Psycho Scarecrow (1996)

It’s true that after Floyd is inadvertently killed by one of his friends that he somehow returns dressed as a scarecrow and murders the lot of them with an axe, but it seems a bit harsh to label him as a “psycho” for doing what vengeance-seeking scarecrows have done in any number of other films.

Does anyone really think that he’s any more or less crazy than the resurrected preacher trying to mate with Jaimie Alexander in Hallowed Ground? Or the kid who murders Ken Shamrock after somehow being possessed by the spirit of a scarecrow he himself had earlier possessed in Scarecrow Gone Wild? When stacked up against those farm freak shows, a few axe murders seem relatively prosaic!

That’s not say that fans of psychos are going to be disappointed that Psycho Scarecrow’s antics are simply the routine actions of any run of the mill killer scarecrow. Other characters step up to the plate including Floyd’s friends after discovering he’s been killed.

Eric, who accidentally killed him during a fight doesn’t want to tell the cops because he has a record. Understandable sure, but the plan to not only hide the body by dressing it up like a scarecrow, but to slap a pumpkin over Floyd’s head? Dr. Frankenstein couldn’t have done a better job creating a monster if he tried! And his pal Spider doesn’t think it’s a bad idea because Floyd was an orphan, so whose going to notice he’s missing?

While a case could be made that Eric’s actions are simply the result of self-interested expedience adorned with unnecessary flourishes, the police investigating one of the friend’s (Shelia) apparent suicide are frankly the most cringeworthy characters in a movie that ends with Psycho Scarecrow for some unexplained reason astride a motorcycle in all his goofy pumpkin-headed glory.

Detectives Hammond and Jones serve as the (terrible) vehicle by which the story is told as they play a tape recording that Shelia made before plunging to her death from her high rise apartment. As a framing device it adds nothing to the story except many painful minutes and the voiceover by Shelia telling us how spooky the cornfield is, how they should have listened to the warnings and how badly they treated Floyd is lazy storytelling at its best. It doesn’t even work as a straight flashback device because it’s full of moments and that Shelia couldn’t have possibly known about.

But a movie like Psycho Scarecrow isn’t about to be content being routinely awful. For reasons that only the multiple (really?) writers only know, they had the cops spend most of their screen time straining to be hard boiled and world weary with hilarious results. Jones refers to Shelia as his “fallen angel” and complains about how horrible the city is that could do this a beautiful girl like this. Hammond rightfully makes fun of him for this, but then moans about how he is so overworked that on one assignment where another cop who was supposed to take over for him never showed up, he was forced to shit his pants! Dude just because the next shift didn’t relieve you doesn’t mean you are supposed to relieve all over yourself!

Jones and Hammond bicker about whether Shelia’s death was really a suicide and whether to keep playing the tape with Hammond not believing a word of it, but humoring Jones anyway. Despite his embarrassing inability to control his bowels, Hammond earns the viewer’s everlasting gratitude when he agrees to listen to the end of the tape but says he’s not going to listen to everything before and fast forwards things near the end of the film.

The scarecrow rampage part of things is about as barebones as it gets. A group of friends spend the weekend at an old farmhouse in an area where “refugees” from the Salem witch trials settled and this somehow explains that when the dead Floyd bleeds out on a scarecrow, it causes not the scarecrow to come alive and kill everyone but reanimates Floyd to do so, with the pumpkin now serving as his head, complete with face and glowing eyes! Floyd even tracks the survivors back to the city, which makes Shelia’s decision to stay in her apartment about as bad as Hammond’s decision not to wear Pampers to work.

Psycho Scarecrow shows every bit its minuscule budgeted Canadian origins every chance it gets from the grating Canadian accents to the mullets that several homely actors and insist on sporting. The performances are uniformly amateurish with even the monster failing to rise above laughable, the way he runs awkwardly around with his axe and pumpkin mask doing little to frighten. (For the right way to handle a pumpkin head on a killer, see Jack-O, which was also awful but at least when its monster stood around, it didn’t look like a dork in a cheap mask.)

The film is pretty thorough in failing as it’s evident that little thought was put into the story beyond cramming in as much atrocious cop noir dialogue as possible. The group panics once Floyd starts killing them and races through the cornfield to where Eric left the car where it broke down earlier and then Eric acts shocked when the car won’t start and has to race back through the cornfield to the farm to find a battery. There’s a scene of Eric singing a song at a campfire that only serves to show he’s as bad a singer as he is an actor. While being pursued by Floyd, Eric and Shelia steal and truck and then laugh and wave at the truck’s owner apparently enjoying themselves despite their circumstances.

The film’s score also stands out as one of the most inept aspects of the movie, a seemingly random collection of music pieces that almost never matches the tone of the action on the screen. Even the kills feel like they were staged almost as afterthought, a few axe whacks here and there, the payoff for putting up with all this. And for a film with both such limited resources and talent, the decision to try to dramatize a house exploding and setting Floyd on fire really has to be questioned.

Psycho Scarecrow is one of those movies that sounds awesome when you tell your friends you saw it, but after the title, everything that follows makes you question why you should ever bother with no name, no budget, no talent horror movies.

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