31 Days Of Hell: Dark Night Of The Scarecrow

Lee takes a jab at the made for tv horror movie, Dark Night of the Scarecrow.

"I ain't scared of no crow!"
When mentally handicapped Bubba Ritter is accidentally suspected of murdering a child, a group of disgruntled town folks take justice into their own hands. With the help of a couple keen nosed bloodhounds, the mob finds Bubba fearfully hiding inside a scarecrow and pleading his innocence. Instigated by the town mail man, ruthlessly played by Charles Durning, the group unleash some old fashion “eye for an eye” vigilante justice. Afterwards, one of the mob members discovers a mysterious scarecrow in his farm field. What is initially suspected to be a twisted prank turns out to be something much more sinister. 

Released on October 24, 1981 just in time for Halloween, Dark Night of the Scarecrow scared the bejesus out of children and horror loving adults. It quickly gained the title “The scariest movie made-for-television.” It would continue to air every October for the next decade before cable television saturated the market with a plethora of sub par horror. Screenwriter J.D. Felitta wrote the script with intentions of a theatrical release, yet CBS was quick to buy the rights. It is perhaps the restrictions of television that aided in the success of this film. Similar to movies such as Halloween and The Changeling, it makes great use of suspense. The less is more approach to gore works in Scarecrow’s favor, forcing viewers to fill in the bloody details, but more importantly, focusing on the story. 

With no gimmicks or over the top plot twists, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a creepy tale of revenge. It’s a film that cleverly manipulates a viewer’s imagination with the great art of story telling. The limited approach also provokes an uneasy sense of realism. While blood and guts are fun, they can often cartoonize a film when over used. Overall, it’s the fantastic cast of television veterans that really brings Scarecrow to life (unintentional pun). It’s the appeal of many made for television films from the pre-cable era. The film also wraps up nicely, with a satisfying ending that is reminiscent of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. The longevity of Scarecrow’s ability to scare viewers generations later owes much to the smart straight forward script, and the perfect execution of suspense. Set in a small farm community full of creepy old barns and and cornfields, it has all the elements that will make you second guess every little things that go bump in the night. 

-Lee L. Lind

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