Scarecrow Slayer (2003)

Overcoming a positively putrid origin story in the rudimentary, frequently bordering on amateurish Scarecrow, our burlap and straw anti-hero roars back with a vengeance in his second outing solidifying himself as the premiere low budget somersault-loving farm monster. He’s so good at what he does, he manages to get one person killed, one person run over and yet another in the ICU – all before he even gets reanimated!

Fraternity prank gone horribly wrong! Is there anything we love hearing more than that? A bunch of drunken louts convincing other losers to do something so dangerously stupid it gets somebody killed and the next thing you know all these cretins are getting stalked because some dead freak wants revenge! What could possibly go wrong for the audience at home watching that? And it feels so much more realistic than then the silly “trailer trash loser gets murdered by his slutty mom’s boyfriend” plot of the the first movie in the series.

The fraternity initiation requirement is a pretty easy one as these sorts of things go. Two guys who want to join just have drive out to old man Caleb Kilgore’s farm and steal his lame scarecrow. What’s the biggest risk these two are facing with this wimpy prank? Some kind of itchy rash from the straw sticking out of Scarecrow’s head? I guess it’s risky – if you’re wearing short sleeves!

But Caleb Kilgore doesn’t have a bad ass biblical name because he’s just some run of the mill dairy farmer who hangs out at the feed store all day gossiping about pasture land and the price of soybean futures! When he was just a boy, he saw Scarecrow come alive and murder his dad! Somehow he captured Scarecrow and tied him up to his post so he wouldn’t get loose and kill more folks. And then he wrote a bunch of books about what an evil monster Scarecrow was! Hey, history is written by the winners, right? If Scarecrow doesn’t like the bad press, he needs to wake up, rampage through town and write his own history!

And that’s just what he does thanks to the combination of the fraternity geeks trespassing and Caleb’s pure insanity! Seeing the pranksters attempting to steal Scarecrow, Caleb jumps to the natural conclusion that the monster has gotten loose and so Caleb shoots him! (For a supposed expert on Scarecrow, that was a pretty stupid thing to do since people are always shooting Scarecrow and his general reaction is to just laugh it off.)

But proving once again that just because you write a bunch of undoubtedly self-published conspiracy fiction about killer scarecrows doesn’t make you an expert marksman, Caleb hits one of the pranksters and kills him! And if that wasn’t a big enough fudge up by Caleb, the spirit of the dead boy goes right up Scarecrow’s butt or wherever and it isn’t long before he’s up and around trying to kill everyone. Scarecrow brutally slaughters Caleb in the hospital later with his sickles, so at least it’s not like Caleb has to spend the rest of his life wracked with guilt.

The bulk of the story is Scarecrow going after a woman named Mary because the spirit of her dead boyfriend who is animating Scarecrow is obsessed with her. Mary seeks help from her ROTC ex-boyfriend and his friends. This provides Scarecrow a whole house full of morons to kill. It also gets him electrocuted to no lasting effect. Complicating things is the dead boyfriend’s best friend who is obsessed with hanging out with Scarecrow, to the point of making sure that Scarecrow gets his clutches on Mary. (How awesome is the scene where Scarecrow is riding in a car with the obsessed friend when they pick up the unsuspecting Mary?)

Scarecrow Slayer really could have been a run of the mill Asylum picture with subpar special effects, mostly competent performances and a story that at least moves along with enough happening so you weren’t bored and it would have been a timeless classic compared to Scarecrow. And it was pretty much all this. But damn if they didn’t go the extra mile to give Scarecrow the showcase he deserved! Having Candyman himself, the great Tony Todd, portray Caleb was instrumental in immediately winning over the audience. His half hour in the movie puts to shame every single second of all the unemployed degenerates masquerading as actors who stumbled in front of the camera in the first film.

Director David Michael Latt shoots a movie that at least resembles what you would expect a professional low budget horror movie to look like, not at all like the dismal-looking Scarecrow, whose director somehow against all odds and common sense still made one more feature film after that movie. Scarecrow Slayer even delivers an unexpectedly awesome finale as Scarecrow constructs a second scarecrow to have the soul of Mary to inhabit, a sort of barnyard Bride of Frankenstein!

But nobody’s perfect, not even Scarecrow, and he kills his obsessed best friend thus inadvertently sending his soul into the new scarecrow! And then just like when Godzilla fought Mechagodzilla, all of our wettest scarecrow dreams come true as we watch two scarecrows beat each other with poles and do spinning kicks to the head with the loser being sent straight into a wood chipper! And the winner? Mary uses a bazooka on him! Thank you Asylum for fulfilling the promise of the coolest movie scarecrow since the The Wizard of Oz! I’ll admit to being nervous about whether the third and final chapter in the Scarecrow saga can live up to this one, but with a title of Scarecrow Gone Wild, I am willing to give it every benefit of the doubt!

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