Before I even begin, I would just like anyone reading this to know how difficult it was for me to type "Dark Night" up there in the title for this blog post. My comic book saturated brain has trained my hands to add a K to Night anytime its following Dark. Anyway, to the matter at hand, Dark NIGHT of the Scarecrow. This is one of those movies that I would rent from the local video store when I was a kid and watch over and over until it had to be returned. I never owned a copy of my own, although my parents could surely have bought several with the money they spent on repeated rentals. Thanks to the fine folks at VCI, a dvd was finally released last year, and I now have it in my collection.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is the story of Bubba, a grown man with the mind of a child who is wrongfully accused of harming a local young girl whom he had befriended. Small town justice rears it's ugly head and before Bubba's name can be cleared of any wrongdoing, he's hunted down and killed by several men from town. They chase him out into a field, where they find him hiding, dressed as a scarecrow. Without sufficient evidence to prove the murder, the men are released from custody, apparently getting away clean. Days pass, and one by one the men start seeing the scarecrow, right before they are killed in tragic "accidents". Who's responsible? Is it Bubba's grief-stricken mother? Marylee, the little girl who was Bubba's only friend? Or has Bubba returned as the Scarecrow, set to avenge his own murder from beyond the grave?
Originally airing on CBS as a Saturday Night Movie back in 1981, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a movie that relies heavily on atmosphere and tension to provide the scares. No gore here, in fact there's hardly a trickle of blood, this is just an example of good old fashioned filmmaking. Director Frank De Felitta manages to make a creepy, atmospheric horror movie that at times actually envokes actual emotion. From Bubba's relationship with Marylee, to witnessing Bubba's mother and her dealing with not only the death of her son but having to watch the men responsible for his murder getting to walk out of the courtroom, this movie definitely does it's best to make you care.
Larry "Dr. Giggles" Drake plays Bubba, and turns in a fantastic performance. He really makes you feel for Bubba, and want to see his murderers pay for what they do to him. On the flip side, Charles Durning plays one of the men who hunt Bubba down, and is equally as good as Drake. This guy is the most evil mailman of all time, and is probably second only to Miss Carmody from The Mist in terms of movie characters I couldn't wait to see get what was coming to them. The rest of the cast varies, Jocelyn Brando is up and down as Bubba's mother, sometimes playing it a bit over the top while at other times coming across a little flat. I think it's partly because of the "whodunit" aspect, as we're supposed to wondering if she might be the one behind the killing. Lane Smith is the other notable here, as Harless Hocker, another of the men responsible for Bubba's death. He's basically drunk the entire movie and ready to shoot anything with his rifle at a moment's notice, but he has a great scene where he's interacting with his wife just before he sees the scarecrow.
The evil scarecrow genre is one that is painfully lacking in quality representation, and it's a shame. Scarecrows themselves have a unique visual style that I really dig. This one is definitely the top of my list, for nostalgia's sake if for nothing else. Along with the dvd from last year, a bluray is set to be released on October 4th of this year, and I'll also be adding it to my collection. An easy recommendation for anyone looking for something a little more family friendly for Halloween. If you remember watching Dark Night of the Scarecrow as a kid, it's absolutely worth revisiting now, not only does it hold up well, but if you're like me, you'll appreciate the movie magic making you feel like a kid again. Now that I have a copy, I'm planning on making it a permanent addition to my October movie rotation.