Saturday, June 4, 2011


I recall seeing the box art for the 1988 horror flick, Scarecrows, back in the dark ages when I used to go down to the video store and rent VHS tapes, but I never actually bothered to check it out. This evening, I needed a horror fix in the worst way, and since the movie is available for streaming on Netflix, I decided to give it a look. Dang if I'm not glad I did. It's a solid, atmospheric little film, with fair acting, a decent story, and a particularly eerie musical score by Terry Plumeri. It's about a team of mercenaries gone bad, who have robbed Camp Pendleton of three million dollars or so and hijacked a private plane to make their escape. One of the team members double-crosses his compadres—creating a diversion on the plane and then bailing with the cash. The remaining bunch force the pilot and his daughter to put the plane down in a field so they can hunt down the rogue brigand and recover the loot. They find themselves at a remote, deserted farmhouse, guarded by several scary-looking scarecrows. Needless to say, the scarecrows aren't exactly what they seem. Creepiness and mayhem soon follow.

The storyline in no small way reminds me of Dead Birds (2004)—or rather vice-versa, since Scarecrows was made 16 years earlier—focusing on a band of murderous antiheroes, but whose characters are developed sufficiently to generate at least some interest in their fate. All of the action occurs over the course of a single night, and there's nary a trace of daylight to be seen before the end credits roll. The cinematography works well, especially the lingering shots of the scarecrows' faces following significant moments of violence and gore. There are no pat explanations for the events in the picture, and while some might feel this is a serious shortcoming, I believe quite the opposite. The "essence" of the supernatural menace is left to one's imagination; again, like Dead Birds, the narrative offers you enough information to draw your own conclusions based on its internal logic. In horror fiction, this particular quality is often exemplified in the works of Fritz Leiber and T.E.D. Klein—and both of them have strongly influenced my own creepy fiction.

No, Scarecrows is hardly a horror classic, but I would consider it slam-bang perfect drive-in movie fare—though in its day, it went direct-to-video, and even in 1988, drive-in theaters had become a rare and dying breed. It's nice to have this one available at the click of a mouse via Netflix, and it's definitely worth checking out. I'll even give this one four Damned Rodan's Fiery Martinis out of five.

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