Monday, September 20, 2010

DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981)

DARK NIGHT, originally aired as a made-for-TV film, has garnered quite the cult following over these long years and, truth be told, it is a solid small-screen piece of work. Let's just see if it merits the neglected-classic status that some have deigned to give it...

Larry Drake demonstrates, early in his career, why he went on to feature roles in LA LAW, DARKMAN, and DR. GIGGLES (I suppose). He plays the hell out of Bubba, a mentally-challenged man who befriends a local girl, much to the illogical chagrin of a postal worker, a mechanic, a farmer, and another guy. A mix-up leads to the foursome seeking vengeance (this includes an awesome scene in which Bubba's mom derides Postal Dude's law-enforcement authority). Stuff happens that you'd expect and, after ten or so minutes, we've got the table set for a supernatural revenge soiree.

DARK NIGHT is sort of hampered by its TV-movie origins. Things are paced for commercial interruption. The sets aren't elaborate and the camerawork is a little restrained (no Rob Zombie insane crane shots here) and some of the acting really feels like TV acting.

BUT the setting is great! Farm horror is a sadly neglected subgenre. The setting gives you all you need: isolation; space; ears of corn for the pack animals and actors. It's perfect for low-budget genre stuff because you don't have to build fields of wheat—God already did it for you! Plus farms are quite creepy by nightfall.

AND this is a well-paced film! It might let slip its small-screen origins in places, but it's never boring the way that too many "feature films" are. DARK NIGHT is tight and taut, wasting no time on extraneous scenes, living a lifestyle quite unlike its DARK KNIGHT cousin. If the story is nothing mind-blowing (more or less a TALE FROM THE DARKSIDE writ large), it's handled exceptionally well. It's not an epic vision along the lines of PHANTASM or DAWN OF THE DEAD, but it is a fun campfire tale done right. Not a classic in wider terms of the genre, but arguably a classic on the TV-horror scale.

Worth your time for sure.

PS I'm resuming my tradition of watching 31 horror films that I've not seen before over the course of October. I'm getting a mild jump on it, since I'm quite busy these days. If you want to call it cheating and complain to the Blog Certification Board, be my guest, cretin.

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