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Dark Night of the Scarecrow – Review

Dark Night of the Scarecrow – Review

Feb 26, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Frank de Felitta, 1981
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Dark Night of the Scarecrow was originally released as a made-for-television movie and aired on October 24, 1981 as part of the CBS Saturday Night Movies.  Today, DNOTS is considered to be the scarecrow movie by which all others are judged.  After the film had been somewhat forgotten, briefly released in the 80’s on VHS format, it was re-released as part of the “Texas Frightmare Weekend” in April of 2010.  In September of the same year, it found a home on DVD format, being distributed by VCI Entertainment.  Immediately after its release, horror forums, magazines, and ezines began heavily promoting the return of the classic.  When I attended the “Spooky Empire” horror convention in October of 2010, there was entire display and table devoted to its release.

The movie is about a mentally challenged 36 year old man named “Bubba” who has the mind of a 9 year old.  He is best friends with a little girl named Marylee.  Several of the men in the small county of Bodan do not like the relationship between Bubba and Marylee are eagerly wait for any opportunity to take violent action.  The ringleader of this posse is Otis Hazelrigg, portrayed by the veteran actor Charles Durning.  Otis is a postman and never takes his official postmaster outfit off the entire movie, even donning the cliched rounded mailman hat.  When Marylee is attacked by a vicious dog, Bubba steps in and saves her life.  Unfortunately, the town folk assume Bubba was the reason for her injuries.  The doctors expect Marylee to die, sending Otis and his band of beer chugging men out as a lynch mob to hunt down the innocent Bubba.  Meanwhile, Bubba has ran back home where he explains to his mother what has happened.  She tells him they are going to play “the hiding game.”  The hiding game consists of Bubba dressing up as a scarecrow and standing in the field until danger passes.  It has worked in the past, but this time the redneck boys have dogs with them, and Bubba’s scent is picked up.  Once the men realize he is the scarecrow, they empty 21 rounds into him.

Moments later, “Harless” (played by Lane Smith, the man who played the prosecutor in My Cousin Vinny), gets a call on his radio that the girl is not dead and she has explained to the authorities that Bubba actually saved her life, not attacked her.  Oops.  To cover up their crime, the men place a pitchfork in the hands of Bubba.  Cut to the worst courtroom scene that has ever graced the screen where the men get off due to a “lack of probable cause.”  Bubba’s mom freaks out and screams that “there is other justice in this world besides the law.”  You can probably guess what happens from here.  A scarecrow starts popping up in the mens yards, and one by one they start dying.  Otis is left to the very end where he ultimately meets his doom from the pitchfork of Bubba that he had originally placed in his dead hands to cover up his crime.  The movie ends with Marylee and Bubba exchanging a flower.

Interestingly, Bubba in scarecrow form never shows up as the “killer” until the last couple of minutes of the film.  We are left guessing that it might be his mom, the disgruntled prosecutor, or even Marylee.  In this way, DNOTS doubles as a great suspense film that most anyone could handle.  There is zero gore and the scares are mild.  Still yet, the film succeeds in being a fun, well written, and decently acted thriller that was no doubt perfect for a late night television audience.  I was a little underwhelmed by the “chase scene” at the end with Otis running from a slow moving tractor.  All he really had to do was take one step to the right or left.  And, of course, the competence of the Bodan County judicial system leaves something to be desired.

At the core of DNOTS is a tale of revenge.  Although we are left guessing throughout the movie, I was hoping that the killings were coming from the hands of Bubba’s reincarnated scarecrow form so that he could have the pleasure of dispensing the kills rather than someone acting his place.  All of the kills, save for the last, come from the point of view of the victim; we never really see the threat with our own eyes, but only through the reactions of the targeted men.  This makes DNOTS rely more on story than on effects, which suited the film perfectly.  This movie is still better than a good bit of the horror garbage released even today.  Pick up a copy when you get a chance.

Click Here to purchase Dark Night of the Scarecrow

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