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DVD Released: 2/25/2014
All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/13/2014
As far as I know, I don't have any fear of farms. (Now farmers, that's another story.) And yet, I feel that if done correctly, a farm could be a creepy setting for a horror movie. I've always wanted to see a good horror movie which featured either a scarecrow or a monster with a pumpkin for a head. And while there have been several movies which feature those kinds of creatures, none of them have been satisfying. (Don't lump Pumpkinhead into that category, as the monster in that movie is simply a re-tooled leftover from Stan Winston's work on Aliens.) 2004's Jack O'Lantern fits this mold, but that movie is only worth watching to take in just how bad it is. No, I've yet to see a good film in this category, but that doesn't mean that I've stopped looking, so I was willing to give Scarecrow a whirl.
As Scarecrow opens, Marcy (Lanie McAuley) and Eddie (Carlo Marks) playfully chase each other through a cornfield. They then decided to head to a local barn in order to get cozy. Once there, they fall through the floor into a hidden basement, where the blood from their wounds is absorbed by a clump of roots. Following this, a school bus arrives at the farm, carrying a group of students who are serving Saturday detention due to a prank. Aaron (Robin Dunne) has brought the students -- Maria (Nicole Munoz), Nicki (Julia Maxwell), Beth (Brittney Wilson), Calvin (Iain Belcher), and Daevon (Reilly Dolman) -- to the farm to dismantle a scarecrow and take it into town for the annual Scarecrow Festival. The farm's owner, Kristen (Lacey Chabert), meets the group to help. She and Aaron have a past, so their reunion is a bit awkward. Matters are complicated when Tyler (Richard Harmon) arrives. He was once Aaron's best friend, but they parted ways when they fought for Kristen's affections. Any old feelings are pushed aside when the group is attacked by a creature which appears to be comprised of tree roots and can emerge from anywhere. As the bloodthirsty monster picks off the humans one-by-one, the survivors try to make it back to town.
Scarecrow is a SyFy Channel movie and those words will immediately fill most viewers heads with many negative reactions, and most of those would be extremely accurate for this movie. First of all, the movie is incredibly underwritten. I don't know with Rick Suvalle's original script looked like, but in the finished film, all that we get is a lot of people running for their lives, with little story to fill in the rest. We know that there's a Scarecrow Festival and that there's a local legend of a scarecrow which was buried in order to stop it, and that there is a rhyming song about all of this, but it's never fully explained or tied together in any way. What we do get are a group of very stereotypical characters (the jock, the shy guy, the good girl, the bad girl), as well as the love triangle between Kristen, Tyler, and Aaron (which reminded me of the situation inWitchboard). The lack of a true plot and details means that we are treated to one bland dialogue scene after another. In essence, the bulk of the movie is about people running from place-to-place.
The thing which keeps Scarecrow from being a total waste is the film’s monster and its appearances in the movie. First things first, the monster featured in Scarecrow is not a scarecrow. Again, it looks like living tree roots, and this enables it to pop out of the ground and snake around things. The creature does take on a humanoid appearance and its hollow eyes and gaping mouth give it a creepy look. Director Sheldon Wilson has directed some stinkers in the past (Kaw, Carny, Screamers: The Hunting), but he does show some skill here with the way in which the creature is shot. There are several nice moments where the monster slowly “grows” into the background which are very effective, and reminded me of the way in which John Carpenter uses the background. There were also some good jump scares where the monster would pop out of the ground.
As a life-long fan of horror films I guess I like the fact that SyFy embraces the genre, but I wish that they would step away from these cheesy creature features and hire someone to attempt to make a movie which is actually scary. When compared to other SyFy Channel movies, Scarecrow shares many traits, most of which are detrimental. But, again, this movie has a nice look and I loved the way in which the creature was shot. However, this doesn’t make up for a lackluster story and thus, I can only recommend Scarecrow as a rental at best.
Scarecrow is sort of vague on how water effects a monster which appears to be plant-based on DVD courtesy of Cinedigm. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no obvious grain and no defects from the source material. As a made-for-TV movie which was no doubt shot on HD equipment, the movie has a slick look, but I wouldn’t say that it’s polished. The colors look fine, and while the image is never overly bright, some shots are a bit too dark. The level of detail is acceptable, although some moments look somewhat soft, and the depth is about what we would expect. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For a TV movie, this is a pretty impressive track, as we get some nice surround sound effects here, specifically ones which to make us think that the creature is nearby. The subwoofer effects escalate during the attack sequences, and the track offers some stereo effects which illustrate action happening off-screen.
The Scarecrow DVD contains no extra features.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long