Have you ever been forced to watch The Breakfast Club by one of your hipster friends, suffering through all the whining those self-absorbed brats engage in, while you friend acts like it’s some great revelation about how hard it high school is and thought just how awesome it would be if all of them were viciously murdered by a giant tree?
I know! Who hasn’t wished for a scene where instead of Molly Ringwald arguing with Judd Nelson, both of their chests would be split wide open by really pointy limb? Or that Anthony Michael-Hall’s head would be crushed in a giant wooden claw hand? In short, Scarecrow, is the movie for folks whose favorite character in The Breakfast Club is Principal Vernon.
A group of disparate students are all serving Saturday detention together. Much like The Breakfast Club, these kids are all various flavors of teen angst. There’s the boy and girl who dress in black and pick on the nerd who draws. There’s the goodie two-shoes who is a rookie at Saturday detention. There’s another girl who has been passed around between a lot of relatives. And there’s a guy who is just regular guy. There may have been two of them, but they were so regular, I can’t remember.
Their detention mission is a simple one: load up onto the school bus, travel out to the old Miller farm, disassemble the scarecrow there and bring it back to town for the annual Scarecrow festival held before Halloween. Freaking milk run, right? What could possibly go wrong? It’s not like you need Delta Force to haul some ratty straw man off his post and dump it in the back of the bus, right?
But the teacher in charge of this field trip is Aaron and the mission is a lot more personal for him than he lets on. You know the old Miller farm? Same family as his old flame Kristen! She left for the big city, choosing her career over their love and it took him two years to recover! And now she shows up to help with the Scarecrow recovery effort!
But she didn’t come alone! She brought some back up in the form of Aaron’s ex-best friend Eddie! And you know they are exes because they were rivals for Kristen’s love! He’s there so the scarecrow can go in his pick up truck. (The idea that you need a literal bus load of people to deal with this scarecrow is probably the funniest thing in any scarecrow movie ever! One grade school kid with a broken arm could handle it. It’s not even the evil scarecrow that comes alive and kills everyone!)
The killer scarecrow is an entity imprisoned on the farm, buried in the barn. But as with all sorts of demonic mega monsters who have been kept in check for decades, all it takes is a couple of dopey teenagers to blunder by and set the damn thing loose. While expending herculean effort to defeat these horrible creatures, these old monster fighters from previous generations apparently never considered building in some sort of fail-safe to guard against high school kids wanting to get laid or drunk. Even some convenience stores play classical musical to drive off the punk kids. At last put up a sign saying “Yard Work Needed” to keep them out.
We learn two things about the scarecrow. One is that he is after the Miller family and will kill anyone who gets in the way. Kristen was asked why, but she didn’t know and it was never revealed why. I guess that was one of those details that was only provided to give the monster some reason for pursuing Kristen all over the countryside. Seems like a missed opportunity to give some depth to what was going on and give Kristen some type of character arc where she had to acknowledge some terrible act her family had been involved, atone for it and save the town and her friends. (Instead, she just kept evading the monster until everyone died but her. Whoops!)
The other thing is that the only way to defeat the scarecrow is to bury it. There weren’t any specifics provided about what exactly that meant. Did it have to be dumped in a hole and covered with stuff? Could you bury it in pillows? Lock it in a basement below ground? The movie seems to be okay with it being “buried” in a boat that blows up and sinks, but as flexible as it is, why couldn’t it have just skittered out through some crack as the explosions were going off?
The movie forces the monster to be at once always one step ahead of Kristen and completely incompetent at killing her. She spends the whole movie running away from the monster, but somehow the monster is already where’s she’s going, but then can’t actually finish her off. It gets so bad that by the end of the movie, Kristen is banging an axe on pipes to draw the monster to her and it still suddenly forgets how to be the ruthless killing machine its been for over an hour.
The cast is about what you expect from one of these SyFy TV movies, starring the girl who wasn’t Neve Campbell or Jennifer Love Hewitt on Party of Five, plus an assortment of co-stars who appeared to be plucked at random from the phone book of whatever Canadian location this was likely shot at. It doesn’t really matter since everyone is just tree food anyway and the best you can say is that while many of the characters are off-putting, at least they die in pretty short order.
If it feels like you’ve seen Scarecrow before, it’s probably because you also saw SyFy’s The Hollow which was made two years later and shared the same writers and director as this film. The movies are basically the same right down to the monster, except the monster in The Hollow gets a slight upgrade with an orange glow effect added to it.
While The Hollow‘s monster looks a little bit better (well, for unconvincing CGI that is), Scarecrow holds the rest of the advantages with more interesting locations (the climax is in a boat graveyard!) and main characters who aren’t nearly as annoying as the ones in The Hollow. Still, the sort of people who like paint-by-numbers monster movies that are marginally related to Halloween will no doubt want to see both and the other 99% of the population won’t want to see either.
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