Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Night Of The Scarecrow (1995)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

After a lengthy hiatus, Claire Goodman (Elizabeth Barondes) returns to her hometown of Hanford. Here, Claire has a tense reunion with her bitter father, Mayor William Goodman (Gary Lockwood). Claire befriends a local farmer named Dillon (John Mese) after Dillon's heated confrontation with Danny (John Hawkes), one of Dillon's more disgruntled workers.

At the Mayor’s house, Dillion is introduced to the entire Goodman family one by one. Dillion meets the town sheriff, Frank Goodman (Stephen Root), his wife, Lorraine (Cynthia Merrill), and their two children Toby and Martha; the town priest, Thaddeus (Bruce Glover), his wife, Barbara (Martine Beswick), and their daughter, Stephanie (Cristi Harris); and George (Dirk Blocker), who lives alone on a farm after the death of his wife, Doris.

Claire tries to ignore the friction with her father, so she can enjoy a happy and peaceful reunion with her uncles, but The Goodmans are forced to deal with a bigger problem. One night, a drunk Danny and his buddy, Ben (Robert Harvey) accidentally disturb the tomb of an evil warlock. After Danny urinates on a post with The Scarecrow (Howard Swain) attached to it, The Scarecrow comes to life, determined to complete one mission: Murder all The Goodmans, and anyone, who tries to stop him.

After Thaddeus survives an attack from The Scarecrow, Thaddeus explains the dark history behind The Scarecrow’s past. Over one hundred years ago, Silas Goodman led The Goodmans to Hanford. Under Silas’ guidance, The Goodman’s settled in and founded Hanford. But infertile soil and harsh winters destroyed all the crops, and eventually the entire town was stuck in a period of famine with no help, until a warlock offered his help. Using his evil spell book, The Warlock (John Lazar) made a deal with Silas, promising to restore the soil and provide more than enough food to feed the town. In return, The Warlock was free to do anything in Hanford with no restrictions or questions asked.

As the desperate leader, Silas agreed to The Warlock’s terms to save his people. Eventually, The Warlock used his black magic to corrupt the townspeople, so Silas drugged The Warlock’s drink one day. With help from other Goodmans and the townspeople, Silas crucified The Warlock, and to leave no room for error, Silas and others burned The Warlock’s body. The Warlock’s spirit was confined to a scarecrow, and his bones were buried underground in a sealed tomb.

For protection Silas stole and hid the evil spell book, and as the oldest living Goodman, William received the spell book as a gift. Motivated by revenge as a scarecrow, The Warlock has returned to retrieve the hidden spell book, because The Scarecrow can use the spell book to reunite his bones with flesh for a return to the living world.

During the chaos, Mayor Goodman is more concerned with protecting a lucrative land deal for Hanford’s first shopping mall, and William sees an easy target for a scapegoat in a hot-headed Dillon. Claire struggles to locate the spell book, as The Scarecrow wreaks havoc in Hanford. Failure isn’t an option, because if The Scarecrow succeeds, The Warlock will return as a powerful and unstoppable force.

I’m used to seeing a few generic and clichéd characters in a slasher film, but Night Of The Scarecrow has a bad case of overkill in this department. Claire is the innocent good girl, who transforms into the unlikely heroine as the movie progresses. Mayor Goodman is the typical greedy and corrupt politician. George is the angry booze guzzling drunk, who totes a shotgun. Thaddeus is the self-righteous priest. Dillon is the guy, who inexplicably falls for the leading lady (Claire), he’ll do anything to protect her, and Dillon forms a team with Claire to fight The Scarecrow. And I can’t forget about Danny, because he’s the one guy, who’s a jerk to everyone, so when his character is killed off, you either don’t care or you’re happy he’s dead.

Although, Stephanie is a nice refreshing change for this cast of characters. At first glance, you’ll get the impression Stephanie is pure and harmless as a priest’s daughter, but behind her father’s back, Stephanie is a loose and promiscuous teenage girl, who’s in a secret relationship with her boyfriend, Danny.

And yeah, the characters are clichéd and generic, but you’ll see the familiar faces of a few veterans here. Root gives one of the better performances, but Root also had more breathing room to work with as Frank, because Frank is the conflicted sheriff, who’s torn between doing the right thing, and obeying strict orders from his overbearing brother (William). Overall, the cast isn’t bad, and Barondes is a decent leading lady.

Night Of The Scarecrow’s mundane through the motions predictability really annoyed me at times. The most obvious choice is Claire and Dillon surviving. You knew both of them would make it to the end after some big, epic battle with The Scarecrow, and they did. You knew Frank would find a way to return after a fight with The Scarecrow, and he did. And of course, two people (Stephanie and Danny) are murdered after an attempt at sexual intercourse. To make things worse, you have that one person (Stephanie), who unknowingly flirts with the killer, until they open their eyes to witness their own demise.

The horror clichés? Oy vey. You name it, and you’ll see it in Night Of The Scarecrow. Frank’s cop car won’t start TWICE, as Claire and Dillon are trying to make an escape. Victims fall down while running, Danny and Ben disturb The Scarecrow, when Ben clearly senses something is wrong, and during the finale, you have the miraculous Hail Mary comeback from Claire and Dillon.

Still, if you’re the type of horror fan, who enjoys mindless fun, Night Of The Scarecrow is a passable guilty pleasure film. Night Of The Scarecrow is loaded with some really gruesome and creative kills, and you’ll see some genuine cringeworthy moments (i.e. The Scarecrow sewing Thaddeus’ mouth shut…ouch). Night Of The Scarecrow is a corny B-movie slasher flick with some hilarious one-liners, including Claire’s “How bout some fire Scarecrow!” during the finale. But I’ll warn you now, if you watch Night Of The Scarecrow with a serious mindset, you’ll have a miserable viewing experience, and I’m pretty sure you’ll hate yourself for taking the time to watch this one.

Rating: 5/10

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