters when dead and stuffed-like-a-flounder-with-straw-and-stolen-loot-Bert returns to the house. The rest of the crooks rough him up, then realize he’s gutted and stuffed like a flounder. Dead Bert manages to put up quite a fight, grabbing one fellow by the mouth and pushing him through a window, causing him to bite off more than he could chew in a gorylicious scene to savor. At this point, faced with an obvious supernatural threat, you’d think the crooks would be racing out of the house and back to the plane pronto. Instead, they stay to look for the rest of the money, even if one of them complains "Bert was walking around dead, for chrissakes!"

The stolen money suddenly appears on the ground outside the house, and the crooks—being greedy and all that—go for the bait without stopping to wonder how it got there. One of them is cornered by the scarecrows, and with a dull handsaw, they make him less handy. Now dead and gutted himself, Jack (Richard Vidan) returns to the house and attacks the remaining crooks.

If you listen closely to Jack's demonic growl you will hear the same monster-growl heard often in the Lost in Space TV episodes.

The last two survivors finally get smart and run like hell back to the plane.

But that doesn’t help.

For a B-movie, Scarecrows is more C than D. Still, the surprising amount of sustained dread and the 1980s evocative eeriness many of the scenes hold to the finish are worth a look-see. Especially on Halloween.

This article originally appeared at Zombos’ Closet of Horrors.

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