December 10, 2018 Scarecrows (Movie Review)
Set for VOD release through Uncork’d Entertainment on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Scarecrows opens on what may be the worst farmer in the world. He is erecting a scarecrow, but it is not frightening any birds away; in fact, the crows are flocking to it – they love it. It is quickly revealed that these scarecrows are not meant to ward off birds, they are much more sinister than that. They are alive, serving as both a warning and a punishment to trespassers. Directed by Stuart Stone (The Haunted House on Kirby Road 2016, Jack of all Trades 2018), and a return to stoner-horror, the film is driven by the wonderfully campy performances of Hannah Gordon (Belushi’s Toilet 2015, Hurt 2018), Mike Taylor (The Hot Zone series, Pure series), Maaor Ziv (Viloma 2015, Crimson Noir 2018), and the debut of Umed Amin.
Searching for a place to party, the protagonists have set their sights on a secret, luxurious lagoon. This destination for debauchery just happens to be located on private property past acres of cornfields. Little do they know, a demented farmer, played by Jason J. Thomas (Sin City ER series, Haunted Hospitals series), is patiently waiting in the weeds. As expected, the teens ignore their intuition and remain oblivious to danger as they make their way through the desolate farmland.
The main characters fall into classic Horror trope categories, but with more humanity and depth shining through than typically seen. Gordon and Amin play a pure-hearted, naive couple who are not above having fun. They are joined by their realist, if not cynical, friends set on corrupting the innocent.
Taylor, who plays a stoner nicknamed Farbsy, is sleazy yet endearing; he is the man with a plan and will stop at nothing to party. Ziv, his jaded counterpart, is the subject of the camera’s leering gaze. While the revealing outfit of the “bad girl” character is overplayed, the film attempts some balance with male nudity. Scarecrows is certainly not an empowering film for its female characters, but it is not the worst offender of the final girl and bad girl tropes, either.
Scarecrows may have the plot of a B-Horror movie, but it is extremely well edited. The bulk of the film takes place on the farmer’s expansive private property, and despite its foreboding nature, the scenery is quite beautiful. The audience can feel the sun on their face and smell the atmosphere. Sweeping drone footage is utilized; every shot appears deliberate and thoughtful. The soundtrack features a variety of music to match the evolving mood of the film, and while the more contemporary songs are mostly unknown, generic tracks, but they fit well into the story. Playful edits offer support to the subversive moments of the film. Scarecrows is at its best during these self-aware, campy moments.
The most enjoyable moments of the film exist in its comedic timing. In the first half, original jokes and clever music editing establishes a fresh pace for the viewer. However, as charmingly campy as the characters are in the beginning, it is hard to buy the fear they attempt to sell later. As the film transitions from fun-loving teens on vacation to scenes of torture, all tension is lost. The originality of the first half disappears, and no new Horror ground is broken. While the plot is not particularly scary, the practical effects are commendable. Scarecrows maintains an earthy tone by steering clear of any CGI effects. All gore feels natural, and the farmer’s sadistic torture is realistically executed.
All in all, Scarecrows is not a perfect film, but worth the watch for fans of well-edited, campy slashers with thin plots. The film starts out strong, but viewers will probably find themselves browsing their phones once the sun sets on the corn field. That is why Cryptic Rock gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars.