Made for TV movies are generally a mixed bag. While today we get stuck with movies like Sharknado or the occasional cheesy Stephen King miniseries, there was a time in the ’70s and ’80s when TV horror movies were actually good. So it is with Dark Night of the Scarecrow. Although it’s not as well known as some of the movies of that time like Salem’s Lot or Trilogy of Terror, it’s still every bit as classic and has a strong nostalgia-fueled following among horror fans.
Bubba (played by the awesome Larry Drake), is a simple man who is under constant scrutiny by local mailman Otis (Charles Durning) and his gang of rednecks. After a little girl is attacked by a dog, Bubba is blamed and is cornered by Otis and the others in a cornfield where they find him hiding dressed as a scarecrow. They shoot him, and learn afterwards that he is innocent. But while they’re able to escape jail time, there’s no way they can escape the revenge of the scarecrow…
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is not only a cut above the usual TV dreck but holds its own against big-screen movies as well. This is a movie that doesn’t have to rely on big production values or fancy special effects because none are needed. Instead you get a great horror tale that lets the characters tell the story. Although it seems like a simple tale of vengeance, the natural way it’s played out along with the excellent pacing makes it work brilliantly.
The acting here is top notch. The murderous country boys are loathsome individuals, with Charles Durning as Otis being particularly villainous in his role. Otis isn’t only a murderer but it’s also hinted he’s a pedophile and Durning plays him to the hilt. It’s totally a boo-hiss performance but disturbingly realistic which makes it all the more brutal. But, this film really belongs to Larry Drake. From his horrified cry of “Bubba didn’t do it!” to the look of terror in his eyes when the group advances on him with their guns, he makes that character so sympathetic and lovable that revenge seems oh so sweet. It’s a performance that could have gone wrong in the hands of another actor, and Larry makes it’s work, even though he barely appears in the film.
This movie freaked out many a child in the eighties, but it’s not bloody and there are no real jump scares. What we have here is essentially a goreless film, but that doesn’t make it any less frightening as your imagination runs wild during the cleverly filmed death scenes. Also, you never see that much of the scarecrow, which adds to the overall creepy effect.
After many years of championing, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is finally available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Check it out and relive your childhood nightmares – fondly.
Rating: 8 out of 10