While yesterday’s Halloween Horrors post dealt with a made-for-TV movie that some may not be familiar with, today’s entry deals with one that you had damned well better know, Dark Night of the Scarecrow. Seriously… if you’ve not watch this amazing tale of tragedy, revenge, and general creepiness, I recommend you stop reading now and go watch the film right now! It’s available on Amazon Video and Roku! Go! We will wait for you!
Are they gone? Okay, we aren’t really waiting for them.
As I was saying, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is generally regarded by many horror fans as a Halloween classic (especially as it actually aired during the Halloween season) and has become a staple in many Halloween watchlists. Speaking of Halloween staples (at least around this series), Derrick Kinnison returns to the Halloween Horrors series for a 5th year to share his thoughts on this supernatural tale. As always, we are honored to have him back, as well as for all the tremendous support he has shown this series, and Horror and Sons as a whole, over the years!
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: October 24th, 1981
Dark Night of the Scarecrow
It was October 24th, 1981 when this made-for-television movie premiered, but it hadn’t been until some years later that I had finally watched it, as it once again aired on television another time for myself to enjoy this horrifying (at least, at the time), televised feature. I can’t begin to tell you the excitement I was feeling, especially in those days, when I had to make it to the television on time and have it on the right channel to make sure I didn’t miss this spectacular event of televised horror before my very eyes!
I remember waiting so impatiently for the movie to begin, and even more so when, just before the program would initially start, they would show a brief trailer and then begin the show. Oh, how I miss those days of anticipation. That feeling, that excitement to get to the television on time, as there was a good chance if you didn’t, you could easily miss the beginning of the feature.
I can still remember like it was yesterday, me preparing for the Halloween Saturday Night Movie. The lights are all shut off. I have my favorite snacks and my own bowl of buttered popcorn. The televised movie is about to begin. My anticipation is at an all-time high at this point. The story of the Scarecrow is about to unfold before my very eyes!
Bubba Ritter (brilliantly played by Larry Drake) and Marylee Williams (skillfully played by Tanya Crowe), are playing together in a field nearby. We quickly realize that Bubba, even though he may appear to be a full grown man, has a mindset that is no older (possibly younger) than Marylee. Nevertheless, we can tell that they are presented as the best of friends, and Bubba would never dream of harming her as she is the only person in town who can understand his disability. It’s not long before we realize (once we get further in the show) that Bubba is not very well liked, especially after Harless (Lane Smith) sees the two of them walking together.
Now, in his mind and those of the other 3 men who know Bubba (and also share the same dislike), they assume that he has only one intention, and that intention can only be to harm her. It isn’t until later, when Bubba and Marylee are walking home, that they come across a yard full of wonderous yard gnomes. Marylee just can’t pass it up and has to get a closer look. When she does, neither she nor Bubba realize there was a dog with intent to protect its territory, no matter who the intruder(s) might have been. It is at this moment that Bubba springs into action and breaks through the fence in a desperate attempt to save the only friend he has.
However, this act of heroism is ignored, and the people who already had a problem with Bubba only want to “see’ what they assumed happened. Soon after, they begin a hunting party for Bubba, meaning to end his life for their misunderstanding. It is at this moment, revenge drooling from their mouths as they now had a reason to end what they see as their suffering and finally kill this innocent man, all because they themselves have absolutely no understanding and refuse to listen.
Bubba, who has now been in a desperate attempt to flee from these four men, seeks aid from his mother, who is now telling him to go hide somewhere. Hide where even she can’t find him. The only thing that his simple mind can think of is to hide in plain sight, hoping that he may be able to fool these men and that they will leave him in peace… but Bubba’s attempt isn’t as skilled as he thought it to be.
These four men leave the yard and begin walking the field, coming across a scarecrow. Each one of them (especially Hazelrigg, the leader of the bunch), bloodthirtsy and ready for the kill, have realized that this scarecrow is no ordinary ploy for the birds, but is Bubba’s attempt to hide from them. Soon after this realization, guns begin to fire. As each bullet strikes the scarecrow, what should have been dirt and hay spraying from the bullets’ impact, is instead… blood. The shots were neverending. Bubba’s (the scarecrow’s) torso, riddled with bullet holes. They did it! They finally killed Bubba!
It was then, mere moments after they finished with their own personal fire brigade, Harless’ radio begins calling for them. Once Harless is able to answer, the four men find out that they have just murdered an innocent man, and even hear the officer say that Bubba was a hero and had saved the little girl from the vicious dog attack. The four men were in shock after hearing this, each of them wondering just what the Hell they had done. All except Hazelrigg, who quickly came up with the idea to place a pitchfork next to Bubba’s lifeless corpse to make it look as though the four of them were simply trying to defend themselves.
(Bastards! I’m sure this is going through everyone’s mind at this point and only wish the worst upon these men. I know I did and still do.)
Their case eventually goes to court and, needless to say, justice had not been served. The evidence, no… the popularity won in favor, and the four men were released and the charges dropped,… but Bubba’s mother, screaming while being dragged out of the court room…
“You may think you’re getting off free, but there’s other justice in this world besides the law!“
She was right. Soon after, each one of those men became first-hand witness to that otherworldly justice, meeting their demise in the worst way by something supernatural; something that they couldn’t explain. Each one of their deaths was thought out and executed by something they couldn’t explain, and by whom, they hadn’t a clue. Although it was expected that it had been Bubba’s lawyer in the beginning, with each new death (and the men who still remained), it soon became more and more clear that it was not the lawyer, but none other than… the Scarecrow! The scarecrow that began showing up soon after the death of Bubba and the time in court.
Now, denial is to be expected, especially from Hazelrigg. Up until the very end, when faced with death, he finally realizes that (through the scarecrow) it was Bubba whose otherworldly spirit had returned and enacted horrific murders upon his assailants, and had finally brought justice to each one of those men… justice that the judge had neglected to give.
It was Bubba from the beginning to the very end, (especially the end) when Hazelrigg finally meets his well-deserved demise by impaling himself onto the very same pitchfork used to make Bubba look like he had attacked them in the field. Holding it within its grasp is none other than the Scarecrow, lifeless and hanging from its pole. Hazelrigg, backing away and staring fearfully into the black eye cutouts of the Scarecrow’s face, had finally fell to his death, for the Scarecrow was the last remaining sight he had witnessed.
Marylee, who sat in the field awaiting the outcome, could soon hear the sound of something approaching. My eyes, wide with anticipation. What on Earth could it be? I expected the Scarecrow nonetheless, but the way this ending was executed struck a suspenseful anticipation. Once they finally reveal the Scarecrow, walking on its own through the cornfield and stopping where Marylee is sitting, you can’t help but wonder if she will possibly be his next victim… until we see the scarecrow extend his hand and present her a single white flower. Then, the screen pauses frame and Marylee’s voice begins to speak chilling words: “Thank you, Bubba! You know what, I think tomorrow I will teach you to play the chasing game.“
It is these final words that send chills. Chills that still remain with me even to this day, and is also another reason why this made-for-television movie will forever remain a classic.
This is one of my all-time favorite TV horror movies, suspenseful, poignant and chilling, it spends some time examining the withered souls of the vigilante townspeople, especially Hazelrigg. This was directed by a novelist, Frank De Felitta, from a script by another talented writer, J.D. Feigelson. It was originally intended to be an independent feature. In someone else’s hands, this would have been just another scarecrow/slasher flick. Should be on everyone’s short list for Halloween viewing!
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