Dark Night of the Scarecrow

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Back of Box:  When young Marylee Williams (Tonya Crowe) is found viciously mauled, all hell breaks loose in her small rural town.  Officious postmaster Otis P. Hazelrigg (Charles Durning) leads a gang of bigots in pursuit of the suspect: her mentally challenged friend Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake).  Finding him hiding inside a scarecrow, they exact brutal mob "justice"...only to discover a tragic mistake!  Now a strange apparition stalks the land seeking each of them out, as the legend of the Scarecrow begins. 
Plot:  Poor Bubba gets caught up in a terrible mess when the William's girl is mauled by a neighbor's dog.  Bubba saves her, but that doesn't stop the local vigilantes from taking him out firing squad style.  The worst part is that they get away with the judicial sense.  Somebody doesn't take the verdict very well and one by one the perpetrators start falling victim to fatal "accidents."  The revenge plot is enough to satisfy, but let us not forget that this is also the Great-Granddaddy of the entire "Scarecrow Slasher" sub-genre.  Love it. 
Acting:  Larry Drake, for the little time that he is actually in the film, offers up a fantastic portrayal of the mentally challenged Bubba.  Tonya Crowe is okay as the little girl, Marylee, but the number of shining moments mirrored the number of stiff ones.  Charles Durning was the perfect villain and the rest of the cast turns in quite noteworthy performances as well.  Some of the drama played out like a soap opera, but that was more the script than the acting.  My personal favorite character was Skeeter (Robert F. Lyons).  
GoreBody Count (6)  This is an early '80s, Made-for-TV, slasher movie.  That fact, of course, means that this film is relatively bloodless.  The initial "firing squad" scene lends us some blood and the final death gives us a few more drops, but otherwise there's nothing to report here (Check out the next section before you brush this one off).
Suspense:  This section is where this film really stands out.  This film oozes atmosphere and is living proof that slasher films don't have to be gory to be scary.  In fact, there are so many chill inducing scenes in this film that if a modern slasher fan could focus on it for longer than ten minutes we might be able to convince them to Preserve The Classics!  There are so many noteworthy scenes, but the opening dog attack is the best.  The look on Marylee's face gets me every time.
Directing:  Not quite sure how I feel here.  The set-ups are great, but that's mostly all there is.  It was like connect the dots, point and shoot.  Close-ups and long shots almost entirely.  There are a few zoom and tracking shots, but they don't really kick in until the end.  Frank De Felitta did, however, know how to use his angles and least as far as the suspense was concerned.
Tech:  The sound here was pretty even throughout.  There were a couple of times where it faded to intangible, but those moments weren't important at all.  The editing could've used some work, but not too shabby considering it's Made-for-TV status.  The real stand outs in this section are the lighting and the soundtrack, both of them are moody and perfectly done.  The lighting adds spot on shadows and the soundtrack had a very creepy Twilight Zone feel. 
Final Word:  One of the greatest slasher films I've ever seen.  It has a few bumps here and there, but the overall feel outweighs any gripe I might have with this film.  It's a classic in every sense of the word and I encourage every horror fan to give it a try.


Don't Move, Don't Breathe, and Whatever You Do...DON'T LOOK BEHIND YOU!