FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 24, 2008

Film Club: Scarecrows

1988 wasn't exactly a banner year for horror movies. Franchises were cramping up as they came around the back stretch; the year saw the fourth installments of Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Howling...part deux for Fright Night, Hellraiser, and Phantasm...and Jason Voorhees was showing off his ooey, gooey face yet again in F13 Part VII. Meanwhile, original properties were beginning that dangerous slide into "We really don't take this shit seriously anymore" territory with films such as Hide and Go Shriek. It's surprising, then, that 1988 would also see the release of Scarecrows, a film that keeps things simple and aims only to terrify.

When I said "keeps it simple", I meant "No really, wicked simple": a group of ex-military folk rob Camp Pendleton, kidnap a pilot and his daughter, and force said pilot to fly them to Mexico where they can enjoy their millions as they see fit. Problem is, the greedy get greedier (isn't that always the problem?) and the double-crossings begin.

Bert (BJ Turner) decides he wants the money all to himself, tosses a grenade in the plane, and jumps. Luckily for his robber cohorts, the grenade takes about 15 minutes to actually explode- long enough for someone to toss it out of the plane. Said cohorts land the plane and begin tracking Bert and the money; problem number two is, they've all managed to land in the spookiest cornfield ever- a cornfield chock full of homicidal scarecrows who are all ready to make with the chop-chop, the poke-poke, and the stuff-stuff (isn't that always problem number two?).

That's David James Campbell on the right, flyin' that plane high on cocaine. The only films on his resume are Scarecrows and Killer Workout...clearly, he's got the best resume EVER.

And that, my friends, is pretty much that. By the time the opening credits have finished rolling, the plot is out of the way. The remaining 80-odd minutes are all about scares and atmosphere as the bad guys run around in the dark, eat raw corn, and meet the business end of various pointy things wielded by perhaps the most frightening-looking scarecrows ever committed to celluloid (and yes, I'm counting Dark Night of the Scarecrow here...while that's undoubtedly a superior film, these straw dudes fucking rocked my face off).

What I like is that writer/director William Wesley doesn't know, bogged down in details and explanations here. The scarecrows simply are- they're simply alive and mean. They simply want to make more scarecrows out of their victims, simply because. Simple, simple, simple. How do the dead, freshly stuffed with straw, get up and walk around? Bah, who knows? How are the scarecrows able to mimic voices in order to lure their victims out into the darkness? Pfft, whatevs. Scarecrows is meant to be a fun, scary ride- and it is.

This film looks like it had a budget of about $1.98, but that buck-ninety-eight is stretched to its limit. I've already mentioned how great the scarecrows look (seriously, this movie would have left me super damaged if I'd seen it as a kid), but I've got to give a shout out to the kill effects as well. There's not a ton of gore, but there certainly are a ton of wince-inducing moments: Wesley knows exactly where to poke a bitch to get the maximum cringe factor from the audience. Calves are repeatedly stabbed, hands are sawed off slowly, fingers are bitten, someone gets stabbed in the fucking face! I watched this one alone and I was still embarrassed about the faces I was making in reaction to the on-screen carnage.

As much as I enjoyed Scarecrows (and I really did enjoy this movie, despite its shortcomings and occasionally odd dialogue ("demonic demons", anyone?)- I think its cult following is well-deserved), though, I kind of feel like we had our moment together and that's that. I'm sure I'll bust it out again at some point in the future, but I can't say I felt that super special spark that's going to put Scarecrows on my short list of forever awesome. You know, it's kind of like you have a little too much to drink with a friend some Friday night and then Saturday morning you're all "Well, that was fun and stuff, but it's not like we're dating now or anything".

Or something like that.

Wait, what?

Give it up for the Film Club Coolies!

Craig Moorhead
Aphorisms and Ectoplasm
The Horror Section
Media Kitten
Meg's Boyfriends in the News
The Film School Dropout
Look Back In Anger
Mermaid Heather
Evil On Two Legs
The Cemetery Scene
Fade In
Askewed Views


Sarah said...

I liked the weird bits and the scarecrows, but I was pretty "meh" on it.

RJ said...

Wait . . was he the older cop who met the business end of a shovel in Killer Workout? I think that's right.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, "demonic demons" jumped out at me too. I had to rewind it just to make sure they weren't winking at the audience.

I thought this worked okay. It would get me good and bored, and then, just when my mind would start to wander, it'd hit me with a fairly impressive (could be an expectations thing) sequence. And I didn't expect


the girl to come back for Bizarro Rob Reiner. Dug the news-anchor voiceover ending, too; I'm a sucker for verite touches like that.

The soundtrack was dreadful, though, and not in the sense of promoting dread. Not bad music per se, just too busy for the subject. Very '70s TV movie when some minimalist synth would've served it better.

Anybody else notice that it's just called "Crows" when the end credits roll?

p.s. Let's say someone had an unfortunate tendency to filibuster these threads--in order to become a "Coolie" for the next FGFC installment, and thus offshore the longwindedness, would this individual have to be the proprietor of a blog worth reading, or would a rarely-updated clunker with an unwieldy URL be acceptable?

Anonymous said...

Ah, to be taken back to the "good old days" once again.

Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Corey said...

I think 'demonic demons' was intentionally dumb as Curry chastises Jack a few seconds later with "demonic demons... christ." Intentionally dumb or not, it's one my favorite lines.

Ah, Scarecrows... how I love thee.

Here's evilontwolegs' contribution to the film club wackiness...

link to Scarecrows post at evilontwolegs

Anonymous said...

Finally! I watched the movie like 2 days after it was announced cause it was my first FGFC viewing. I didnt get my site online, thats in the works, on time to post my review. But hopefully Ill have it up by the due date for the next selection.

Anyway, out of all the FGFC reviews, I think everything was covered pretty thoroughly. My favorite part had to be the mercs on the walkies, freakin Bert out. It reminded me of this one gag that I fell for at SpookyWorld, that was so awesome. My least favorite part was the recycled shots of the 3 scarecrows that they cut to 4 times, UNTIL they cut to it a 5th time, then the shots became my 2nd favorite part of the movie :) "I can see you breathing scarecrow #6!" lol.

The movie wasnt spectacular by any means, but it was definitely fun and a good choice for the FGFC in terms of "not-terrible 80's horror that not everyone has seen."

-Chris- said...

Stacy, here's one more for the fire.


P. K. Nail said...

Here's mine.

I'll say this about Scarecrows. It wigged me out enough that it took me a while to get to sleep the night I watched it. And I think I have mostly the opening and closing shot of that freaky-ass-looking scarecrow to thank for that.

kindertrauma said...

The dog (dax) ate my homework but then I made him throw it up! (I nixed a grosser analaogy)
Here it be

kindertrauma said...


FatalPierce said...

When I looked up David James Campbell on IMDB I just knew that you would pick up on how great his resume was Stacie! I really need to find myself a copy of "Killer Workout."

Here is my go with the flick

I'm disappointed in myself, I totally forgot to mention the effects. The scarecrows were in fact awesome! But you know which one really caught my eye? Roxanne's pitchfork through the hand. It looked brutally painful and actually I got a screen shot of it and it holds up really well!

Anonymous said...

Im voting for Celeberrimous as Funniest Review and Evil on Two Legs for Most Thorough review.

spazmo said...

Funniest fact: the newscaster's voice was provided by Don Herbert, AKA tv's Mr. Wizard!

kindertrauma said...

A day late and a dollar short comes the world's first scarecrow fear-0-meter. See how SCARECROWS rates when compared to other popular scarecrow flicks!

Sarah said...

Hey Borehole, I caught the "Crows" thing too, but I think it may have actually been the name of the gang of Marines, oddly enough. Cos they featured the actors who played the scarecrows under Scarecrows.

Corey said...

thanks wes... we are nothing if not thorough. :)

oh, and if the marines were credited as 'crows'... that'd just be a joke. afterall, a scarecrow's purpose is to scare crows... nice catch. i didn't notice that during the credits...

Anonymous said...

Great little film, filled with creeps and script faux pas that make it fun overall. Great for a horror movie party during Halloween.

Anonymous said...

Demonic Demons is great, but I think my favorite exchange was this:

"I fired at this thing, and it just kept coming. Bullets don't stop it!"

"What are you talking about?"

"They're SCARECROWS, MAN! Like humans!"

Stacie Ponder said...

You know what I liked about this one- it was surprisingly not terribly dated. Besides Roxanne's rad feathered 'do, it really didn't feel as if we were stuck in the '80s. Though it's low budget and it's got its problems, I think the film has aged really well.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, yeah, that makes sense. Guess I was being too smug about catching a slip-up to watch the credits all the way through.

Just realized--there's a low-budget indie from a couple years back that's essentially the same movie except it's set in the 1800s. Oh, and instead of scarecrows, it has ghost monsters. It's called "Dead Birds," it stars Elliot from E.T., and it's way better than I'm making it sound.

Jason Adams said...

Ooh this is available on Netflix Instantly now! I shall watch it at last!

Francis said...

Satanists? Why not. Just finishing this and so glad they made the leather daddy the hero. At least the dog survived.