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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dark Night of The Scarecrow

It's been a crazy week here, Dudes and Dudettes! First, I had my Netflix account accidentally canceled on me(a family member received an email about a Netflix charge, and thought it was theirs, even though they had already ended their account...), so that sent me scrambling to figure out if I could continue doing this. Then, I somehow managed to get strep throat, so I've been sick as a dog for a few days now. What else could happen?

Anyway, supposedly Netflix is working on reinstating my account, so this week I'm watching the last video they sent me before everything went wacky: Dark Night of The Scarecrow, a made-for-television slasher(!) from the early 1980's. It's about a group of vigilantes who kill a mentally disabled man because they mistakenly thought that he had assaulted a child. In the aftermath of the killing, a mysterious stalker dressed as a scarecrow begins to go after them....Gee, I wonder if they live? As always, it's Howdy SPOILY time!

So, the movie starts out in a field of tall grass and flowers. I'll bet there's a little house somewhere on this prairie! The not-yet-dead disabled man, Bubba(played by Larry Drake, of Darkman), is picking flowers and singing along with a little girl named Marylee. He shows her one flower that he plucked, but it was accidentally crushed in his gigantic Manbearpig paws. Oh Bubba, you flower-wrecking rascal you!

After Bubba becomes the Flowernator, Marylee shows him how to properly pick a flower, then sends him to find another one. He gives her the intact one, and she shows him two leis she made. She puts her lei on, then helps him to wear his, then she insists that they have to kiss.

Okay, hold the phone! Was this movie written by Michael Jackson??? A young child playing with a large man in his 30's is already sort of creepy to begin with, and now they're sharing a kiss? And it's the girl's idea? Forget going after Bubba--the angry mob should lock her up. Not a single horror movie moment has occurred yet, and I'm already weirded out by this film. I can't wait to see what's next...

Yup, it got weirder. As Marylee gives Bubba a peck on the cheek, the local mailman is peeping on them with a pair of binoculars. I have a feeling that I may want to sterilize my hands after touching the DVD to put it back in its sleeve.

The mailman, Otis, decides to pay a visit to his buddy Harless, who is busily throwing large tree branches into an even-larger woodchipper. Harless switches off his noisy machine, and he and Otis express their displeasure at seeing Bubba always playing with Marylee.

When Harless suggests beating Bubba up(and a reference to having done it many times before), Otis disagrees. He compares mentally disabled people to unfumigated stink weed and cutworm, and calls Bubba a blight. Wow, very enlightened people existed 20years ago.

Anyway, Otis implies that the best way to deter Bubba from playing with young children would be to kill him. Harless replies that he'd definitely rough the guy up, but not kill him, as long as he's committed no crime. Otis just hands the farmer his mail, then drives away.

As Bubba and Marylee walk home together, the little girl spots a fountain in a neighbor's backyard, and pries some boards loose in their fence to get a better look. She tells Bubba that she's going into their yard to look at the fountain up close, but Bubba doesn't want to follow her, fearing that he'll get in trouble again.

Marylee goes into the yard by herself, as Bubba watches through the fence. As luck would have it, the family dog shows up, snarling at Marylee. She tries to remain calm as she calls out to Bubba to save her, but that only agitates the dog further. Bubba then bursts through the fence to save Marylee. As he fights off the dog(offscreen), about 9,000 lawn gnomes witness the attack, and seem stunned.

Okay, movie. You just showed a montage of "reaction" shots of garden gnomes. All is forgiven. Keep the crazy batshit stuff coming on a regular basis again.

The next scene is equally epic in its kookiness: we see a housewife in her kitchen, and there's a knock at the door. She answers it, to find Bubba on her front step, holding Marylee's limp, possibly lifeless body. Both of them have blood in their clothes, and Bubba is crying. The housewife screams at the sight, as Bubba sobs, "Bubba....didn' it!" If this was where the film ended, I'd give it 5 killer trees, just for the giggles it gave me.

Alas, no...there's more. After the housewife screams, Harless hauls ass over to the post office, to tell Otis that Bubba killed Marylee. God, just reading these names all together like that gives me a headache. It's like the cast of a redneck soap opera. As the Trailer Turns.

Anyway, Otis is told that everyone in town is going to be at the courthouse to see Bubba get charged, and Otis opens a drawer in front of him, where he keeps a gun. See? even 20 years ago, "going postal" had the same definition that it has today.

Otis tells Harless that they'll take care of Bubba themselves, then they stop by the local gas station to get some hunting dogs. Um, why? Since Bubba's already turned himself in, and everyone is headed to the courthouse or jail to see him, what do these dingleberries need to hunt down?

Their next stop is some kind of granary, where they fetch a guy who makes Otis look like he's anorexic. No name is given, of course. Then we see Bubba trampling through a forest, so I guess he somehow avoided being captured and arrested after that housewife saw him. Yeah, giants covered in blood are really easy to miss.

Harless drops off the 3 other men at the entrance to the woods, then drives around to keep Bubba from escaping from the other side. Bubba isn't exactly making great progress in his escape either, tripping over branches and rocks every 5 seconds or so. Oh, but the large guy now has a name: Philby. No first name, no last name. Just "Philby". Like "Madonna", except the exact opposite of her in every possible way.

Anyway, we then get the name of their 4th group member, Skeeter. After learning that, we see Bubba arrive home. His mother meets him at the door, and he briefly fills her in on the dog attack, and how it ended up with him getting the blame. Mama tells Bubba that they need to play "the hiding game". and they run off together, away from the house.

A short time later, the vigilantes also arrive at Bubba's home. Mama meets them at the front door, and informs them that her son isn't home. Then she reminds them that they have no legal authority to do anything to Bubba, and she shuts the door again. HA! Score 1 for someone with a brain in this movie!

The dogs pick up Bubba's scent again and get agitated, so the group decides to see where the dogs go. They arrive in a field, where the dogs lead the group directly to a scarecrow. Gosh, where could Bubba be hiding? I wonder if the title will give me any hints....

So, the rednecks look around a bit, and then get ready to leave. Unfortunately, Otis decides to have a closer look at the scarecrow, and sees Bubba's very frightened eyes behind the sack "head" of the scarecrow. Whoops!

Very slowly, Otis, Skeeter, Harless and Philby back away from the scarecrow. As Bubba whimpers, Otis lifts his gun and then hesitates, even after the other 3 men lift their guns. When Bubba quietly cries that he didn't hurt the girl, Otis fires 2-3 shots at him at point blank range. The others also start shooting, and Bubba gets at least a dozen new openings in his body.

After a few seconds, Harless and the others hear a CB transmission coming from his truck. They learn that Marylee is not dead, and that Bubba saved her from the attacking dog. To cap it all off, this was all discovered a half hour earlier. Nice.

Upon hearing the news, a creepy-sounding wind starts to blow, and Otis walks back to the truck. He grabs a giant pitchfork from the truck bed, and positions Bubba's corpse in such a way as to have him holding it by his side. The wind gets stronger and stronger, until eventually, it makes Bubba start to sway to and fro.

The movie then delivers us to a courtroom. All four men are on trial for murdering Bubba. As the prosecutor insists that Bubba was helpless from his position, the defense attorney holds up the pitchfork to show that he wasn't defenseless at all. Wow, who knew that Otis could be that clever? Not I....

The prosecutor responds that a single pitchfork is still no match for four men armed with guns. Then Otis makes up some crap about giving Bubba several chances to surrender and firing several warning shots into the air, at which point the prosecutor yells that Bubba had 21 bullet wounds all over his body. Ouch.

The judge calls both lawyers to approach, and tells the prosecutor that he doesn't think that the case against the vigilantes is strong enough. Say what now? 21 bullet wounds doesn't seem a little suspicious, or an attack of 4 against 1 doesn't raise any alarms in their heads? Geez, remind me to stay the heck away from THAT town!

So, yeah, Judge Dumbass finds all 4 men innocent. That causes Bubba's Mama to totally lose it. She stands up and declares that all of them are murderers, then makes a cryptic statement that there are "different kinds od justice", which sounds pretty ominous. Hey, wouldn't it be a hoot if she somehow got a posse together to kill the 4 of them, then another vigilante group sprung up to take her group out, and on and on and on...? It'd be like the Moebius Strip of slasher films. Someone start writing that script, please.

They all leave the courtroom together, and quickly start cheering and giving each other and the other townsfolk high fives. Then the prosecutor pops up to tell Otis that if he eventually does find the evidence needed to execute them, he'll see that it happens. Otis, being Otis, makes a stupid remark about fried chicken, then leaves with his buddies.

At the local hangout, Otis and the others have their beers and fried chicken, and laugh about the prosecutor's last encounter with them. None of them realize it, but just outside the restaurant, the same weird wind that was blowing when Bubba died is blowing again. Is there a restless spirit arriving in town? My guess would be yes.

We see Marylee in bed, as an older woman(her aunt? grandmother?) watches her sleep. The woman then tells her husband, Frank, that she never had the heart to tell Marylee that Bubba died. Frank tells her to keep it a secret for as long as she can. Wow, this is a really dysfunctional town, huh?

Marylee wakes up after her folks have gone to bed. She senses Bubba nearby, and calls out his name a few times, to no avail. She puts on some slippers and a robe, then decides to climb out of her bedroom window to go looking for him.

Marylee arrives at Mama's house, where she sees a light on in his bedroom. She knocks on his window to invite him to play, but he doesn't answer her. Being a total nutcase, she decides to try to break in. Hell, I'm more afraid of this weird kid than 10 Bubbas. I kinda hope that she's the killer, even though she's too small to wear the scarecrow outfit.

Anyway, Marylee explores the lower level first, and finds a lot of his things around the house, but no sign of him. Heck, she even finds the lei she made for him. I could use a good lei. Take the edge off, you know?

So, when Marylee heads upstairs, Mama finds her. She demands to know why the little girl is in her home, and her demeanor softens considerably when Marylee tells her that she wants to see Bubba. They go back downstairs together, and Mama tries to explain that Bubba isn't coming back anymore. Maryann doesn't let that stop her: she insists that she can sense that Bubba is somewhere close, probably hiding or playing some sort of game.

The next day, all 4 of the killers are back in their daily routines. Otis is delivering the mail as usual, only stopping when he spies some porn mag that he wants to look at before the owner gets to have it. Harless is busy trying to figure out what's jamming up his chipper. Quick, wave goodbye to the arm that he's about to lose....pretty soon he won't be able to!

His wife joins him in the field to mention that they were invited to some dance. She loses her train of thought though, and asks Harless if he's planting his crops early. When he says no, she then asks why he put up a scarecrow in the field. Uh oh....

Harless drives over to the local diner, where he meets up with Philby and Skeeter. At first they are happy to see him, but the mood soon changes when they see how angry Harless is. He tells them that someone put a scarecrow in his field, and they all get pretty nervous about what that could imply.

They pay a visit to Otis, who is now living in what looks like some kind of very run-down boarding house.. When they tell him about the reappearance of the scarecrow, he plants the idea in their single group brain that they all share that it's some kind of threat from the prosecuting lawyer. Then Otis suggests that they go home, and never visit him again.

That's followed by Harless driving his truck home, then taking a swig or two from a drink outside. Instead of going inside his house, the farmer decides to stagger around his property with a flashlight for a bit, which is always a smart idea when you're drunk, alone, and someone dressed as a scarecrow is stalking you.

There's this weird squeaking sound, but the scene is so dark, I can't tell what exactly is making it. Harless finds a large cross on his property, exactly like the one where they found Bubba hanging like a scarecrow, He kicks it over, then turns to head back to his house. Wanna bet that he doesn't make it that far?

When he turns, Harless sees the woodchipper turn on, so he decides to go examine it up close. Smart fella, or fart smella? Anyway, he somehow manages to switch it off without getting killed(damn...), then starts yelling for Sam(the lawyer) to stop fooling around. Then Harless puts down his flashlight and picks up a small scythe.

What happens next makes no sense whatsoever....As Harless climbs up to the hayloft to search it, he thinks he has found where "Sam" is hiding. He approaches a shadowy corner of the loft, then hears a noise below. When he leans over the side to look, the chipper turns on, causing Harless to startle, then fall out of the loft and into the chipper. Awesome, but also epic in its stupidity. And entirely bloodless.

Instead of blood, the scene switches to breakfast at the boarding house. One of the old farts tells the others(including Otis) that he heard a lot of commotion during the night, and that Harless was found dead. When Otis joins the crowd to watch the authorities take care of the dead man's widow, Sam turns around to give Otis the ol' stink-eye.

Later, Otis, Skeeter and Philby meet to discuss the horrific way their friend died. When Otis suggests that it's Sam who killed Harless, the other 2 men disagree. Then Otis decides that it was all an accident, until Philby asks who turned the machine off after the deed was done. D'oh!

The three men decide to examine the chipper, and discover that it was, indeed, switched off. Then Otis has two tense encounters, one with Marylee(who runs off when she sees him), then another tense chat with Mama. She implies that all of the spooky crap happening and the death of Harless is simple, Biblical vengeance. Mama also warns him to leave Marylee alone, then shuts her front door in his face.

We next see Philby by himself, so I guess he's next to die. His pigs are oinking like crazy, and he spots a scarecrow out in his field. He runs over to get a closer look, which just confirms that these 4 are the biggest lunkheads that ever lived.

Philby gets right in front of the scarecrow, then drops to his pudgy, stupid knees. Wow, do these guys have a suicide pact going that they forgot to mention? On an even weirder note, the scene just abruptly ends right there. Does Jabba live or die???

The next scene opens on a Halloween skeleton decoration. It's the town's big party, I guess. As a group of children(including Marylee) play a game of hide and seek, Otis wins the award for Pedo of the Year when he peers through a window in at them, using the eyeholes of a skull decoration. Creepy guy.

Marylee counts while the other kids hide, then she turns and has the world's creepiest encounter with Otis. He keeps trying to sweet-talk her into approaching him, then she tells Otis that Bubba told her what the 4 men did to him. She runs off before Otis can get anything more specific out of her, and he looks pretty nervous.

During the dance, Otis grabs a drink. His partners in crime find him, and Philby claims that he actually saw Bubba outside. He brings Otis to the spot, but of course, Bubba's not there at that point. When Skeeter suggests telling the sheriff, Otis tries to talk him down. Philby gives Otis an ultimatum: either figure out a way out of their jam, or he's going to the cops.

Mama makes some tea, and her house is as quiet as a crypt full of mimes. Otis assaults her, and warns the old woman to stop scaring him and his buddies. When he removes his hand from her mouth she screams, so Otis clamps her lips shut again, He tells the frightened old lady that he won't hurt her if she keeps quiet.

When Otis removes his hand from her mouth again, Mama has suddenly died. He backs away, then nearly dies himself when her tea kettle starts shrieking. Always thinking, Otis takes the kettle off of the stove, then cranks up the gas oven, hoping that with the fireplace going, the explosion will be a great way to cover his tracks.

The house explodes with a friggin' mushroom cloud of fire. I shit you not.

While Marylee is outside playing, Sam investigates the cause of the explosion. He's told by the gas guy that the elderly always forget to turn off the gas, or even turn it down. Yeah. Even Sam doesn't buy that.

In the next scene, Philby hears his pigs acting up in the middle of the night. He goes outside to investigate, then he fixes a loose chain. He sees a light go on in his house and gets in his car, but it won't start.

Philby starts feeling chest pains, so he takes his pills, then gets out of the car. He thinks that he hears someone nearby, so he decides to run and hide in his grain silo. Genius. When the noises stop, Philby tries to exit, but the silo door is jammed shut. As the old farmer panics, the silo starts to fill up with grain. Philby screams and flails around for a minute or so, then drowns in his own grain.

The next morning, Otis finds the gas station almost empty. He sneaks up on Skeeter, and assaults him. He tells the younger man that it was Otis who killed their buddies, and promises to prove it to him. They head out that night, prepared to dig up the grave that Otis was buried in, only to discover that he's still in his grave after all.

Skeeter runs away with a case of the screaming meme's, then Otis tackles him to the ground next to the open grave. as the younger guy blows about a metric ton of snot out of his body, he begs Otis to go to the police for protection. The mailman gets him even more worked up when he suggests that their stalker is actually maybe Marylee.

A little girl? Really? Is this some kind of blooper reel I started watching?

Nope, he's serious. When Skeeter refuses to aid him in murdering a little girl, Otis decides to change tactics. He calms the blubbering gas station employee down, then leads him over to the open grave. As Skeeter puts the lid back over Bubba and starts rambling, Otis bashes him from above with the shovel. Hilariously, the cap Skeeter had on even sticks to the shovel. Then Otis re-packs the grave, burying Otis and Bubba together,

As he careens around on the dirt roads, Otis nearly runs his mail truck right into Marylee. He runs out of the vehicle to hunt her down, and finds her within a minute. She screams, as he insists that she's the person who killed his friends.

Then the creepy-sounding wind starts up again. A bulldozer that is driving itself chases Otis, even though Otis thinks that Jack the prosecutor is driving it. Is there anyone in this movie who hasn't made his suspect list yet??? He stumbles through a field, half-drunk, then collides with another one of those scarecrows. Otis staggers back, and we see that the figure held a pitchfork that stabbed Otis in the gut in several places,

Otis falls to his knees, then dies. As the camera pans up, all of the machinery and lights that were on shut off simultaneously. Damn, I was sort of hoping for a flesh-and-blood killer. Still, the scarecrows are creepy as hell to look at.

Anyway, back to Marylee, for some reason. She's still hiding in one of the fields, among the pumpkins. The scarecrow lurches in her direction, and hands her an intact flower. She accepts it, then tells Zombie Bubba that she's going to teach him a new game the following night: the chasing game. Rut roh! THE END

Pretty awesome stuff this week. Some good kills, a simple story to follow, and people who could act. Not bad. I give it 4.5 killer trees out of 5, with half a point lost for the way the pace slowed down in the middle for awhile. But not bad at all.

And what did I learn from Dark Night of The Scarecrow?

-There are a lot of customs about flowers that should only be practiced by consenting adults.

-It's incredibly hard to convict old rednecks of murder, especially if they offer to buy beers for most of nthe town after the trial.

-Zombies can teleport from their graves, put on costumes, commit several murders, remove the costumes, teleport back into their graves, then reappear to give their friends flowers. Yup, that all sounds like sound reasonable thinking!

Next up: A film called The Initiation, starring Daphne Zuniga. See you then!