There’s two things that I love in genre cinema: heists gone wrong and backwoods horror. 1988’s Scarecrows combines the two. I’m a sucker for a good scarecrow flick with Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Night of the Scarecrow being amongst my favorite horror flicks, bar none. Scarecrows, while not quite in the company of the other two, is a solid entry in the corn stalk sub-genre albeit a bit heavy on its crime story elements to qualify as full blown horror. As such, it’s a tad uneven – maybe even wildly uneven, depending on what you’re looking for – and it takes quite a while to get to the horror but when it does, it’s a whole lot of fun.
The initial set-up for Scarecrows concerns a group of criminals (they’re as generic “criminals” as you can get) carrying millions of dollars post-heist who hijack a tiny plane containing a man (also the pilot) and his daughter. Criminal drama unfolds and before you know it, they’re in an old farmhouse with a bunch of killer scarecrows offing them one by one. It’s structured sort of like a slasher flick once it gets going, but it has more in common with an action movie like Predator than a traditional horror flick. As it is, it sort of reminds me of Demonic Toys which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a nice balance of action and horror, which isn’t all that easy to do, and things do get pretty gruesome at times. Its low budget is apparent at times, but a nice reliance on practical effects and wet gore (this was the 80s after all) keeps things interesting. The cast of characters brings things into macho territory on more than a few occasions, but that only makes the kills more fun. I love seeing wisecracking tough guys get killed in inventive ways by husks of corn. Scarecrows likely won’t please everyone – especially anyone expecting a legitimately scary horror flick – but anyone looking for a solid, low budget crime/horror hybrid can’t really go wrong.
Scream Factory have brought Scarecrows to Blu-ray for the first time and the results aren’t bad. The transfer is a bit hard to judge off the bat since most of it takes place at night – actually, all of it may take place then – resulting in a very dark image. That said, black levels are solid and there is film grain present throughout. I don’t see anything in the way of compression artifacts here, which I’ve had a problem with on SF releases in the past. I had some issues with clarity on a few scenes, almost as if the resolution took a step back, but it was nothing overly detrimental. Solid work here. Audio is in DTS HD 2.0 and 5.1 options. Considering when it was released, this is natively 2.0 and, as such, that track sounds better overall. The 2.0 track is well balanced and void of any distortion or hissing. The 5.1 track is fine, from what I sampled, but mixes things differently and keeps the soundtrack on separate channels which I find distracting and is obviously not the way intended by the filmmaker. Stick to the 2.0 track.
Supplements start with 2 commentary tracks, the first by director William Wesley and producer Cami Winikoff; and the second track by co-writer Richard Jeffries, composer Terry Pulmeri and director of photograph Peter Deming. The first track is conversational and informative and should definitely be listened to by fans of the film. Wesley clearly likes talking about the film and has a lot of history to share. The second track is compiled from interviews, which I’ve always found to be an awkward practice. It’s no less awkward here and, from what I sampled, doesn’t carry as much quality information as the first track does. It’s nice to have it here and I’m sure die hard fans will eat it up but it just wasn’t for me. Next up is an interview with special effects supervisor Norm Cabrera, that runs about 16 minutes. It’s a fun interview and Cabrera shares a lot about his work, which is rewarding for such an effects heavy film. Following that is a 9 minute interview with actor and producer Ted Vernon which is a more casual interview focused on cast relationships and his career rather than the film itself. Lastly there are storyboard and stills galleries as well as a trailer.
Scarecrows is a fun, underseen action/horror hybrid that is mostly successful. It mixes genres well yet never truly manages to be scary. It is gory, silly fun that deserves an audience and Scream Factory have given it a solid transfer and supplemental that should please fans and welcome newcomers. Makes a great double bill with Olive’s Night of the Scarecrow too!