Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Final Girl Film Club - Scarecrows (1988)

Cody is endeavoring to write about all of the Final Girl Film Club entries he missed over the years. The movies will be covered in the original Film Club order in most cases, while some of the articles will be posted to coincide with certain dates.

These bastards died and nobody told them.

Clearly made on a rather small budget, director/co-writer (with Richard Jefferies, plus "additional dialogue" provided by Larry Stamper, Marcus Crowder, and Stephen Gerard) William Wesley smartly gets his film's costly backstory out of the way with the audio of a news report that plays over the opening title sequence.

As the report tells us, a heavily-armed commando unit made a daring and deadly assault on the military base Camp Pendleton to steal $3.5 million from the payroll office. This robbery left three Marines dead and nine wounded, but the thieves made their escape by hijacking a cargo plane from a nearby airfield, forcing the pilot - who was accompanied by his teenage daughter and their dog - to fly them off to safety.

The expensive set-up sufficiently explained away without having to film a second of it, the movie begins with the five militaristic criminals (Curry, Roxanne, Corbin, Jack, and Bert) aboard their getaway plane as it flies through the night sky, below radar level. They hit the base and they're getting away rich, it's been a good day for this lot.

Things go south when Bert sets off a smoke bomb in the plane, tosses a grenade at his pals, and parachutes out with their haul of cash. He lands on the property of the seemingly long-abandoned Fowler farm, where the rundown, filthy old farmhouse is surrounded by an overgrown yard and a vast cornfield guarded by some strange looking scarecrows.

Bert's choice to rip off his pals doesn't turn out well for him. Throwing the grenade off the plane before it explodes, his cohorts survive the assassination attempt and follow Bert onto the Fowler farm, along with their hostages. While Bert scrambles to escape the farm before his heavily-armed former friends can catch up with him, he can hear the voices of the other commandos coming over his headset, taunting him, planning his demise. That's a good source of tension and is quite creepy, if you can imagine what it's like for Bert. There's also some unnecessary voiceover work in these scenes, as we're treated to audio of Bert's thoughts, which add nothing to what's going on here, he's usually just stating the obvious.

As the sweaty, panicky Bert tries to get away, he begins to experience some odd occurrences. When the pickup truck he steals breaks down, he checks under the hood to discover that it doesn't even have an engine. So how was it running? When he passes by a scarecrow, it appears to move on its own...

There's something supernatural going on at the Fowler farm, and Bert is the first to fall prey to it when one of the scarecrows springs to life and guts him. In fact, three scarecrows have crawled off of their cross-shaped stands and are roaming the property, beginning to pick off the trespassers one-by-one with various farming implements, the evil forces taunting their intended victims further by re-animating the corpses of the fallen and having them wander around with missing flesh and body parts, their guts replaced with straw. And money.

Horrific events, gruesome acts of violence, character meltdowns, and in-fighting ensue. After Curry realizes there are three supernatural scarecrows on the property, he's immediately able to put it together that those scarecrows are somehow the three Fowler men featured in a picture on the wall.

As anyone would guess, the evil scarecrows and their zombie-like minions cut the number of characters down until there's just the pilot's teenage daughter, Kellie, played by Victoria Christian with additional vocal work performed by Dyanne DiRosario for reasons I'm not clear on. As far as final girls go, Kellie is a pretty empty character, spending a good portion of her time just playing with her hair.

Scarecrows really isn't about delving into its characters in general, it's about diving into the action and horror, the characters are just there to go through some scary things and deal with pseudo-slasher scarecrows. In that department, the movie delivers and is a fun, fast paced way to kill a mere 83 minutes.

There are questionable decisions, technical issues, and logic problems on display here. It's certainly not the most well-polished movie, but it's an effective little spookfest with a perfectly simple set-up, some creepy moments, awesome special effects provided by Norman Cabrera, a great score by Terry Plumeri, and excellent night cinematography by Peter Deming, who was fresh off of shooting Evil Dead II for Sam Raimi at this time.

Scarecrows isn't a great movie, but it's an entertaining one.

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