Forgotten Foes: SCARECROWS! (Films Featuring Underrated Monsters)
**Forgetten Foes is a series where Giallo Julian talks about underrated monsters in horror movies.**
Like… Scarecrows. They get no love, and I don’t know why. I mean, the word “scare” is in their name… they’re perfect horror movie material! Yet, they only get used on occasion, almost never being done proper justice. Sure, we have that one comic book villain that fights that one brooding hero, but that’s not nearly enough. The fact there’s not a whole entire library of worthwhile killer scarecrow movies is criminal!
Shameful as that is, I believe scarecrows deserve their time in the cinematic spotlight. So let’s look over some of what few scarecrow flicks there are, and see how much they squander the potential for such a promising monster idea. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about “killers dressed up as scarecrows”. Oh no, that’s a whole other topic. This is “evil, living, killer scarecrow” territory. Now that’s squared away, let’s quickly hop the fence and get lost in this cornfield!
(Directed by William Wesley; Starring Ted Vernon, Michael David Simms, Richard Vidan; 1988)
“Criminals hijack a plane and force the pilot and his daughter to fly them to Mexico. However, an unexpected landing finds them in a cemetery inhabited by killer scarecrows.” – via IMDB.
Tricked ya! We’re actually starting off with one I like!
I remember seeing this on the Chiller network a while ago, back when that was a thing. That’s a running theme with a lot of these flicks: I was a kid and it was on TV.
Anyway! Story-wise, this film is pretty interesting, since it doesn’t follow the standard “scarecrow plot” you would expect. Usually, a bunch of teens go to a haunted farm or something, then boom! Haunted scarecrow! What does this flick do instead? Well, the main cast is a team of ex-commando bank robbers loaded up with Uzis and shotguns, for starters. They get lost in a cornfield, then boom! Haunted scarecrows! Then boom again, literally! They shoot the scarecrows with guns!
Despite how it sounds, it’s not an action movie. Sorry, I know I was being misleading. This is very much a tale of suspense, not unlike an EC comic book or an episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s an old-school type of horror story, accentuated with a decent amount of gore… actually, it might be more in line with Tales From The Crypt, now that I think about it.
This flick is a labor of love, and I respect it immensely. Despite their low resources, the crew managed to make a pretty decent chiller. They came up with a fun scenario, put the money where it counts (gore effects, scary scarecrows, and a particularly cool looking zombie), and let the atmosphere do the rest. I think it all works in its favor.
Fun fact: A large portion of this movie’s budget was funded by the director’s friend, who was an auto-dealer. The director was talking about how he needed cash for the flick, so his friend opened a safe full of guns/money and pulled out several stacks of the green stuff for him. His stipulation? Him and his dog had to be in the movie… they ended up being the best characters. Learned that from a Good Bad Flicks video!
Check it out digitally here. Physical copies can be pricey, but they’re around if you’re willing to look!
2. Night of the Scarecrow
(Directed by Jeff Burr; Starring Elizabeth Barondes, John Mese, Stephen Root; 1995)
“A group of drunk teenagers accidentally set free the spirit of a warlock, which possesses a scarecrow. The scarecrow goes on a bloody rampage killing the descendants of the men who had killed the warlock a century before. A newcomer and the daughter of the mayor try to stop it before it is too late and the warlock can reincarnate…” via IMDB.
I used to pass by this flick all the time at the video rental. The cover always stood out to me, just a scarecrow hanging there doing… you know, scarecrow things. It looked neat, but young Giallo didn’t have much interest in killer hay-filled dummies at the time. I have since refined my tastes… for better or worse. While researching films for this article, our paths crossed again, and I decided to finally check it out.
I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, it’s a mid-90’s straight-to-video flick about a scarecrow. Not much hope there, right? Life is full of surprises, my friends… the surprise here being that this movie is pretty good!
It’s a fun, gory, cheesy killer scarecrow romp in all the best ways, which you’d think would be easy to do and not be too special… you’d think. But yes, Night of the Scarecrow has a lot going for it. The acting and plot not really being part of that, mind you, but that’s never stopped me from loving a film before!
The titular scarecrow is probably the best I’ve seen in any move to date. You can tell that they cared about how it looked, while at the same time having an immense amount of fun with the concept. It looks appropriately creepy, does spooky things (such as tearing out the string sealing its mouth shut, so it can talk), and is completely devoid of any one liners… unlike many other ‘90s Freddy Krueger clones. Apparently it did in the original script, but the director nipped that in the bud pretty quick, to the benefit of the entire experience.
The scarecrow also delivers some creative kills, including filling a man full of hay and planting a seed in a woman, which results in a bunch of living vines bursting out of her body… grody, but rad!
Much like Scarecrows, this story would feel right at home in the pages of a ‘50s horror comic. There’s even a scene with blue/red lightning that’s an obvious homage George Romero’s Creepshow, which looks fantastic! It takes place in a church where a priest is questioning his faith after looking at a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, and the scarecrow is in the background, just hanging on a cross. Then he hops off and brutalizes the holy man with a surgical suture. It’s a fun time.
Unfortunately, you’re on your own if you want a find a copy of this to watch. However, if you can find it for a reasonable price, I’d highly recommend it!
(Directed by Emmanuel Itier; Starring Tim Young, Todd Rex, Tiffany Shepis; 2002)
“When high school loner Lester is betrayed then viciously murdered, the bodies start stacking up as the scarecrow seeks vengeance from beyond the grave.” – via IMDB.
I try to find merit in everything I watch. I really do. I’m of the opinion that everything has at least one redeeming quality that makes the viewing experience a little bit worth it… but dammit, it’s hard sometimes. This… “movie”… is one of those occasions. Let’s get this over with.
It starts with some 30-year old high schooler being bullied by a bunch of other 30-year old high schoolers, so he wishes he could be a scarecrow or something. You know, like everyone who’s been bullied does. Then, his mom’s boyfriend “accidentally” kills him after he catches them screwing. THEN, he becomes a scarecrow with a completely different personality, almost like he’s played by a different actor. From there, the killing spree begins as he targets his old bullies, one by one. Oh, he also does radical front flips/backflips every time he enters a scene, because he’s super cool now… I guess. Also, one liners… one liners everywhere… we escaped them in Night of the Scarecrow, but they’re back with a vengeance here.
I wish I could talk more about Scarecrow (that’s a lie, I don’t wish that), but I kept zoning out during it. It was boring at best, terrible at worst, and not the “fun” kind of terrible. The acting, the story, the look of everything, all pretty trash. If there’s any good points I can rummage up, I guess it would be that the scarecrow’s design isn’t too bad. Not great, but it does the job… not a good job, but a job.
If you want to watch this for some reason, I’m afraid you’re on your own again. Good luck.
(Directed by Lucy Townsend; Starring Jimmy ‘The Bee’ Bennett, Ian Birdsey, Sam Burns; 2017)
“Scareycrows is a comedy horror about a trainee hairdresser who discovers that her boyfriend is keeping a dark secret. Soon her world crashes around her as the quiet seaside town where she was born is overrun by homicidal scareycrows.” – via IMDB.
Time for a trip across the pond… that means England, in case you weren’t aware. Don’t worry, friend, I got you.
So, a low budget horror-comedy about killer scarecr-… sorry, “scareycrows”… they really call them that in the flick, and I refuse to disrespect the creators by not doing the same! Anyway, from that short description, it sounds very similar to the previous… experience, Scarecrow. Luckily, this one had a bit more competence as far as actually being a movie goes.
Honestly, it feels like some friends decided they wanted to make a film and got all the town locals in on the action, which is always charming. As far as my opinions go, that type of charm can lift an otherwise unspectacular film up a letter grade or two, depending on how much there is. Is that the case here? Eh… kinda.
I mean, it definitely has charm, that’s for sure. It’s just not really bringing anything to the table other than that. The characters are likable enough, since there’s not enough there to be unlikable in the first place. It’s pretty much your average cast of teens thrown into a horror story…. except there’s not really any horror to be had.
Sure, the scareycrows manage to kill a few people, but it’s not shocking or anything. A hit to the head with an axe here, some CGI blood there, a quick cutaway to someone’s reaction; that’s pretty much all you get. Mixed in is some half-baked young adult drama that’s glossed over rather quickly, feeling more like padding for the runtime. Not that I’m disappointed, I’d rather they move past those scenes as fast as possible, I just feel they had no reason to be there in the first place.
The scareycrows themselves look fine. Just a bunch of dudes wearing old clothes with straws stuffed into the sleeves and bags over their heads. Nothing too exciting, but nothing offensive either. Perfectly serviceable.
It’s certainly not something I’d watch with friends on a bad movie night, due to it not being so much “bad” as it is “bland”. It’s not horrible at all, just… plain, I guess. It’s a good flick to put on in the background while you’re doing more important stuff.
You can check it out digitally here, if you so choose. As far as I know, there are no physical copies.
From the confusing twist and turns of the corn maze to the rickety, abandoned barn, we managed to make it through okay! Those scarecrows weren’t so tough. All straw and no guts! Still, best to stay out of the fields, because now there’s nothing to scare the crows… the true threat…
Until next time…