At first blush, following a prophecy seems like a pretty easy gig. The religious leader of your choice announces what’s going to happen and what you have to do to ensure it happens. Sure, it usually always ends up with you trying to score sexy virgins for your leader, bringing about the rapture by getting into a standoff with some obscure government agency or drinking weird tasting punch, but at least it’s all relatively straight forward.
In the small town of Hope though, the prophecy involves a preacher dead for 100 years coming back as a scarecrow and then being reborn in human form by forcing an outsider to have his not-so-immaculately conceived self somehow. It’s enough to give even the most brainwashed cult member pause.
But mindlessly belonging to a cult has its advantages, chief among them being a relentlessly can-do attitude even as they are no doubt searching their Bible study notes about scarecrows laying with harlots and wondering just how a stud made out of straw is going to fulfill his conjugal duties.
Not to mention how little sense it makes to even want to come back as a crappy human when you are already an invincible scarecrow that’s worshiped by your followers. Frankly, resuming human form can’t help but be a bit of a let down.
If it all sounds a bit “out there” as far as creepy small town schemes go, Hallowed Ground is one of those movies that has to constantly explain its concept because it is so confusing, and even after several separate tutoring sessions, I still didn’t know why hundreds of badly computer generated crows came out of the ground and killed all the townspeople.
Or why the townspeople suddenly decided that Liz was no longer the woman prophesied when they found out she wasn’t a virgin even though everyone swore up and down the whole movie that she was exactly what the preacher predicted right down to her tattoo. If he was wrong about her, the whole prophesy is false, right? Except for the freaking living scarecrow who is relaxing in a rocking chair on the front porch of the preacher’s old farmhouse!
Jonas Hathaway is the deranged preacher who is obsessed with keeping the crows from messing with his flock’s crops. After poisoning the birds doesn’t have the desired effect, he turns the crazy up to 11, crucifying people in the fields as human scarecrows, their anguished screams serving to scare off the crows.
After he has a vision that the rapture is coming and has everyone in town hide in an underground bunker, a little girl is sent topside to check on the status of Armageddon and instead of reporting back, she runs to the next town and rats Hathaway out. An angry mob is quickly formed and Hathaway is crucified himself and then burned alive.
Supposedly, Hathaway foresaw all this and then laid out the plan to resurrect him a century later. No reason is given why he is waiting that long or how he has the ability to do this, but incredibly the townspeople just hang in there for generations biding their time remembering all this, not moving away and not having anyone who has grown up watching movies about cults and killer scarecrows and questioning how goofy it all is. So when poor Liz has car trouble and is forced to stay overnight in the town, all these people one hundred years later can’t wait to bow down to their burlap boss and hook him up!
Liz meets up with a tabloid reporter at a diner and agrees to accompany her to the old Hathaway farm for a story on the area the reporter is doing. Once at the farm, they find the spot where Hathaway was killed (the hallowed ground of the title) and they construct a scarecrow so that the reporter can stage some photos for her tabloid. The scarecrow comes to life, kills the reporter, later kills a cop and pursues Liz all the way back to town. I really can’t believe that when Hathaway prophesied all this, someone didn’t just say, “dude you just prophesied a lame straight-to-video horror movie!”
Jaimie Alexander at least does a nice job of playing Liz as a combination of scared and tough, battling against the town without behaving stupidly as so many horror movies force their victims to do. The movie also delivers the killer scarecrow antics early on, but once the townspeople’s plot is revealed, the scarecrow doesn’t do much but let himself get burned up by a little girl that Liz has teamed up with.
The last half of the movie is just the cult members after Liz which is a lot less interesting. Things really lose steam when several religious nuts are dispatched when Liz is fighting the evil sheriff for his gun and he shoots wildly, killing several of his allies.
The film moves at a brisk pace, but eventually the convoluted premise wears out the viewer’s patience. At one point the sheriff is somehow possessed by the spirit of the preacher but wouldn’t his plan had been easier if he had possessed a human as soon as possible instead of scaring off Liz immediately by spending half the movie as a monster chasing her?
And if everyone had known for 100 years about this plan, how is it that they are so unprepared to put it into operation? And how is going over to the next town over and killing everyone a smart move? Won’t someone eventually notice and send reinforcements into the area? With all the trouble one woman and little girl are causing you, how problematic will it be once the state police or National Guard are sent to deal with your cult?
It says a lot about the scarecrow genre that Hallowed Ground is an average entry that leaves you feeling like only one of your eyes has been pecked out.
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