Dark Night Of The Scarecrow
Director: Frank De Felitta
Staring: Charles Durning, Tonya Crowe, Larry Drake
Review by Brian M. Sammons
The problem with made for TV horror movies is, with very few exceptions, they’re not scary. Now I’m not just talking about the lack of blood and guts, as gore never makes a bad film good. No, I’m talking about TV movies lacking the very essence of horror It’s like they tell themselves, “Ok, we can be frightening, but only up to a point.” Well that is not the case with this film … at least that’s how I remembered it. You see, I saw Dark Night years and years ago as a kid and it scared the hell out of me. But I haven’t seen it since for the very simple reason that it never came out on DVD. That is … until now. But does the movie hold up when compared to my childhood memories? Let’s find out.
The story is about a large mentally challenged man named Bubba who’s brought to life by Larry Drake, who would go on to fame playing another slow man on TV’s L.A. Law. Bubba’s best friend is a little girl named Marylee and his worst enemy is Otis, the evilest mailman to ever walk the earth, equally played to sneering perfection by Charles Durning. Otis has an irrational hatred of Bubba and when one day young Marylee is viciously mauled by a dog, Otis naturally assumes that Bubba is to blame. Rounding up a posse of good old boys, Otis and Co, chase poor Bubba all over town until they find him in a corn field hiding in the clothes of a scarecrow. The vigilantes cold bloodily execute the man, only to hear over the radio just moments later that not only did the little girl live and that it was a dog that attacked her, but that Bubba had saved her life.
So what’s a bunch of scumbag rednecks to do?
Well they plant a pitchfork on Bubba and claim self defense, despite Bubba actually being tied to the wooden scarecrow cross.
Somehow the judge buys that excuse, mainly because there wouldn’t be much of a story if the cretins went to prison for their crime, but that doesn’t mean that they have escaped justice. All too soon Otis’ palls start getting bumped off one by one until only the evil mailman remains.
Some of the best things about this movie are the suspense, tension, and mystery that it manages to pull off so well. While the vigilantes start seeing a scarecrow in their fields or yards before they get killed, you never really know what’s going on or who’s avenging the murder of poor Bubba. Could it be Bubba’s mother? Or the little girl who keeps talking to Bubba despite his death and has gone psychotic with the loss of her only friend? Perhaps it’s the prosecuting attorney who knew the good old boys were guilty but failed to prove it in court? Or who knows, there might even be a supernatural answer to the murders? All the way up to the movie’s end Dark Night Of The Scarecrow keeps you guessing better than most thrillers brought out on the big screen.
Dark Night first came out on CBS in 1981 and even though it’s been a long time coming out to DVD it looks amazingly good. The video transfer was handled exceptionally well and the movie just looks beautiful. As for extras, there’s not many, but that’s to be expected from a 80s TV movie. There’s an audio commentary with the writer and director and a short promo piece CBS did for the movie back in the day. While that’s it for the extras, just having this film out and widely available on DVD at last is all the reason I need to get this disc.
Dark Night Of The Scarecrow is a great little gem of a film and one that’s been away for far too long. Three cheers to VCI Entertainment for bringing this lost classic out. Do yourself a huge favor and get a copy of this DVD for yourself when it comes out September 28.