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MGM Studios DVD presents
Scarecrows (1988)

"We'll nail you up like one of those scarecrows!"
- Jack (Richard Vidan)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 30, 2007

Stars: Ted Vernon, Kristina Sanborn, Richard Vidan, Michael David Simms
Other Stars: Victoria Christian, B.J. Turner, David James Campbell, Tony Santory, Phil Zenderland, Mike Balog, Don Herbert
Director: William Wesley

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:23m:17s
Release Date: September 11, 2007
UPC: 027616085627
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C C-B-B- F

DVD Review

Much like a good Bigfoot movie, there's just not that many effective horror films featuring scarecrows. It's a short list to be sure—Wizard Of Oz doesn't really count—and in 1988 director William Wesley threw his hat in the ring with this entry, about a gaggle of thieves who rob Camp Pendleton (?) of a few million dollars, steal a plane (along with the reluctant pilot and his daughter) before inadvertently ending smack dab in the middle of a desolate field of apparently bloodthirsty scarecrows.

I like the idea well enough, I just wish a little more had been done than just to kill off the bad guy characters until there's just a couple left. To be fair, Wesley isn't shy about relying on decapitations, finger chomping, the re-stuffing of a human body with straw, and the assorted appendage that gets liberally whacked off. And I didn't really mind that the story sort of kept the how's and why's to a minimum, even as Wesley reused a few of the same shots of the scarecrows so many times that I lost count. And it's unfortunate because the first time the shots are used, the effect is quite creepy, full of a little menace and a general sense of foreboding. The second time might conjure up a "hey, that looks familiar" twinge, but by the third, fourth and beyond it started to get old.

The scarecrows of Scarecrows are a nasty lot, with all sorts of mad skills using things like machetes and razor wire, but the pool of victims (with the exception of the hijacked pilot and his daughter) are hardly likeable characters, so their deaths don't ever seem particularly unsettling. And when a horror movie relies mostly on the killing off of unlikables, I find myself cheering for whatever evil is raining down death and destruction to just finish the job so I can get on with my life. Wesley does try to end this one with a dark bang of a payoff, but the denouement only ends up full of headscratching logical weak spots—and that coming from a movie about scarecrows that come to life.

I know that horror movies can be like fancy, highbrow art, in that not everyone will walk away with the same level of appreciation and understanding. A backcover review excerpt on this one calls Scarecrows "frightening" and "incredibly bone-chilling", both of which seem like nothing short of sweeping exaggerations, at least as far as I'm concerned. I'm aware that Scarecrows has something of a small cult following, and I'm sure those faithful are excited for what is referred to as an "unforgettable horror classic" and an "unrelenting terror-fest".

In Wesley's favor, the titular creatures are effectively spooky, but the killing off of well-armed bank robbers only seems like a waste of their time. And mine.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A nice job from MGM on the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer—and while this one is far from a showcase—for a low-budget late-1980s horror movie things could easily have gone very, very wrong. It's a dark film throughout, and black levels hold their own from start to finish, never rendering any of the gorier bits muddy or undecipherable. Fleshtones, however, seem slightly too warm, sporting more pinkish/reddish tones than I'd have liked. The print itself is also in good shape, marred ever so slightly by some modest specking.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Nothing terribly memorable about the audio choices, available in English-language 2.0 Dolby Surround, as well as a surround dub in French and a Spanish stereo track. Not that there's anything really wrong—voice quality is generally clean—it's just that the presentation is a little tinny (the guns in particular sound like caps), and lacks the kind of deep body to boost the tension.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras whatsoever; just 20 chapter stops and subs in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: F

 

Final Comments

A decent B-movie setup and a few quality kills almost make this one work, but Scarecrows is basically another "kill of the expendable characters" variation of the horror genre. The scarecrows themselves are creepy— and that really ought to count for more than it does in the scheme of things—but it just doesn't.

 


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