TV-14, 90 min.
Director: Sheldon Wilson
Writers: Rick Suvalle, Sheldon Wilson
Starring: Lacey Chabert, Robin Dunne, Nicole Muñoz, Brittney Wilson, Carlo Marks, Iain Belcher, Richard Harmon, Julia Maxwell
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must reveal that I consider the writer of this movie, Rick Suvalle, a friend. I’ve reviewed a couple of his movies in the past, and felt I’d created a bit of awkwardness between us because I tried to be honest as I always do in my criticism. He claimed to appreciate my comments, and by that I mean the negatives I offered up about the films. From what I know of filmmaking most of my problems with those two movies had little to do with the writing. But still, I’m sure my comments stung a bit. For that I am sorry. Don’t worry, we’re still friends. However, I had assured him that instead of reviewing his most recent film, “Scarecrow”, I would merely offer some promotional comments and talk about it in terms of how it relates to my annual month long Horrorfest this year. He seemed nervous at just that prospect, but I insisted that I wouldn’t offer traditional film criticism. Then I watched the movie, and I really liked it. As I write this I still don’t know if this is going to be some sort of review, but I have to say, I really liked it.
The movie joins a very small collection of surprisingly compelling movies that have been featured in past Horrorfests centered on the horror icon of the scarecrow. A few years ago I revisited a made for TV horror film that I remembered well from my youth called “Dark Night of the Scarecrow”, which involved the spirit of a mentally handicapped man returning from the dead to take revenge on the men who tormented him in the form of a scarecrow. “Scarecrows” had a cult following, and although I didn’t like it as much as the people who had suggested it for my Horrorfest, it holds a special unique place in my Horrorfest memory. “Scarecrow” is better than either of these movies.
Made by the SyFy channel, “Scarecrow” shows a surprising resistance to the campy nature that infects most of their original movies. It involves a busload of high school kids who are sent to an abandoned farm for a detention punishment to dismantle a scarecrow for the town’s annual scarecrow festival. Once there they discover something that I guess we’ll call a scarecrow, and it is not happy to see them. Soon the body count starts mounting and the potential victim pool starts shrinking.
Rick told me he pitched the script based solely on the design concept of the scarecrow. Despite the limited recourses of cable television they nailed it with the scarecrow design. It is a creepy looking wraith-like thing that appears to be composed of rotting corn stocks. It climbs onto things like a rapidly creeping ivy with long claw-like fingers and an empty skull-shaped face. If I ran into it in a corn maze, I’d be leaving a puddle behind.
Director Sheldon Wilson takes Rick’s efficient script and builds a moody production around it that includes some wonderfully atmospheric scary locations. He and Rick are smart to take the action away from the cornfield fairly quickly. The action in the corn threatens to become monotonous and confusing for the audience. Soon we find our victims occupying a dilapidated farmhouse, a misty tree grove at night and a creaky boat graveyard. These touches help to elevate this made for TV feature to the level of a theatrical release. The film’s strongest feature by far is the design of the scarecrow, however.