Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
Back in the day (a Thursday, I believe), there were two (2) things I always looked forward to: Saturday afternoon and evening movies on T.V. and Halloween. I’d especially keep watch for a broadcast of Dark Night Of The Scarecrow, a made for T.V. movie that creeped me out and was always playing around the bestest day of the year. (Yes, bestester than Mas-mas.)
Dark Night opens with a little girl and a, let’s be politically correct, mentally handicapped man, Bubba, played by Larry Drake, picking flowers in a field. This was my first introduction to Drake and years later I’d be surprised to see him play the evil Robert Durant in Darkman. Most people were surprised to see Benny from L. A. Law playing the charming psychopath in Darkman. Yeah, everything I know I learned from horror movies.
Anyway, the two innocents are being spied on by the evil mailman (yes, you read that correctly. An evil mailman.), played by a wonderfully hateable Charles Durning. This guy takes his spying seriously as he carries his binoculars in his mail-truck. He drives off to tell one of his buddies that Bubba is out there, again.
Here, the movie approaches a touchy subject without forcing it down your throat. It is only implied that Durning thinks Bubba is going to sexually assault the little girl, but there is no missing what he’s hinting at. (in a weird twist, it is later insinuated that Durning has been lusting after the little girl, instead. WTF, 80’s?)
The girl is attacked by a dog, Bubba saves her, but Durning and his 3 friends think Bubba did the unspeakable, and hunt him down. Bubba is hiding inside the scarecrow on his mother’s farm but Durning sees him and the 4 douche-bags open fire on him. Immediately after executing him, they get a call on the CB that Bubba actually saved the girl, so Durning plants a large pitchfork on the body.
After being cleared of charges of murder, the 4 big bags of douche begin to see the scarecrow in their fields and die in mysterious “accidents” involving dangerous farm equipment. The little girl says that Bubba has been talking to her, as well.
It’s a pretty straightforward set-up and it works to immediately have you side with Bubba. I found myself saying “What an asshole” in regards to Durning’s character as soon as he was on screen.
Dark Night is a relatively bloodless flick, but according to the creators, that has nothing to do with it being a made-for-TV movie. I can see that. This movie is more in the lines of Tales From The Crypt (comics) or Twilight Zone. It relies more on having the audience question what is really going on than giving you answers.
Of course, the end has a nice twist that leaves me with a smile on my face.
If you’ve never seen this long lost classic, it’s just been released on DVD. Fans have been waiting an eternity to finally get rid of our bootlegs that were recorded off the television and now it’s here to be introduced to a whole new generation of horror fans. And because of the no-gore aspect, you can introduce it to the little ones (mileage may vary).
Rating: 4 out of 5