Directed by William Wesley
I gotta be honest here; I have never found scarecrows to be particularly creepy. Now don’t get me wrong, I can see how the image of weather-ravaged scarecrows standing in the middle of lonely fields provides perfect subject matter for horror flicks. But I have always seen them as sympathetic characters, doling out revenge and protecting the weak. Granted, my earliest exposure to scarecrows in film was that dancing dumbass in The Wizard of Oz and the vengeance-seeking, redneck-killing scarecrow featured in the classic made-for-TV flick Dark Night of The Scarecrow. (Remember when there used to be awesome made-for-TV horror flicks like Gargoyles and Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark? Damn, I miss those days.) So I was left with the impression that scarecrows were either stupid or justice-dealing badasses.
A while back, I heard about an undiscovered gem of ’80s horror called Scarecrows that sounded like a pretty cool film. But, alas, every version I came across was the heavily edited version. And you know me, I ain’t watching no damn censored movies! So when someone mentioned to me that the full uncut version of Scarecrows was finally being released on DVD by MGM, I ran out and grabbed a copy.
As the film opens, we learn that a group of ex-military commandos have stolen a cool $3.5 million from Camp Pendleton and have hijacked a small plane to make their getaway to Mexico. These guys are kind of like the real-life version of G.I. Joe--except, you know, murdering assholes. Of course, one of the commando thieves decides he doesn’t want to share the loot, so he chucks a hand grenade at his brothers-in-arms and parachutes the hell out of the plane with the cash. The crew in the plane manage to ditch the grenade before it explodes and they circle around to where the traitor landed: smack dab in the middle of a field full of scarecrows.
Now this is where things start to get a little fuzzy. It appears that the farm where the field is located was inhabited by a group of occultists who now inhabit the bodies of the scarecrows. When no-good trespassers happen upon the farm, the possessed scarecrows spring into action--swiftly disemboweling the trespassers and stuffing them full of straw. At least I think that’s what’s going on, because at no point does the film explain why the scarecrows are killing people. But hey, exposition would just get in the way of all the decapitations and mutilations, right?
While enjoyable, Scarecrows has some serious flaws. For being a group of highly trained killers, these guys drop and misplace their guns an awful lot. Also, how come nobody ever thinks of setting the goddamned scarecrows on fire? Wouldn’t that be the first thing you would try? But what Scarecrows lacks most is a single likeable character. You don’t give a shit about any of these guys and spend the entire movie waiting for them to meet their hay-filled end--not that that’s a bad thing.
On the plus side, the design of the scarecrows is pretty freaking awesome, and the gore effects are well-done. Ultimately, the film’s shortcomings are more than made up for by the cool atmosphere, creature design and gore. It’s not a great film by any means, but Scarecrows is worth watching with a group of friends when you’re yearning for a horror fix.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the DVD contents, Scarecrows is strictly a bare-bones affair. We get the movie, chapter selections and that’s about it. Hell, even the DVD menu looks like it belongs on a public domain disc you would find in the dollar bin. The print is nice and the sound mix is solid, but there is literally nothing else to speak of on this disc. No trailers. No interviews. Not even a director’s commentary track. Come on, guys, with DVD technology at the point where it is, there’s no excuse for not loading up your flick with tons of cool-ass extras. (MGM, $14.98)