Valley of the Scarecrow
Trade Paper, 320 pages, $14.00
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
To paraphrase from Biblical text: “Even though I walk through the dark Valley of the Scarecrow, I fear no harm.” The novel Valley of the Scarecrow by Gord Rollo is rather devoid of the fear factor. It takes the easy path of the predictable; playing on established clichés and embracing B-movie conceits. The book would work well as parody, since the author milks the gore and sex elements to an almost satiric level. His characters are vapid and vacuous to the extreme. Despite glimmerings of fine attention to atmosphere, a narrative burdened with such flimsy characterization and transparent plot line is hard to praise.
Six none too bright twenty-somethings decide to go on a treasure hunt in a region which has a spooky history. Despite vehement admonitions from the protagonist’s grandfather, the half dozen dullards foolishly pursue the rumored gold. The protagonist is beautiful and hot. She has recently broken up with her boyfriend; handsome and hot. They are reunited by the quest, but the course of true lust never runs smooth. Also traveling with them is a woman (very beautiful and smokin’ hot) who is determined to bed the other gal’s man. The amorous interloper wears a metaphorical “V for Victim #1” on her lovely brow. All of the offings occur in an order that is extremely easy to prognosticate. There is no need to be concerned with spoilers, as seasoned horror fans will see what’s coming very early on in the book. It is therefore, without guilt, that the following passage is quoted: “Small red chunks and meaty pieces of the man she loved fell to the ground beside her but she’d closed her eyes by this point and refused to look closer for fear she’d recognize any parts.”
The perpetrator of the gory dismemberment is Reverend Joshua Miller: A man of the cloth, who turned to the dark side during The Great Depression. Most of the denizens of his small community in Iowa are appalled by the religious switch hitting, so they do what is necessary to stop the evil. It isn’t pretty or very Christian, but there’s hell to pay. Keeping a bad man down is hard; wrath has its privileges. And taking out some attractive but dim young folk from the gene pool doesn’t seem too morally reprehensible. Indeed, it’s difficult not to cheer on the villain during his murderous cannibalistic rampages. Such a reaction is puerile and cheesy, but appropriate for the material.
On the positive side, there is the aforementioned atmosphere. Consider this example of descriptive capability: “Joshua Miller’s corpse hung above them, his long arms still lashed tightly to the cross post with braided ropes and his legs tied together and similarly strapped to the center beam. He was wearing a tattered brown robe, moth eaten and open at the chest, mottled with black bloodstains where he’d long ago torn his flesh frantically trying to struggle free of the ropes that bound him in place. His exposed skin was withered and pulled taut, a husk of dead grey flesh that looked as dry as beef jerky and thin as onion paper.”
In Valley of the Scarecrow, Gord Rollo opts for the simplicity of large bosoms and small brains; of dorky damsels in distress who spout dialogue on a par with their limited intellect. He may have more to offer, but this particular work is a paean to B-movies and size D-cups.