Dark Night of the Scarecrow

10/26/2017 19:45

Film: Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Year: 1981

Director: Frank De Felitta

Writer: J.D. Feigelson

Starring: Charles Durning, Robert F. Lyons and Claude Earl Jones

 

Review:

This film begins with a man, played by Larry Drake, playing in a field with a little girl, played by Tonya Crowe. Drake is a full grown man that is mentally slow. He is picking flowers with her and she tells him that he has to be gentler as he crushes one. She makes a couple of lays and states she has to kiss his cheek. He is against this, but does relent after coercion from her.

We then cut to the mailman, played by Charles Durning. He is delivering mail and stops by to talk to Lane Smith, who is working on a piece of farm equipment. Durning doesn’t like Drake and wants to kill him. Smith is against it and states he will rough him up, but won’t go farther than that without good cause.

Drake and Crowe are walking home. On their way, there is a yard that catches her eye. She wants to check it out. They look through the fence due to a broken board. It has some nice vegetation, a bird bath and a lot of gnomes. Crowe decides to go in and Drake refuses, not wanting to get in trouble. There ends up being a guard dog there and it attacks Crow. Drake busts through to help her. He then takes her home and her mother, played by Ivy Jones, freaks out when she sees them.

Smith rushes over to the post office, where he tells Durning that Drake killed the little girl. Durning takes out a handgun, puts it in his belt and tells Smith to get the dogs and the guns. They head off to pick up Robert F. Lyons and Claude Earl Jones.

Drake runs home when his mother comes out, she is played by Jocelyn Brando. She tells him to go and hide like she told him. Soon after, the four men show up and ask to see Drake. She tells them that he isn’t there and she hasn’t seen him. Durning tells her that the dogs say otherwise. She goes back into the house and the dogs follow the scent. This brings them to a scarecrow in the field. Durning ends up realizing that it is Drake in disguise. They kill him as a firing squad. Afterwards they learn that Crowe isn’t dead, she was just hurt.

There is a trial and the D.A., played by Tom Taylor, tries to convince the judge that Drake was killed in cold blood. He doesn’t see it that way and they are acquitted of the charges. They go off to celebrate while Taylor will do what he can to prove that they murdered him and get them convicted.

Crowe wakes up and doesn’t know that Drake has been killed. She seems to be called by him and goes to his house. She goes inside and speaks with his mother. Brando tells her that he has gone to a better place and won’t be coming back.

The next day, Smith is freaked out when he sees a scarecrow that looked just like Drake did after they shot him in his yard. He goes to get the rest and they meet up with Durning at his boarding house. Durning is irate, thinking that Taylor did this to get them to crack. He tells them that it is nothing and they are fine.

When Smith returns home that night, the scarecrow is gone. He does hear a machine in his barn start up. When he goes out there, he doesn’t find anyone. He turns it off and then climbs up to the loft. Something turns the machine on again and he is pushed. He tries to hold on to the light, but falls into his wood chipper.

Durning is told the next day over breakfast what happened and he is shocked. The other men are too. Jones even more so when he sees the same scarecrow on his property, is this Drake back to extract his revenge? Or is something else going on here?

Now I was turned on to this film from some horror film podcasts I listen to. I had never heard of it so I thought I would give it is a try. I have to say that I was thoroughly surprised. The story is something that could still be used today. We have a simple man, which has a mind of a child, who plays with a little girl. He doesn’t do anything wrong to her, but the man that hates him has issues and is hinted to be a pedophile. Durning will do whatever it takes to get rid of this guy, for no one reason than that he hates him. What I really like about this film though, is there is a chance that it isn’t super natural. We see the scarecrow, but it is possible that someone, like Taylor, could be using this to scare them and then kill them. There is a scene at the end that rebuffs this, but it is a solid concept. I really like the revenge aspect of this film.

The acting is good as well. Now he isn’t in the film long, but I thought Drake did a great job at portraying his character realistically. I’ve seen him in other things and thought he did very well. I was impressed. Durning is great at portraying a character I absolutely hated. It was well done. Lyons and Jones were good, thinking that something was up, but being weak enough that they could be pushed around. Smith plans a farmer very well, since the first thing I saw him in was Son in Law. I also really liked Crowe and Brando, who seem to know what is killing them. It is an interesting angle there. I also really respected Taylor in the small amount of screen time he had.

Now this film was made for television. I actually thought it was really well done despite that. The editing of the film is tight. It moves quickly through its 96 minute run time, building tension all the way through. It is one of those films where you are rooting for the killer to get his revenge. The effects of the film are good. The kills are all done off screen, but the effects used were practical. There is really very little blood. The score to the film fit well and helped to set the scenes.

With that said, I would recommend seeing this one. This is back when made for television films were still high quality. I think we are seeing a little bit of that again, but I was impressed with this one. This is a fun revenge flick that takes place in a country town and something we could see even done today. The acting of the film was good. The editing of the film was well done and the little effects used were also. The score helps to set the scenes and to build tension. If you want to see an above average revenge horror film, then I would recommend giving this one a viewing.

 

My Rating: 7 out of 10