I didn’t realise that Dark Night of the Scarecrow had been initially released as a straight for tv movie forty years in 1981. The film whenever I first watched it back in whatever time that I had initially stumbled across it, (possibly when perusing through the aisles of my local video store) had always seemed to be polarised by the image of Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake) decked out in full scarecrow disguise to hide from Charles Durning’s Otis and his hoodlums, only to be gunned down in cold blood.
Upon my most recent viewing, there was evidence to support this low-budget style approach to the production values, but this does not belie the quality and impact that the narrative has on its audience.
This in part is down to the combination of the screenplay by J.D. Feigelson who essentially invented the Killer Scarecrow subgenre, and the direction of Frank de Felitta, (a screenwriter himself behind Audrey Rose and The Entity) who was able to tap into the eerie tone of the film to present a dark look at small town America and the corruption that can occur deep within.
The whole film plays out as a power complex within the community and how Otis exerts his power to dominate the social scene. He also has a troublesome yearning for the young Marylee Williams; feelings he tries to keep buried but he is also harbouring some jealousy over her friendship with the mentally challenged Bubba. Bubba is actually a sweet and gentle giant, misunderstood by the locals who regard his friendship with Marylee as unsuitable. So when Marylee meets with a mishap from a savage dog, ‘naturally’ people suspect the worst. Cue the afore-mentioned ‘witch hunt’.
The rest of the film plays out as a revenge flick, when a curious scarecrow turns up to haunt and kill off Otis’ crew one at a time. But is this an apparition, or has Bubba come back from the dead?
The film is tightly knit together and weaves enough mystery and intrigue out of the confines of a small community that is ripe with foul play, festering at its core.
- Saul Muerte