Number 16 in the 88 Films “Slasher Classics Collection” and you can tell that I’m not the biggest fan of the sub-genre as it’s only the 4th I have picked up. The other 3 are all former video nasties and well what you gonna do? Got to collect them all in best possibly format. The problem being the films are set on such a template and are so unoriginal, especially when the boom of them flooded the market in the 80’s that see one and you’ve seen em all (and most of them I have). You have to do something special to make a stalk and slash film stand up and be noticed and although there are classics such as The Burning, Nightmares In A Damaged Brain (one of the aforementioned pick-ups) and of course the many artistic giallo films that came out of Italy and pretty much spearheaded the movement, things got incredibly tedious. Scarecrows is one of those very special films that did something completely different from terrorising camp kids (and nope not being politically incorrect here) and brutally dispatching them courtesy of an impossible to kill maniac. In fact the 1988 movie is probably one of the most underrated horror films of its time.
Made by William Wesley, a name that sounds like a scary pseudonym in itself, what we have here is a supernatural thriller and action film as much as anything else. We follow a group who have conducted a massive (off screen) robbery and nabbed a load of dosh from the army, escaping with it on a hijacked plane along with the pilot and his daughter as hostage. One of them however is not playing by the rules and escapes by parachuting out along with the money. He kindly leaves a grenade behind too. Luckily it takes a bit longer than the normal ‘3 banana, 4’ count to go off and they just manage to throw it out before it does. Armed to the hilt, several of the crew go off in search for the money and their erstwhile colleague as the plane finds somewhere to land but they are about to find themselves pitched up in a right field of screams. They find a spooky shack with pictures of some yokel farmers on the wall along with lots of nasty looking scarecrows amidst the corn. All sorts of strange things start happening as they taunt the escapee robber over their walkie-talkies and take in the very evil vibes of the place and suspect that there might even be some sort of witchcraft going on there. Naturally it’s not long before the scarecrows come to life and the real fun starts.
Tense and incredibly atmospheric Scarecrows may have a simple enough plot but it’s one that is well developed upon with enough intrigue to keep you on the edge of your seat. There may only be a principle cast of 7 (living) actors, not counting the crows but they are all brilliantly defined and although none are of particular note fame wise do a great job of being both believable and engaging in the narrative. The Scarecrows are definitely the best I have ever seen in a horror film, their slow-motion attacking scenes are ‘shit the bed’ moments and the effects and gore courtesy of Norman Cabrera (KNB effects) is commendable. I originally hired this on video and it got more than one watch before going back to the rental shop and was bought at the first opportunity. It took ages for a DVD release via some bunch of shysters called Blackhorse Entertainment and I was gutted, as were other fans of the film, to discover it was a lousy video transfer. 88 Films have done it the justice it really deserves here and the picture quality is excellent, which it really does benefit from considering it is all set at night time. They also have presented it here in 5.1 Surround and original stereo so finally we have the film as it should be seen.
Wesley only made one other feature called Route 666 (2001) which I must try and find and a couple of TV series parts. He really excelled with Scarecrows by not only directing but writing, producing and editing too. Nowadays the USA based Cuban does not seem to have any involvement in the movie world, shame as he could have gone onto great things. Special mention here should also be given to Terry Plumeri who really adds to the tension and scares with a superior soundtrack which is equally creepy and jarring in all the right places. It’s no surprise to see that after this his second job he went on to compose the music for over 40 more pictures. Sadly it appears he was murdered in 2016. There’s only one person that 88 Films managed to resurrect to talk about Scarecrows for the extras and that’s producer Cami Winikoff. New to the industry at just 20 she was one of the first people on-board with the project then known as Old McDonald’s Farm. The overall cost worked out at $400, 000 considerably less than the $3 million army heist in it and she was involved in helping find investors and acting talent. It was the first film many were involved in and an incredible success in the video boom age. Sounds like they really hit the floor running, first getting a plane which was obviously a major investment and then finding a derelict farm in Davey Florida. The shoot took place over around 30 nights and people ended up sick and in hospital due to mosquito bites. Cami has plenty of anecdotes about those involved and says it was not an easy shoot, having her evaluate her career after making it. She was so tired at the end of it they ended up at the wrong airport after wrapping and missed the correct flight. Their original flight crashed with over 130 fatalities, so it was damn lucky the curse of the scarecrows had not followed them!
If you saw this first time around it’s unlikely you will have forgotten it, if not it comes highly recommended. This dark night of the scarecrow is guaranteed to give you the jeepers-creepers!