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Scarecrows (1988)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 9/11/2007

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: No extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/12/2007

As my wife can easily attest, there are literally hundreds of movies which I saw only one time during my adolescent years, that today I still swear are great. Upon seeing these films again in present day, 95% of the time, I have to admit that my recollections were a bit foggy and that perhaps the movies aren't the classics which I made them out to be. (The misperception boils down to the fact that as a growing boy in the 1980s, ANY R-rated film seemed good.) To that effect, it stands to reason that the opposite could be true. I could see a movie today that I hated back then and have a new appreciation for it. Thus, I decided to give 1988's Scarecrows another try.

Scarecrows opens aboard a cargo plane streaking through the night sky. A radio report informs us that a para-military group has robbed a military base, wounded several soldiers in the process, and that they hijacked a cargo plane to make their getaway. Inside the plane, we meet the robbers, Corbin (Ted Vernon), Curry (Michael David Simms), Jack (Richard Vidan), Roxanne (Kristina Sanborn), and Bert (B.J. Turner), as well as their hostages, Al (David James Campbell) the pilot, and his daughter, Kellie (Victoria Christian). The robbers plan to be flown to Mexico, where they will make their escape. But, Bert has different plans, as he suddenly pushes the money from the plane and then leaps into the night. Shocked by this, the other robbers land the plane to pursue Bert.

The group find themselves in heavily wooded area in which sits a dilapidated house. As Bert attempts to retrieve the money, and his pursuers try to stop him, they all begin to experience strange things. The area is littered with scarecrows, some of which seem to move. The house is filled with dead animals and bizarre objects. The gunmen will hear one of their colleagues calling them, only to find no one there. As the night wears on, the members of the group are picked off one-by-one by a mysterious force in the area. Will anyone make it out alive with the $3 million.

If youíve ever seen a truly well-made scarecrow (not just old clothes thrown across a stick), then you know that they can be inherently creepy. Whether itís because of a particularly human-looking face, or the fact that they look as if theyíve been crucified, scarecrows can be scary. Thus, Iíve always wanted to see a truly scary movie which features a scarecrow come to life. Scarecrows isnít that movie. I can clearly remember renting Scarecrows on VHS back around 1989 and being very disappointed by it. And today, nearly 20 years later, the movie still does nothing for me.

Scarecrows suffers from many problems, but the most prominent is that it has no focus. The idea of the robbers parachuting into an area crawling with evil is an intriguing one, especially when one factors into the morality play in which awful things happen to these greedy people. But, from there, the movie plunges downhill. We are treated to a ton of footage of the gun-toting bandits wandering through the vegetation, or shooting at something, which is then accompanied by scenes of these same people arguing. There are some scenes of the scarecrows killing people, but these are very brief and lack detail. There is no suspense in the movie, because, A) boredom takes the place of suspense as we watch the characters do the same thing over and over, and B) the characters are so unlikable, we donít care if they die. The few scenes which attempt to be creepy are few and far between. The story wanders to an unsatisfying ending, where we learn nothing about what was happening in the house and fields.

Then we have the shoddy nature of the film. To be fair, the movie has a fairly nice look, as it was shot by veteran cinematographer Peter Deming after he shot Evil Dead II. But, director/editor (also co-writer and co-producer) clearly has no idea what to do with this footage. Shots are repeated over and over, and youíll soon grow tired of that same shot of a scarecrow (who appears to be out of breath) and the establishing shot of the house. The endless scenes in which the group wanders around have no rhyme-or-reason at times, and it feels as if whatever footage was at hand was cobbled together. The ďlivingĒ scarecrows look OK and there are a few nifty gore effects, but otherwise, this movie, which runs a mere 77-minutes before the end credits feels as if it was manufactured from a scant amount of film.

Despite the fact, or more likely because of the fact, that Scarecrows is a relatively obscure movie whose videotape release has been out-of-print for years, the film has become somewhat of a cult film and I routinely see Internet postings where the ignorant long to see the movie. I can only assume that, like me, they want to see a scary scarecrow movie. Again, this isnít it. (And maybe some of these people are like me and have a distorted memory of an older movie.) Scarecrows is an excruciatingly dull movie which squanders a good idea through redundancy and lack of a cohesive plot. This movie wouldnít scare a bird, only a birdbrain.

Scarecrows looks out over the field of DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Despite the obscure nature of this film, someone unearthed a nice looking print, as this transfer shows an image which is surprisingly sharp and clear. The image shows only a slight amount of grain and very, very minor defects from the source material. Despite the fact that this is a very dark movie, the image is bright enough and the action is always visible. What few colors seen in the film look fine. The image is somewhat flat and some shots lack detail. Minor video noise is present. The DVD has a Dolby Surround audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, as they are quite important in some scenes. I didnít note any overt surround effects.

There are no extras on this DVD. Please note Exhibit A in the awful DVD cover art from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainmentís September Ď07 horror releases.

Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long