A healthy dose of directorial style and energy makes this prosaic low-budget chiller a tense, entertaining diversion.
Claire Goodman (Elizabeth Barondes) returns to her prosperous farming hometown, where her father William (Gary Lockwood) is mayor. She soon becomes friendly with construction foreman Dillon Hale (John Mese). Good-for-nothing Danny Thompson (John Hawkes) goes on a drunken joyride with a tractor and
cracks open a stone tomb in a field; an evil spirit escapes and possesses a scarecrow (Howard Swain) that kills Claire's uncle George (Dirk Blocker). Claire discovers the body and briefly spots the scarecrow, yet the rest of her family insists the death was an accident. Subsequently, the scarecrow
assaults Claire's minister uncle Thaddeus (Bruce Glover) and kills his rebellious daughter Stephanie (Cristi Harris) and Danny.
Claire and Dillon discover the wounded Thaddeus, who reveals that the spirit animating the scarecrow belongs to a warlock who bestowed prosperity on the town many decades ago, only to be betrayed and entombed by the Goodmans' ancestors. The scarecrow kills William, Thaddeus, and the latter's wife;
accused of the murders, Dillon sets out with Claire to stop the monster. Sheriff Frank (Stephen Root), another of Claire's uncles, and his deputies are also slaughtered by the scarecrow. Finally, Claire and Dillon dig up and destroy the warlock's bones, ending the creature's rampage.
While there's nothing truly groundbreaking or original about NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, it has been crafted with a professionalism that prevents it from ever becoming tiresome. The conventional elements (the possessed monster, the guilty town secret it avenges, the plucky young couple pitted against
the creature) are convincing, and performed by a cast that mixes likable newcomers (Barondes and Mese) with welcome veterans (Glover, 2001's Lockwood, Martine Beswicke). Most importantly, director Jeff Burr, finally escaping from the realm of direct-to-video sequels (STEPFATHER II, PUMPKINHEAD II,
and several others), gives the movie a snappy pace and a slick look.
The film may hold no real surprises, but it does contain some memorably gruesome setpieces, like the scarecrow painfully stitching Thaddeus's mouth closed and vines bursting from Stephanie's body. And while the movie incorporates some of the inevitable cliches of the modern monster
genre--occasional one-liners from the scarecrow, a sequel-ready ending--it never falls into the campy self-consciousness that marrs many recent low-budget genre films. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: A healthy dose of directorial style and energy makes this prosaic low-budget chiller a tense, entertaining diversion. Claire Goodman (Elizabeth Barondes) returns to her prosperous farming hometown, where her father William (Gary Lockwood) is mayor. She so… (more)