Monday, March 24, 2008


Since Manitou turned out to be so bizarrely awesome, I was excited about this month's Final Girl film club movie, Scarecrows. There's lots of hit-and-miss with the scarecrow sub-genre - you've got great stuff like this movie and Dark Night of the Scarecrow and then you've got crap like ... well, pretty much everything that came out of the 1990s and later.

Okay, so five robbers have ripped off a military base. Or something. Actually, I can't remember very well, because I was too busy being creeped out by the opening credits that these facts were being spoken over. It starts with a wide shot of this thing:

The movie cuts back and forth between the credits and increasingly closer-upper shots of this Seriously Creepy Scarecrow Thing.  I found myself unable to even look at the screen because I'm expecting him to suddenly go "RWARRR!" and make me have to hit pause while I go change my pee-stained pants.  We find out about the robbery from a radio broadcast that's being played over the credits (it wasn't until after the movie that I realized where the radio noise was actually coming from, which is a whole 'nother level of creeps).

Anyway, five robbers have stolen about $3.5 million, or so we're told on the radio.  We don't see any of the robbery - the first we see of the robbers is that they're on a plane.  They have commandeered the plane and are holding the pilot and his daughter hostage.  One of the robbers betrays the others by bailing out and taking the money with him, along with the plane's only parachute.  He lands in a tree close to what looks like a farm.  It's hard to tell, though, because it's verrry dark.  Thank goodness for night-vision goggles or else we the viewers would hardly see a thing.  The other robbers force the pilot to land the plane and they go looking for the traitor in a game of cat-and-mouse.  They happen upon an old farmhouse, and that's when things start to go horribly wrong.

Because the farm is guarded by scarecrows.  Evil scarecrows.  Magic scarecrows that have awesomely scary powers.  And here's something I really liked about the movie.  We're never told any backstory about where these scarecrows came from.  At all.  We only know what the characters in the movie kind of surmise from their surroundings and what ultimately happens.  The best we can tell is that the three people who lived in the house were Satanists, and now they've become magic-demon-scarecrows.  And they've probably turned previous trespassers into magic-demon-scarecrows as well.  These guys have all sorts of powers.  They're super-stealthy, they can replicate the characters' voices, they can do things like make phones ring and doors close and decapitated heads talk.  And they use some of the classic scarecrow-movie tropes, like impaling people with pitchforks and lopping heads off with sickles.  So the decks are seriously stacked against our, for lack of a better word, protagonists.

The characters are killed off, one by one, until only the pilot's daughter and one of the robbers is left alive.  And then there's a somewhat spectacular escape sequence.  The closing credits are intercut with reverse footage of the shot that opened the movie - getting farther and farther away from the Seriously Creepy Scarecrow Thing pictured above - and another radio broadcast (presumably coming from the SCST itself) explaining about the robbers who are now missing.

This movie is downright awesome and genuinely scary.  I love that we don't get all this mythology about where the scarecrows came from.  That makes them scarier somehow.  Like the killer in Black Christmas that we never see.  Another thing that contributes to the chill factor is Terry Plumeri's musical score.  And then there are these shots of the scarecrows that are sprinkled throughout the movie, and once in a while, if you're looking hard enough, you can see them breathing.

The acting is ... not great.  And some of the lines are painful.  But the atmosphere, gore and overall creepiness of the movie more than makes up for it, I think.  Great 1980s supernatural slasher fun that may cost you a night's sleep.

Oh!  And I didn't even mention the movies TRULY awesome tagline: "Trespassers will be violated."  Indeed, Scarecrows.  Indeed.


Corey said...

those opening credits are indeed creepy... i've always thought the scariest thing about this movie was waiting for that particular scarecrow to do the "Rawr" thing.

I'm curious... what leads you to believe the radio broadcasts originate from the scarecrows?

P. K. Nail said...

I could be wrong about the radio broadcasts, but the thing with the phone and the way they mimic voices makes it at least plausible, within the world of the film.

And since none of the rest of the film even really exists beyond that field and the plane, it seems more consistent for the broadcasts to be a manifestation of that field and the scarecrows themselves.