Blu-ray Review: SCARECROWS

2015/06/17 18:14:05 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

A film that I somehow missed while growing up, Scarecrows is a bit of an oddity in comparison to the rest of the ’80s horror genre landscape. Not a slasher movie nor a traditional monster movie, William Wesley’s directorial debut is part caper-gone-awry/part paranoia-fueled thriller and does a nice job of creating a palpable sense of tension even while contending with the constraints of a minuscule budget. It also ups the creep-out factor with some strikingly cool killer scarecrow designs and features some of the most incredible nighttime cinematography, as well. Scarecrows may be one of the more overlooked cult classics from the ’80s, but thankfully Scream Factory is here to finally show this deserving film some love with a great new Blu-ray release.

Scarecrows digs right into its story, picking up with an elite group of thieves as they’re escaping on a hijacked plane with their loot in tow. On their way to Mexico, one of the team members (B.J. Turner) decides to double-cross the rest of his crew and tries to make a hasty escape from mid-air, parachuting off the plane with the stolen cash. As expected, this does not please the rest of the criminals (Richard Vidan, Michael Simms, Ted Vernon and Kristina Sanborn) and they set out to retrieve the traitor and the dough he tried to make off with. What they don’t know is that they’ve all landed in an abandoned farm that isn’t necessarily all that abandoned—in fact, the land is being watched over by hordes of scarecrows who don’t take kindly to visitors.

It may not necessarily be flawless in its execution, but Scarecrows is a pretty admirable filmmaking achievement in many ways. As far as first-time features go, Wesley shows an immense talent for being able to make a lot out of so little. Wesley uses the tighter-than-tight budget to his advantage, stripping down his story to the core with everything perfectly building up to the criminals vs. evil scarecrows showdown that features some really great effects and doesn’t disappoint when it comes time to unleash the titular killers. Wesley’s script succeeds in keeping tensions high—especially in the third act—which helps the film succeed despite some uneven performances from the cast. When you have a story that involved highly trained mercenaries going up against supernatural entities like you do in Scarecrows, sometimes you lose a bit of realism. Wesley smartly decides to show viewers that not even the biggest guns or explosions can help you when you’re facing the unknown (and the unexpected).

Scarecrows also features a couple of super gory gags, even if the film itself isn’t overtly violent. In particular, there’s one victim who is stuffed with cash and haphazardly stitched up afterwards, which I thought was a wonderfully ghastly effect. We learn in the commentary that Scarecrows didn’t have the most seasoned crew working on it, which makes the effects that much more impressive in my book, as they look as good as anything the studios were doing at the very same time.

Also, I must mention how fantastic Scarecrows looks even after almost three decades. While most of the film was shot in the dead of night, it still has a nice crispness to it thanks to the talents of cinematographer Peter Deming, who does an admirable job of keeping the look of Scarecrows focused and somehow still vibrant in the pitch black. That’s definitely the earmark of a truly talented DP.

Scream Factory’s Blu looks and sounds great (again, Scarecrows suffers very little even if it was shot in almost complete darkness on a modest budget), and it features a ton of informative and entertaining bonus content that I really enjoyed going through. There are two interview-style featurettes and the usual stills gallery and trailer are also included, but what I enjoyed the most was the commentary track with Wesley and producer Cami Winikoff, who share tons of stories about their experiences collaborating on Scarecrows, including how most of the crew were just right out of high school (again, something to take into consideration when viewing the final product—rather impressive stuff overall). There are definitely some stories shared here that aspiring and indie filmmakers would find useful while in the trenches themselves.

Overall, Scarecrows is another great high-def outing from the good folks over at Scream who have thankfully taken up the banner of films like this one and given then a permanent home so that genre fans can continue to enjoy them for years and years to come. If this is a film you’re either a fan of or have never had a chance to experience before (like myself), I’d definitely recommend the Blu, as I can’t imagine you’ll ever experience it better than you can here.

Movie Rating: 3/5, Disc Rating: 4/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.