Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dark Night of the Scarecrow

TV movies would be a hell of a lot better today if they made them like they made this early 80s effort. Ignoring the fact that I never watch them anyway, I can’t think of the last time a network premiered a horror movie (yes, I’m specifying networks here, I’m sadly aware of all the horror movies that premiere on the Sci-Fi Channel) instead of whatever the hell they make TV movies out of nowadays.

The film opens with a retarded man (played by Dr. Giggles himself, Larry Drake) being falsely accused of assaulting a young girl and getting hunted down by a group of men and murdered. After seeming to escape punishment for their crime, the men now find themselves stalked by the scarecrow the retarded man had tried to disguise himself as when they killed him. One by one, they are killed, but who could their killer be? Could it possibly be the undead form of the slain retarded man????

While it’s a fairly standard plot for a horror movie, the film does function pretty darn nicely within its contexts. For one, it’s actually pretty surprisingly racy for a TV movie from 1981. While most of the violence is off screen, they all but outright state that the leader of the men wanted the retarded guy dead because he (the leader) had the hots for the young girl he (the retarded guy) was friends with. A strong undercurrent of pedophilia is always a welcome addition to any network entertainment, right guys?

Additionally, the film does a pretty nice job of keeping it a mystery of who the killer actually is. While there’s a good deal of speculation by the characters that it might be the dead man back from the grave, there’s quite a few less supernatural suspects that it could be, from his wrathful grieving mother, to the idealistic lawyer that basically declared a war against them when their case was thrown out for lack of evidence. You don’t get to find out definitively who it is until pretty much the very last minute of the film, which is rather nice for a time when most killers took pride in announcing their existence through sequel after sequel.

Rating: ***

P.S. While it’s outright impossible to purchase this movie in any official manner, you can still watch the entire film on Youtube. It’s certainly not an ideal way of watching it, but if you click on the trailer below, the user that posted it has the entire film on his channel for you to watch. Interactivity!

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