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Evil Stalks

Scarecrows isn’t one of those movies that I fondly remember from the video stores or late-night cable viewing of my youth. I don’t think that I had even heard of the movie until one night in 2005. I was out of town visiting a friend. We were returning back to his place to crash after a night out. I can’t recall what we were doing, so it really must not have been all that memorable.

I was also pretty drunk. Most drunk nights aren’t all that memorable. I do know that I had turned on the TV and saw Scarecrows listed as about to start. I figured I’d turn it on as something to doze off to. It was 3am after all. Sleep was delayed as I found myself staring intently bleary-eyed at bleak, blood-soaked images unraveling before me.

The dark, sinister tone is immediately set by the foreboding opening theme. The music establishes itself as a “presence” by actually starting a moment before the credits. The credits are then intercut with a shot of one of the scarecrows, the camera slowly zooming in on its burlap “face”. The scarecrow is a strong enough image to further the eerie atmosphere.

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The plot itself is pretty thin: A group of commandos rob the payroll offices at Camp Pendleton. They escape in an old plane and make a flight for Mexico. During the flight, one of the group, Bert, jumps from the plane, taking the loot with him. He lands on an old abandoned farm. I don’t think he bothered to look at what he was over before he jumped, so I guess it’s a good thing he landed where he did. Then again, I guess not.

The rest of the unit soon land and give pursuit. Some of them wait at the run down farmhouse on the property, while a couple of them search the surrounding woods for Bert. Bert eventually shows up at the house. He gives no fight as the others beat him mercilessly in the hopes of revealing what he did with the money. What is revealed is that Bert is already dead. His chest has been cut open and stuffed with the stolen cash. This then sets off an awesome mean-spirited scene where they cut him open to get the money out.

The rest of the group, the pilot, and his daughter (who I assume is just along for the ride) are then hunted down one by one by the murderous trio of scarecrows. The scarecrows were at one time members of a family of satanic farmers, now returned to kill anyone that trespasses on their land. This isn’t really a pivotal plot point, but it’s nice to have some sort of reasoning behind the events.

The film features its fair share of blood and gore, Bert’s vivisection among the most graphic. The kills themselves are presented rather brutally, which makes the film seem even more unrelenting in its steady stream of dark horrific imagery. Also quite effective was the make-up of the scarecrows themselves, credit going to FX man Norman Cabrera.

The most effective aspect to Scarecrows, hands down, is its thick layer of atmospheric dread. The entire film is set at night which immediately invokes a scarier feeling to the setting and circumstances. The choice of the abandoned farm is simple, yet effective in conveying a sense of isolation. Late in the film, the scarecrows exhibit the ability to “speak” inside people’s heads in the voices of others, which also adds highly to the “creep” factor of the scenes with people wandering alone in the words. Even the way that the blood from the first kill seems to “awaken” the farm just screams “horror”.

Scarecrows isn’t a “deep” film. It doesn’t need to be. It sets out to present an eerie, bloody, and scary time and it succeeds admirably. Better suited for late nights, I highly recommend this one to anyone looking for something a little spooky to watch outside under the stars.

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Video/Audio: Presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Scarecrows offers a decent upgrade in picture quality over the previous DVD release, but it would appear that this is an older HD master being used for this presentation. Grain is quite evident, but never overly intrusive. Black crush is noticeable in some of the much darker scenes, but also never to a level where it becomes a distraction. There is a marked upgrade in sharpness during scenes filmed in night-vision, but even then, some detail is still lost. Fans should be happy with the upgrade, but I feel safe saying that more could have been achieved.

Audio is presented in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 options. The 5.1 mix rocks, with the film’s theme strongly presented upfront as a focal point. Quite impressed. The 2.0 mix is also quite serviceable.

BONUS FEATURES: The blu-ray seems a little lacking in this department as there are only 2 “real” special features, although this is an improvement over the MGM DVD which had no special features. Included are:

The Last Straw with Norman Cabrera – 16:35 – An interview with the FX artist on his involvement and participation in making the film. A nice look at the attempts to make this film with little budget and no trained crew. Cabrera also talks about the struggles of trying to make the film is the unforgiving environments of the Florida Everglades. (The movie was filmed in Davie, FL near the outskirts of Alligator Alley.)

It’s quite interesting to hear just how much work went into the making of this film. A lot of make-up effects. Cabrera also talks about filming alternate takes for an uncensored project.

Cornfield Commando: An Interview with Ted Vernon -8:46 – Interview with actor Ted Vernon, who plays “Corbin” in the film. If Vernon speaks like a car salesman, it’s because he is. He also acted and wrestled in his spare time. Vernon states that he quite enjoyed making the film and working with the cast and FX artist, but that he didn’t always get along with director, William Wesley.

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Also presented are original storyboards, a still gallery, and theatrical trailer.

FINAL VERDICT: While not a huge improvement over the DVD, this is still a noticeable upgrade. The upgrades in audio/video and the inclusion of looks into the production of the film should be enough to make this a “must-have” for fans of the film. Recommended for fans of 80’s horror looking for a title that they might not be familiar with.

WARNING: Trailer contains spoilers!!!

 

 

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