Film Review: Scarecrows (1988)

SYNOPSIS:

Five people heist the Camp Pendleton payroll, kidnap a pilot and his daughter, who are forced to fly them to Mexico. Enroute a double cross has one of the thieves parachute with the loot into an abandoned graveyard surrounded by strange scarecrows. Two of the team jump after their loot and their former partner. Everything happens during the course of one very dark night.

REVIEW:

Tag lines:
“They Only Want A Brain … Yours”
“Trespassers will be violated”

It’s probably not a stretch to say that several may have never seen this film. Mainly because it has been off the DVD market for several years until it was officially released to DVD in 2007. Though the original film actually came out in 1988 signifying it as one of the few effective scarecrow films to emerge from the horror market. (Note: The other being the cult legend TV release of “Dark Night of the Scarecrow“.)

For quite some time, its only release was produced by bootleggers who took the time to transfer the analog VHS tapes to digital.

Now before you write this one off, you should know that this is a far better movie than all those stupid scarecrow franchise movies that came out over the years, particularly the BlockBuster shelf-stocked scarecrow franchise films. It was one of the few back then that really gave you the creeps and threw a few twists to boot. Under the direction of William Wesley, Scarecrows has its flaws but in short its pretty cool horror….or retro horror for that matter.

Director William Wesley hasn’t done much since then with his other film projects being less than worth mentioning. On this occasion he soared with flying colors with a rather abstract take on scary scarecrows.

The premise is simple, 5 crooks are making off with a pretty solid heist and end up parachuting into a scarecrow occupied field. This is after, one of them, Bert, tries to double cross the rest of the group and claim all the money for himself. The crooks have kidnapped a pilot and his daughter to make sure they make a clean untraceable getaway. They just happen to be along for the unfortunate ride.

The whole thing takes place entirely at night keeping it pretty dark and eerie from the start. As Bert (B.J. Turner) makes his way thru the field he comes upon a unoccupied house that is literally surrounded with scarecrows mounted as supernatural protection devices. It appears the former residents were into some form of black magic but have long left the premise. Much of the beginning of the film does a mind play with Bert per the radio communication devices they are wearing. The other crooks taunt and threaten him to the point where he starts to become disillusioned and paranoid. This paranoia is not without warrant as the still mounted scarecrows begin to attack each of them one by one.

Curry played by actor Michael David Simms might look familiar to horror fans as one of those actors who has appeared in several horror films over the years. He leads the team as they all search the fields for the stolen loot. The camera keeps panning onto a particular set of scarecrows who we believe to be residual from the former residents. They stay unmoved, while of them suspiciously is always seen slightly breathing. The mood here is one of the best I’ve seen in horror for setting a strikingly appropriate atmosphere. This also provides the scarecrows a gloomy backdrop to lurk about and kill off its unlucky victims. The lighting in the film was always presented as a moonlit cast.

“Scarecrows” always keeps a sense of the supernatural per way of walking straw-filled bodies, zombies and ghostly voiceover radio broadcasts. The intent here is to play mind games with the crew in addition to actually coming to life. The climax of Scarecrows reveals one bad-ass scary smiling scarecrow corpse that should have been the poster child for this release. There is one flaw in logic I noticed as we finish off the 3rd act. The fences acted as a supernatural border keeping the scarecrows in, but in the final scene one of the possessed makes an appearance on the getaway plane (which is far from the property now).

“Scarecrows” is easily noted as one of the more scary releases to come out of the 80′s. It proves to be suspenseful and inventive in its use of effects and shadow-lit attacks. Fans of the genre will get the best experience watching it in a dimly lit room to better effect the atmosphere of this movie. It was originally released on Forum Home Video which is best presented in its uncut, unrated version.

Scarecrows (1988)

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