10/18/12

Deadly Doll’s Pick: Scarecrows (1988) And Nary a Mrs. King in Sight

Welcome once again friends. If you've been keeping up with my reviews this month, then more power to you, but also, you may know, that today is the last regular review that will appear on The LBL until the Halloween night is over. That’s because starting tomorrow its all about The Bigger & Badder Halloween Top 13. That’s right 13 days of giant monster, colossal creature, and enormous animals will take over The Lair, but before I let that happen, it’s time to let someone else take over my viewing habits. That’s right it’s time once again for the old film swaparoo with my good pal Emily of The Deadly Doll’s House of Horror Nonsense. This months incredibly creative theme was Horror movies, and so for my part, I chose for her to watch Waxworks, the movie starring  Zack Galligan with 100% less Gremlins and 100% boobs, and in exchange, Emily chose for me the 1988 action-horror film Scarecrows. So come along as I see whether Scarecrows scared the stuffing out of me or if it’s nothing to crow about.


When a group of paramilitary troops steals the military payroll for Camp Pendleton, they hijack a twin engine plane, along with the pilot and his daughter, as a getaway. Flying over Southern California, one of the thieves, Burt (B.J. Turner), leaps out of the plane with their entire stash of loot. Following him to the ground, Curry (Michael David Simms) and his crew find themselves on the land of a creepy farm overpopulated by scarecrows. What they don’t know, of course, is that the scarecrows aren't so interested in keeping the birds away than killing anyone who comes on the land. One by one the group begins to get picked off, and when the scarecrows send Burt back, stuffed with money instead of straw, yet still moving around, the tactical team finally gets clued in that they're not in Kansas anymore. With the money scattered across the farm, greed wins out, and instead of making a hasty retreat, the crew risk their lives for a few stolen dollars.

If you took Predator, added in a heist, removed the acting ability of the cast, and added a really dark version of The Wizard of Oz’s brainless wonder as the heavy, then you might come close to approximating what Scarecrows is like. First off, don't get it confused with the 1981 Made for TV flick Dark Night of the Scarecrows, 1995’s Night of the Scarecrows, 2002’s Scarecrow, or 2004’s Scarecrow Gone Wild. This one actually came out under the aegis of MGM studios and was directed by William Wesley who wrote, produced, and edited the film as well. (He also got his next IMDB credit by portraying “go-go dancer” in Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 video.) Blessed with a budget, Scarecrows is actually a pretty solid action-horror offering with enough firepower and scares on display to please both kinds of fans. However, the film is marred by long shots of the silent scarecrows which only lead to viewers like me giving them dumb voices and equally silly dialog. These moments probably wouldn't have been as bad if they hadn't been so frequent or extended, but as it was it took the wind out of the sails of what should have been some creepy creatures.

The acting in Scarecrows is not anything to write home about, but thankfully, I am already home. Lead Michael David Simms, who you may recognize from Hard Rock Zombies, is serviceable, but he never seems all that sympathetic or interesting. I also felt like he should have been played by Martin Kove, but Kove makes everything better. Speaking of should have been played by, I also had a hard time escaping how much Richard Vidan (another Hard Rock Zombies alum) reminded me of a beefy version of Bill Murray. I mean this in a good way because Vidan’s gung ho Jack is one of the highlights of the film. Kellie, played by Kristina Sanborn, from the first frame seems obviously intended to be the Final Girl, and there’s no surprise when she is. However, she also provides such little character that it’s impossible to care about her either. In fact the only character that experiences any kind of sea change is Ted Vernon as Corbin. Not only is he fun to watch, but actually seems to be taking his job seriously, something many of the other cast members seems to have forgotten about. Plus, he began his career in a 1987 wrestling film playing the title role Hammerhead Jones, and now that goes into the Bugg’s ever expanding “Must Find” pile.

While I remained interested throughout Scarecrows for, if nothing else, the novelty stuffed slashers tracking down heavily armed grunts, the film overall is pretty middle of the road. Even the score to the film, written by Terry Plumeri, cribs from traditional horror themes, and if the opening “Dummm dummm Dummm Dummmm” set against flashing lightning and shots of scarecrows doesn't make you grin with how cheesy it is, then you might be stuffed with straw as well. As a singular entry into the slasher genre (there are plenty of scarecrow films, but none other where the menaces face off against automatic weapons), it stands out for both its novelty and the fact that there was an actual budget behind it. The shining moment of the film, and really the thing to watch it all for, is the scarecrow makeup by Norman Carrera who would go on to work on Kill Bill, Spawn, Drag Me to Hell, and X-Men: The Last Stand. When they're not hanging around being stoic, they're actually pretty frightening creates, which is what this film really needed. With more emphasis on scares, perhaps a few less characters, and a little more care making the leads well rounded, Scarecrows could have been a late 80s classic, but instead it comes in in the middle of the field.

Bugg Rating

The only trailer I could find was in German. So grab a Fraulein and enjoy or just check out the whole film Instant on Netflix.

3 comments:

  1. I had NO idea there were so many Hard Rock Zombie alumni in this! Color me shocked!

    But yeah, when I rewatched it a few years back having not seen it since I was a kid (the film's DVD release was looooooong awaited), I was happy to see the scare factor hold up, though the acting felt pretty awful. Still, the world needs more scarecrow horror and I think this is a decent entry. Oh, and Night of the Scarecrow (the 1995 one) is also surprisingly fun.

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  2. "I had NO idea there were so many Hard Rock Zombie alumni in this! Color me shocked!"

    Same here, Emily!

    I have a love hate relationship with this movie. I think I want to like it more than I actually do, because the killer scarecrow is an aesthetic that I'm fascinated with. This is a very creepy and atmospheric film, but also incredibly dull. The scarecrows look fan-fucking-tastic though.

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  3. I just re-watched this. The first time I saw it, I hated it with the heat of a thousand suns. It's such a great idea for a movie, thrown away with bad acting and not enough story.

    This time around, I was able to put aside SOME of my hate and saw that it's a bad little movie--it just needs a little love is all. The scarecrows look amazing. It's got a decent amount of blood/gore, and the creepy factor is pretty high.

    Ted Vernon is an interesting guy. Seems that he was a pro boxer for a year or so. Fought 3 or 4 times before retiring. He also collects vintage cars. He's something of a legend around Miami. Not sure if he's still involved with movies.

    If the acting had even been medicore, SCARECROWS would have been elevated to near cult legend status, a fine companion piece for DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, which got its supernatural haybales as murders 100% right.

    As it where, it's not. The girl who plays Kellie is BAD, REAL BAD. Heavens, was she comatose when she was filming? Suffering from a concussion? Please give me a reason for her to be so awful. Not an ounce of real emotion came from that chick. And running after her dog, WTF? I have nothing against pets, but when everyone around you is being sliced up by some straw men, leave Poochie to fend for himself and RUN, GIRL!

    Still, with there not being that many scarecrow horror flicks, SCARECROWS is worth a watch. But I can't help to think what could have been with a little more effort.

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