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A mentally challenged man called Bubba is out playing with a small girl he is friends with. When she is seriously hurt by a dog, the local people instantly blame Bubba. Four of the locals arm themselves and go after him looking for revenge. Bubba hides in a scarecrow but is still found and shot and killed. Moments after they have killed him, the group find out that Bubba was in fact the one that saved the girl. So they put a pitchfork in his hand and clam self defence. They get away with it in court but soon after it seems as if Bubba is back and out for revenge.
Dark night of the Scarecrow is a made for TV from 1981 that really packs a punch. Beautify shot for a TV movie and it has a great atmosphere to match. The score really helps with the truly spooky feel of the film. They most likely didn't have a great budget for the film but it was spent well. All of the actors do a fine job and the sets are all pretty good too. The death scenes are original and pretty well done. The death in the silo was really well shot especially when you think of how small a space they had to play with when it came to setting up the shots.
A lot of films like this fall apart at the end. This most certainly doesn't. The ending is great and really makes you think about what has just gone on. If you can find it then defiantly check it out. The killer scarecrow genre is something that isn't often touched. Infact I can only think of two other killer scarecrow films, Night of the Scarecrow' and Scarecrows'. If they are anything like this one then I can't wait to see them.
It's probably for the best that this was originally made for TV. That way,
"Dark Night of the Scarecrow" doesn't have to rely on blood, disembowelings
and gratuitous special FX for its shock value.
All you old-school horror fans check this out: here's a relatively recent movie that earns every shock and scare it gets with its eerie atmosphere, earnest performances and an especially villainous turn by Durning as tyrannical postman.
Everything is sweaty, nail-biting and almost unbearably tense from first frame to last. If you can bear the fright, watch very carefully at the end. I won't tell what happened, but it's intriguing how they combined such emotions as shock, fear and love in only two shots. Just watch it and see what I mean.
Ten stars. No wonder Larry Drake gets these kind of parts.
Frank DeFelitta, who also happened to write the novel Audrey Rose, turned to directing for this 1981 horror fantasy. The film opens with an eerie credit roll set on a pastel-colored windmill backdrop, and this is when we first hear the film's unforgettabley chilling score. Twenty years after seeing this film for the first time, I can still play it over in my head. The film soon progresses to its undeniably clever storyline, which I won't bother describing in detail as that has been done for me by previous reviewers. The atmosphere of this film is almost unbearably suspenseful at times, and the fact that we never see even a far-off image of the murderous culprit during the film adds to the creepiness. Charles Durning gives one of his best performances as the selfish, provincial mailman who is stalked by a vengeful killer. This film is best viewed alone late at night!
First off I have to say this is one of the best scary movies ever made
for television, hands down. This movie truly scared me the first time I
saw it. In October of 1981 when this movie first aired I was staying
with some second cousins on there ranch and we all stayed up to watch
it. After it was over we watched the local news and went to bed, and
boy I hardly got a wink of sleep the entire night. I can remember
laying in the bed just staring around the room all thru the night
thinking of the ending to this movie. I just kept thinking that
scarecrow was coming into the room at any moment. Keep in mind that I
said early I was on a ranch were there might actually be a scarecrow.
This movie stayed with me for a long time and I only saw it once more in the early 90's and even then much older I still got the creeps from it. About 6 years ago I was going thru the TV guide and saw that it was going to be on TBS and I took the time to record it. This movie still gets me every time that I see it. There is a great mood that is set right from the start with the opening credits and the music that is playing, and that mood never goes away thru out the movie. It is so surprising that this was a made for television movie. The performances that the actors convey, especially Charles Durning and Larry Drake are great. I mean you truly hate Charles Durning character so much that you want him to die. It shows how great of an actor he is. I wont give away the ending but I just love it, there is a great justice and truth that the guilty parties didn't get away with murder.
This is one of my favorite television movies of all time simply because I will never forget that first time I saw it. I have grown to love horror movies over the years and wish I would have of watched more of them when I was a kid in the 70's. I've noticed that a lot of the television horror movies out of the 70's and early 80's have quite a following.
There are a couple of people who have left reviews who say this movie is terrible and I completely disagree with them. I guess it goes to show that not everyone will love the same movie you love.
It's strange this was a movie made for TV and it wasn't released in DVD
yet! It was extremely good! The story was original and touching, the
atmosphere throughout the movie was just perfect and don't let me tell
you about the acting: EVERYONE in this movie portrayed its role
exceptionally. I think the best were Bubba, his mother and the mailman,
but as I said, everyone even the kid was just perfect.
This movie had several and tremendous creepy moments! It's interesting to see those moments were not based in gore or special effects. Instead, they were based in suspense, atmosphere and acting. That makes this movie better than many others of its genre. And the ending? Well... I will just tell you it's one of the most chilling endings I have ever seen. It's VERY haunting. The first time I had seen this movie was 20 years ago and today I still remembered it!
Recommended 100% for all horror and suspense lovers. You won't be disappointed! If you see the VHS at your club or library go for it!
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is directed by Frank De Felitta and written
by J.D. Feigelson and Butler Handcock. It stars Charles Durning, Larry
Drake, Tonya Crowe, Jocelyn Brando, Lane Smith and Claude Earl Jones.
Music is by Glenn Paxton and cinematography by Vincent Martinelli.
Small town Americana and Bubba Ritter (Drake), a friendly but mentally challenged man, is falsely accused of attacking and severely injuring young Marylee Williams (Crowe). Four of the town residents, with hate and ignorance driving them on, hunt down Bubba and find him hiding as a scarecrow in a field. Murdering him, they claim self defence and walk free from court. It's not long afterwards, though, that the men start to see a scarecrow in their midst
Some things from movies just stay with you from when you were a wee youngster, I still remember the first time I heard the anguished cry of Bubba Ritter stating that he didn't do the crime he was being hunted for. Dark Night of the Scarecrow stood out by some considerable mile as one of the best TV horror movies I saw as a youth, not for things that I would later appreciate in film making as I got older, but just for sheer terror of a scarecrow stalking his prey for divine retribution. How wonderful to revisit the movie three decades later and find that it is still one of the best TV horror movies out there.
Oh it doesn't terrify now, though it still packs a sense of unease and keeps scarecrows firmly in the realm of creepyville, but it has a style so sorely lacking in many of today's horrors. There is no need to bludgeon us with slash and stalk, showing us gore front and centre, the makers here are subtle, refusing even to put the scarecrow in the limelight like Michael or Jason. There's a smart ambiguity about the supernatural elements, keeping the mystery element strong as the guilty men begin to crack and head towards their real judgement.
Simmering away nicely in the narrative is of course the vile stench of bigotry, and the pain inflicted by such narrow minds. There is also a dark thread left dangling that suggests one of the guilty men is impure of thoughts towards little Marylee, one of the very things he whipped up as reason to hound Bubba for. Some thought went into the screenplay, and it's credit to the writers that it never becomes a moral crusade, while the crafting of the lovely innocent friendship between Bubba and Marylee is beautifully born out by actors and technicians alike.
Durning and Drake dominate the movie with classy shows, impressive in Drake's case as he is only in it for a short amount of time, but the work of young Tonya Crowe puts her in the club that houses best child performances of the 80s. Her reactions to Bubba and Otis (Durning) naturally call for different human emotions, and she in turn nails the aspects of youthful innocence and mature awareness of who the monster actually is. The photography is textured, the music equally so, and there's even some shards of humour and irony along the way.
I can imagine many of today's horror fans going into Dark Night of the Scarecrow and being very disappointed not to get a Voorhees type movie, while some more sensitive viewers may find the portrayals of backwater folk as being ignorantly stereotyped by the makers. It isn't for every horror fan, without a doubt, and clearly it's not perfect, but to those who loved it back when it first showed, those who are jaded by how this type of sub-genre of horror has evolved into bloody overkill and remake/sequel hell, then Dark Night of the Scarecrow is in fact a minor classic. 8/10
"Dark Night of the Scarecrow" is an effective TV horror film. A Halloween viewing would be totally appropriate. Charles Durning plays a bigoted, evil character, who happens to be the local mailman. Obviously he loves his postal job, as he never seems to take off his uniform. Along with three local rednecks they set the story in motion by hunting and killing a mentally challenged man. After the lynch mob mentality has prevailed, they learn they have killed an innocent man, who happened to be hiding inside a scarecrow. The movie is extremely atmospheric, has good acting, and has become somewhat of a cult item. Recommended. - MERK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Made for television, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW originally aired in
October of 1981 and is a perfect supplement to the Halloween holidays.
It may sound like a cliché, but they just don't make them like this
anymore. Unlike the majority of children themed Halloween productions
airing today, this film is very serious and, in addition to playing it
straight, tackles some major subject matter such as small town
vigilantism and pedophilia.
Director De Filetta handles all of this by loading the film with incredible atmosphere. Preceding each act of revenge, the victim sees a sagging scarecrow on their property. The murders are shown with POVs and it is not until the final shot do we actually see the Scarecrow moving. This technique is helpful in maintaining the film's mystery. Is it really Bubba or someone enacting revenge on his behalf? De Filetta includes just a few shots of blood and instead allows the audience to mentally fill in the end result of a shovel to the head or an ill fall into a woodchipper.
The acting is good in all respects but the real star is Charles Durning as the sleazy and hypocritical mailman Otis P. Hazelrigg. During has such an affable face that it makes it all the more creepy when he is making subtle advances toward Marylee, Bubba's young friend. It should be noted that Durning, just a few years shy of 60 at the time of filming, does a lot of his own stunts and puts his all into the role. Fans of character actors will recognize Lane Smith and Claude Earl Jones (who starred in EVILSPEAK a few months later). Drake is only in the first 15 minutes or so but is sympathetic as mentally challenged Bubba, a performance that probably helped him land the role of Benny on L.A. LAW a few years later. Interestingly, Drake made his film debut, as a character named Bubba in H.G. Lewis' THAT STUFF'LL KILL YA! Scarecrows have been a horror staple for years since THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW and there has been a recent resurgence in scarecrow themed horror (the SCARECROW SLAYER series and JEEPERS CREEPERS). However, this film still remains the best of the bunch. Sadly, no DVD company has seen fit to release this classic (or a majority of 70s/80s television horror features).
Everybody seems to generally love this film and I am no exception. I have not viewed it since it aired in 1981 but, like everyone else who is leaving comments here, it creeped me out. It is a pretty heavy-handed movie for being made for television. The themes are intense, as is the violence, although I don't remember much gore. What does stick in my mind is the slow crawl camera shot when Bubba is hiding in the Scarecrow, up to the eye hole in the scarecrow. We see a single, trembling eye before Charles Durning and co take justice into their own hands. Very creepy! The other thing that I remember is Larry Drake's brief performance. He was so convincing as a semi-retarded man that it wasn't until I saw him in Darkman years later, that I discovered that he wasn't retarded. I had only seen him in this movie and on LA Law where he played mentally challenged characters. Great film. Hopefully, it will be released on DVD one of these days.
I was completely impressed with this early 80s TV movie. It features an outstanding script that echoes the later "Pumpkinhead" in its revenge/mysticism thematics. High production values, strong performances (especially by Charles Durning, who plays the creepiest postal worker you'll ever meet), subtle writing, and grisly (by TV standards) murders all give this pluses in my book. Plus it's got authentic location shooting and early 80s ambiance, and a murder scene that was ripped off four years later (in Witness.) Highly recommended and much better than I expected. 8/10. P.S. It's true, Durning never changes his clothes!
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