February 25, 2014
Lacey Chabert as Kristen
Richard Harmon as Tyler
Brittney Wilson as Beth
Robin Dunne as Aaron
A movie about a killer scarecrow, originating from SyFy, that’s actually worth watching? Shocking, yes, but Scarecrow is so much more entertaining than it has any right to be.
Looking up “Scarecrow” on IMDb brings up a massive amount of results. Many a horror film maker has found inspiration in these often creepy images of these straw-stuffed beings. Though few have been as interesting or as effective as 1981’s Dark Night of the Scarecrowit is quite a surprise that the imaginatively-named Scarecrow is actually quite good fun with a nicely realized antagonist to boot.
Schoolteacher Aaron Harris is taking a group of students up to an old farmhouse to clean it up as part of their detention. They’re a motley bunch of weirdos, jerks and other 20-somethings supposed to be playing teenagers. The farmhouse belongs to Aaron’s former girlfriend Kristen Millrt, the farm has been in her family for over a hundred years and she wants to fix it up so she can finally sell it. Rather inconveniently the farm is also tied into the local town’s Scarecrow Festival because it is thought that the farm and the family that owned it were once cursed to be hunted and killed by, yes, a killer scarecrow. Why? Who knows? Aaron and the students meet up with Kristen and another of her ex-boyfriends however it becomes apparently pretty quickly that something is amiss. When two of the students tie up another student to a scarecrow and then promptly disappear what starts as the actions of two tricksters becomes something altogether more deadly. Something has awoken on the farm and will kill anybody and anything that gets in its way. Probably a scarecrow, you know, because the movie is called Scarecrow.
If that short plot synopsis sounds absurdly unoriginal that thats because it is, Scarecrow has every sign of being just like every other weak monster/slasher movie where a bunch of people end up in a remote place and start getting picked off. That’s also pretty much exactly what we get. There are the jerk characters we want to see get taken out, the local sheriff shows up at one point and you know things are going to go bad for him, there’s characters with the romantic past you’re supposed to root for but you don’t really care and so on. Despite this, Scarecrow actually manages to rise above the standard SyFy movie crud and generic horror tripe with a couple of key advantages: an antagonist that’s actually pretty cool and a short running time that doesn’t leave the viewer waiting too long for the bad stuff to start happening, Indeed, most of the setup is in the first 10 minutes and then we’re into meat of the movie with lots of kills to come. This comes as a refreshing change from the usual crappy horror formula where the build goes on for half of of the movie with these horrible characters you’re never given a reason to care about. Then, there’s the eponymous Scarecrow.
The most pleasant surprise in this movie is that the Scarecrow creature that is chasing them is actually really well-realized. One might be used to the usual standard of CGI beasties you expect from anything with the SyFy logo attached by Scarecrow defies expectations. The creature actually looks well thought out, a gnarled and twisted figure that looks like it is made out of tree roots. The nature of the creature allows for some cool kill scenes and some nice shots of the creature spread out across a ceiling almost Ju-On like or coming out of the ground to surprise its next victim. While not perfect this are quite impressive CG for a movie of this scale and budget and quite smartly in a couple of scenes where we see the creature directly attack people they use real model arms rather than having the actors try to act to a CG limb that wasn’t there. They also find some neat ways of having the victims get bumped off. Despite the lack of any great amount of gore (this did originate on SyFy after all) this makes for a surprisingly effective monstrous antagonist.
Unfortunately the shorter runtime of the film actually works to its detriment as the film goes on. Yes, despite the bodycount starting up pretty quickly and we have a fun monster to watch, this film does suffer as it fails to keep up the breakneck pace. Almost like the filmmakers were impatient to show off their cool monster they end up showing it way too much. The film has enough potential monster-killing moments to fill three or four of these movies and having the scarecrow continually come back becomes a little tiring. It also has the effect of stretching the idea that the protagonists could possibly beat this thing so thin that you might have stopped caring before the credits roll after barely 85 minutes. It is almost as if the makers wanted to make a franchise and ended up having to cram all of their ideas into one film instead. It’s sad that in a world where Ridley Scott’sAlien is coming up on its 35th birthday we still see horror filmmakers forget that sometimes less is more and that yes, you can have too much of a good thing.
That being said, Scarecrow is generally a fun movie that despite its flaws delivers some fun shocks and thrills and features one of the best CGI monsters in a TV movie that this scribe has ever seen. Do not let the incredibly generic title and even more generic setup fool you, this SyFy Original is one of the few genuinely worth checking out.