Larry “Dr Giggles” Drake stars as Bubba, a sweet retarded man whose constant companion is the young Marylee (Tonya Crowe). It’s a completely innocent relationship- the two spend their days picking flowers and singing together- but the other men of this small farming community don’t like it one bit, in particular Otis, the town’s mailman (played with true sleazy gusto by Charles Durning).
Otis has a huge hate-on for Bubba, and he’s positively itching for an excuse to “permanently remove” the poor man, calling him a blight on their fine town. Unfortunately, Otis doesn’t have to wait long for his excuse to roll around: when Marylee is seemingly killed, the blame falls to Bubba.
Despite Bubba's cries of “Bubba didn’t do it!”, Otis rounds up a small lynch mob to see that “justice” is done. Bubba takes to hiding- he poses as a scarecrow in the field behind the house he shares with his mother- but Otis and his good ol’ boys find him and act as an impromptu firing squad. As Bubba hangs from the pole, bullet-riddled and lifeless, a call comes in telling the men that Marylee is fine. She was attacked by a dog and it was Bubba who saved her life. Wow, so Bubba really didn't do it. Ain’t that somethin’? They shot him up for nuthin’! Otis plants a pitchfork next to Bubba’s body and that’s that.
After the shooting there’s a hearing, but apparently the claims of self-defense by Otis and the boys is good enough for the judge and the case is thrown out of court. This makes perfect sense, as everyone knows that four angry men with shotguns stand little chance against a frightened retard with a pitchfork. Bubba’s mother is rightfully outraged at the decision, and she screams in the courtroom: “You may think you’re getting off free, but there’s other justices in the world besides the law!” No one points out to her that this is exactly the kind of thinking that led to Bubba meeting the business end of four shotguns. This little farm town ain’t no “two wrongs don’t make a right” kinda town, though- it’s an “eye for an eye” kinda town, which can mean only one thing…
IT’S REVENGENIN’ TIME!
Before long, a scarecrow shows up in the field of one of the guilty party, Harless- there’s bullet holes in the clothing, but the clothing is full of straw, not Bubba. And yes, this being a farm community, the men have names like “Harless” and “Skeeter”. Doy. At any rate, the scarecrow scares the men shitless- except Otis, naturally, who insists it’s the bitter District Attorney trying to scare the men into giving themselves up.
After darkness falls, Harless hears a
So on and so on. The scarecrow appears as a harbinger of doom, and the men meet their fate when “accidents” occur. Otis blames everyone from the District Attorney to Bubba’s mother to Marylee to Bubba himself- but who…or WHAT…is seeking revenge on Bubba’s behalf? Is it Bubba himself, from beyond the grave? Is Bubba still alive? Is Marylee a 9-year-old capable of terrorizing men and then killing them? All is eventually revealed in an ending that kept many a child wide-eyed and awake at night when Dark Night of the Scarecrow originally aired.
As I said, this is a made-for-TV movie, so there’s not much by way of blood and guts and the grisly stuff. But who cares? Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a truly creepy thriller, and it succeeds largely due to the performances- particularly Charles Durning as Otis and Larry Drake, who’s pretty astonishing as Bubba. Drake would go on to win two Emmy awards for his portrayal of another mentally-handicapped character, “Benny” on LA Law. It should go without saying that the main reason the film succeeds is because scarecrows are…you know, pretty fucking scary.
Unfortunately, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, like so many great old films (particularly of the made-for-TV ilk), has yet to see an official DVD release. Maybe we should start an internet petition to get one out there for the masses- I’ve heard internet petitions are really effective. Unless you’ve got memories of Dark Night yourself, I’m sorry you’ll be upset that there’s a movie I’m reviewing that you most likely won’t be able to get hold of- especially after I give the movie a rating of