Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
I Know What You Did to Bubba
In a small American town local letter carrier Otis Hazelrigg (Charles Durning) has a hatred of Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake) a 35 year gentle giant with the mental age of a child who often plays with young girl Marylee Williams (Tonya Crowe). When Marylee is seriously hurt by a dog news reaches Otis that Bubba killer her and he and 3 friends decide to take matters in to their own hands, hunting Bubba down to a field where he was hiding inside a scarecrow's clothes and shooting him multiple times. With no evidence to prove them off any wrong doing there are those who are sure they know that Otis and his friends murdered Bubba. But all of a sudden strange things start to happen and Otis and his friends become paranoid as they believe someone is targeting them and it could be anyone from little Marylee to Bubba's mum Mrs. Ritter (Jocelyn Brando) and even one of them.
It seems that killing people and covering it up is not just down to teens on a drunken night as in "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" we have 4 grown men who kill a man and then find themselves seemingly persecuted by someone who knows exactly what they did to Bubba. Now I don't know if "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" was the first movie which gives us this sort of spooky revenge storyline but it certainly does it better than any other movie I have seen. And that is all the more surprising, well to some, as "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" is a TV movie, yes that genre which some people refuse to watch out of principle.
Anyway "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" is a simple enough movie and we have these four grown men dealing with the spooky repercussions of their murderous actions when it seems someone is targeting them. How? Well in what is one the most powerful scenes I have ever seen we see the men kill Bubba as he hides in a field dressed as a scarecrow, his eyes peering out of the holes in the sack over his head and then some time after these men are cleared of wrong doing the scarecrow appears again in the field, as if someone is toying with them as one by one these men are targeted. The thing is that this isn't gore fest, an incident with a piece of farming equipment doesn't feature a body being chewed up and blood splattering everywhere, we hear what is going on off screen. But it is just as powerful as any of those horror movies which were to follow which used a similar storyline.
There are many things which make "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" so effective and the acting throughout is most certainly much better than you get in most TV movies with Charles Durning bringing plenty of arrogance to the role of Otis but also makes you suspicious of him. Then there is Jocelyn Brando, yes the sister of Marlon, who brings some fire and brimstone to the role of Mrs. Ritter. And I could go on with young Tonya Crowe also managing to keep us guessing as young Marylee. But in truth what makes "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" is the scarecrow and its use is pitch perfect from the terrifying murder scene to its ominous appearances in fields which keeps us guessing as to what is going on and leading the surviving men to a desperate act.
What this all boils down to is that "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" is still a stunning movie and is a powerful horror movie which employs a familiar storyline to great effect. Maybe modern audiences might find the lack of blood and guts and turn off but the psychological nature and mystery is spot on.
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