86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2006
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
So who says you need a huge budget, a lot of computer generated special effects, and super big names to make an excellent horror film?
I saw this originally back when it first aired on TV and have never forgotten it. The screenplay is superb; I believe even Stephen King could not have done any better. One is kept wondering throughout the film if a vengeful human--District Attorney, Bubba's mother, the little girl--might be exacting the justice that was denied in the courtroom. The ending shot is almost poetic in both its simplicity and what it confides to us. The director halts the film at that touching, if horrific moment, while the little girl's voice continues speaking to the Scarecrow as the credits roll. It doesn't get any better then this.
I have always found scarecrows to be unsettling at the least and a frightening parody of man at best. Curiously, its origins actually stem back into ancient pagan religions. Scarecrows actually do not scare crows, or other birds for that matter, due to the fact that they never move (except in the movies) and the animals become used to their presence. In reality, they represent the ancient God of Fertility, and were put in fields as a supplication to this god for a bountiful harvest. Few people today realize that when they put up this effigy, they are really worshiping an ancient deity. Which, in my opinion, fits in nicely with the theme of supernatural revenge in this movie.
There is also an unsettling thread throughout this movie and others like it (Dark Secret of Harvest Home comes to mind) of just what might be occurring in these small and isolated communities. Seemingly almost out of touch with the modern world, Dark Night of the Scarecrow reminds us that anything is possible within an insular town, even murder and revenge.
This is a classic that needs to be digitally re-mastered onto DVD, if someone hasn't thought of it already. It is a refreshing change from the big blockbusters of today, and shows that imagination coupled with an outwardly innocent setting can produce a tale of pure horror. Horror, yes, but with an ending that is curiously satisfying. I could not think of a better way to end this grim little fairy tale from the depths of darkness.
62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I can't believe this gem of horror is finally being released on DVD. I'm glad VCI Entertainment stepped up to the plate on this one, just like they did when they released Gargoyles, which is another made-for-tv classic. Dark Night of the Scarecrow has everything going for it and then some. It's got actors who know how to act, spooky atmosphere, decent script, great kill scenes, and of course, a healthy dose of the supernatural.
I must've been around ten or eleven when I first watched this movie with my mom. We both loved it, especially Charles Durning's role as the town's mail carrier. The expressions on that guy's face are incredible. His performance alone really draws a person in. And Jocelyn Brando's performance as the mother is also amazing.
I hope that VCI does a great job on the transfer. I hope it's progressively scanned with a high bitrate without any noise reduction filters or edge enhancements. Also, I'd love to see blacks as deep as possible and colors spot on. Are you hearing me VCI?
Don't rent this baby, just go and buy it and keep it in your collection!
UPDATE: The quality of the picture is very good. I'm sure it'll look even better on Blu-ray.
50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Excellent movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I first saw it in 1981 and I still find it one of the best horror movies I've ever seen. The fact that you don't have to endure the usual bloody mess makes it easy to watch time and time again.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2010
The seminal scarecrow classic makes its long-awaited DVD debut with a beautifully remastered transfer care of VCI Entertainment! Originally premiering on CBS as a made-for-TV movie, this brilliantly-crafted revenge film shares as much in common with Hitchcockian suspense thrillers as it does with the early 80's Slashers of its time, minus the gratuitous gore. DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW finds the simpleminded Bubba on the run from an unruly mob after he is falsely accused of killing a young girl. The four vigilantes find Bubba hiding in an empty field dressed as a scarecrow, and ruthlessly murder him before finding out that he was innocent of the crime. Now, Bubba has come back for revenge, donning the burlap mask and pitchfork that he was left to die in! Film legends Charles Durning and Lane Smith headline as the town baddies in two of their most admirable performances. Unlike FRIDAY THE 13th or MY BLOODY VALENTINE of the same year, DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW provides all of the same gruesome murders and without spilling even a single drop of blood, tastefully cutting away from the actual event while implying the worst. Director Frank de Filetta delivers a steady stream of chilling suspense, teasing the audience with scarecrow calling cards that are left in distant fields to intimidate Bubba's killers while foreshadowing who will be the next to die. The most terrifying moment comes in the film's thrilling climax, where Bubba stalks his final victim through a foggy pumpkin patch on Halloween night. DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW is not only an excellent Slasher movie, but also one of the strongest made-for-TV Horror films of all-time, and VCI has gone to great lengths to provide the definitive release that fans have been demanding for decades!
I Like Horror Movies
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2010
I received this the other day & watched it immediately. The VCI DVD is crisp and clear & looks great. The film is one of the best "made for TV" horror flicks ever made. If for some reason you don't know the story, a bunch of redneck vigilantes in a small farming community kill mentally-handicapped Bubba (Larry Drake) for allegedly killing a young girl, although after they've killed him, they find out the girl is OK, and that Bubba actually saved her from an attack by a vicious dog. The men are tried but found not guilty, and this being a horror movie, you know that they don't get off that easily. Charles Durning is excellent as the despicable Otis Hazelrigg, mailman, instigator, and with a few things of his own to hide (including the implication that perhaps HE has issues with young girls). This film is proof that a horror film can be effective without excessive gore and some of the other elements that seem to be standard in horror flicks today. Well worth seeing and owning.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I recently sat down and watched Dark Night of the Scarecrow for the first time in close to 30 years. I was not disappointed. This is one of the few films of its type that manages to transcend its made-for-TV roots, and can stand on its own as a highly competent shocker. Fans of gore and mindless mayhem should probably pass this one by, as DNOTS derives its scares more from its early frightening scenes of blind persecution, to its later images of forboding, dread of the seemingly inevitable, and culminating in sheer stark terror. The setting and atmosphere of the film is near perfect, and the acting, directing, and photography are all top notch.
Perhaps my only disappointment with this film - and it is only a minor disappointment - is that most of the "kills" are very predictable - that is, they set up the premise as well as the scenario for each individual's demise early on, and more or less never deviate from that pattern. You basically know exactly how each character is going to meet his end way before it actually happens. This is not due to my having seen the film nearly three decades ago, as I remember very little about it from back then. Perhaps I'm simply too jaded from having watched countless other horror movies during the intervening years. But the writer and director should be commended for taking the high road with these scenes by keeping most of the actual deaths off-camera (though I'm sure the constraints of early '80's television had a great deal to do with that), relying on the concept of what you don't see can often be the most frightening.
All in all, if you're looking for a good scary film you can watch on your own, or even as a family, Dark Night of the Scarecrow should fit the bill. It's not fun, it's not campy - in fact, it's rather unsettling, and you may find yourself trying to explain to your kids what is perhaps the most frightening element of the film - the blind bigoted hatred spawned by ignorance displayed near the beginning that sets up the circumstances for everything that follows. Sometimes it's hard to believe there are people out there like that, though of course there are many. Probably a lot more now than there were in the early '80s.
Now that's REALLY scary...
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2010
Finally, at long last this great cult classic has been re-released, this time on DVD. For decades, the movie was virtually impossible for fans and collectors to obtain except either as a rental tape or very rarely for purchase as a beat-up, ex-rental VHS tape (which typically sold for an exorbitant price if it could be found in that format at all). After languishing in movie distribution red tape literally for decades, it was finally slated for release on DVD in the fall of 2009 by Image Entertainment. Unfortunately, that release was scratched at the last minute because of some additional legal or distribution snafu.
Now, after the 2009 false start it's finally here for real, released in September, 2010 just in time for Halloween (this time by VCI Entertainment) and in a great new, spiffy-looking restoration on DVD. Originally released as a CBS made-for-TV movie in 1981, this movie is one of two which I consider to be quintessential Halloween movies (the other is the great 1978 movie, "Halloween" by John Carpenter, which I think is in a class by itself and is probably now considered one of the top horror movies ever made).
"Dark Night of the Scarecrow" may not be quite up to the exceptional quality of "Halloween" but it doesn't miss it by all that much. While it wasn't written by Stephen King, it reminds me of some of his best works, such as "Christine" and "Salem's Lot" in form, style, plot and overall quality (but with less gore). Also, it has the look and feel of a story set in New England (where some of King's most spooky stories take place), even though it is actually set in the California country side, just north of Los Angeles. While the movie is great viewing at any time during the year, its spooky atmosphere (which is high on terror but mercifully light on gore) and harvest time theme make it perfect for viewing on or near Halloween.
I will leave the plot details to others. I find that too many plot details ahead of time tend to spoil the viewing pleasure of many movies for me and I am sure that many others feel the same. There are plot synopses available elsewhere on Amazon and also on movie sites for those who are interested. Suffice it for me to say that it is a story of intolerance, hate, stupidity and most of all, terror. The story gives new meaning to the term "payback is a bummer (insert your own word here)" and the fun is in watching it unfold.
The acting is great throughout. Larry Drake turns in a superb performance as a handicapped adult with the emotional age of about 8-9 yrs. It reminded me of Cliff Robertson's Oscar winning performance as a mentally retarded man in the movie "Charly". The veteran character actor Charles Durning is deliciously odious as the movie's villain, one who oozes detestability from every pore and earns the viewer's complete contempt.
The DVD itself contains a number of extras including optional commentary by the writer, J.D. Feigelson and the director, Frank De Felitta, either optional 5.1 surround sound or regular stereo sound, and optionally both Spanish and English subtitles. As I mentioned before, the print has been fully restored and looks absolutely terrific on DVD. It looks crisp and bright and I didn't find it lacking in any respect at all. Since the movie was originally made for TV, there is no widescreen version. It is of course only available in full screen.
Finally, those who appreciate fine movies owe their everlasting gratitude to those who labor to make hard to find movies such as this one available to the public. They make it a cause to restore and/or re-release these hidden gems which for one reason or another either never before made it to home video at all or were available at one time but were withdrawn because of distribution right problems. More and more of them are finally starting to make it to DVD as this welcome and overdue release proves. "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" is a terrific bargain, especially at current prices. Since one never knows how long any specific movie will remain in print and available these days (particularly ones such as this one with its history of extensive legal wrangling), grab it while you can.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
So it finally comes out! Man, I hadn't seen this one since I was a kid! Go figure, it's actually a good film, therefore it never plays on television anymore. After all we gotta make room for Hardcore Pawn and Steven Seagal:Lawman, right?
Yes, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a made for television movie, therefore it's absent of any nudity, gore or foul language, and guess what? It's not needed. Oh, we hardcore horror fans love those things, but we also love a good story and have respect for any good horror film regardless of what year it was made, the rating it got, or the format for which it was made.
Dark Night stars Charles Durning as the local postmaster, who has some serious issues with the "village idiot", Bubba(played by Dr. Giggles himself, Larry Drake) hanging out with the local children. When Bubba's best friend, young Marylee, is attacked by a vicious dog, everyone naturally blames Bubba. In true postmaster tradition, Durning gets three goons together for an ol' fashioned lynching. Bubba hides out inside the body of a scarecrow, but is found and the lynchers shoot him dead on the spot. The law proves useless and Durning and his goons get off without so much as a slap on the wrist. The D.A. swears justice will be done, but it's not to be, so now it's time to go into full on Bronson mode.
Each of the men involved in the lynching end up dying in a series of "accidents", each proceeded by the appearance of the scarecrow hanging in their field. Durning snoops around trying to find the culprit coz he doesn't believe in supernatural mumbo jumbo. He suspects the D.A. and even Bubba's mother, and drives himself nearly mad trying to figure it all out. Things come to a head when he tries to get the truth from little Marylee, who keeps claiming that Bubba is back and talking to her. Is Bubba really back from the grave? I'm sure as hell not gonna tell you, so you'd better check it out for yourself.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a very well written, creepy and fun little horror flick. It's not gonna scare the crap out of you as reviews tend to say(then again, what really does scare us anymore?), but the film has some great chilling atmosphere and a few suspenseful scenes. Modern film makers should take a lesson or two instead of bombarding us with torture and gore. This film definitely falls into the "they don't make em like this anymore" category. And it's certainly okay for youngsters as well.
Not much here other than a commentary, but the restoration job is great.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting screenwriter J.D. Feigelson(yeah, I'm bragging), and he remains quite proud of this film. He should.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2010
Format: VHS Tape
I first watched this movie with my grandmother when it first aired on tv back in 1981 and I was only a little boy. Now, I am an adult and I still feel this is probably THE BEST made for tv horror film- no doubt about it. It made such an impact on me when I was little,that even when I watch it now, the ending still gives me chills. It is THE BEST looking scarecrow in any movie I have ever seen to this day. I watch a lot of scary movies and some are just plain garbage and there are so many remakes of average movies now and they seem to never hit it right on the money. Why no one has ever thought to remake this is a good question? Now look, I am not saying this is an academy award winner or anything,BUT,for the time this came out and for a made for tv movie, come on man, it is great. It hits all the bases-good story, good plot,great characters,very suspenseful,AWESOME SCARECROW(the potato sack head is creepy as hell),always keeps you guessing with a Who done it up to the end, and the end will give you chills and make you think a little. Do yourslf a favor and watch this film. No need to worry about gore or blood or anything because it is not there,but very creepy and the music will keep you on the edge of your seat. If they ever do remake this movie for the big screen and add all the blood and gore it could make it even better if they keep the core of the movie the same. You can glam it up with Hollywood, but keep that scarecrow the same, he is creepy.If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Some things are just done right the 1st time. I really hope they remake this film one day so that more people would get the chance to see it because it never really got a lot of hype. This is a film I know you will enjoy and it always reminds me of my grandmother, who is now deceased. I recently bought a copy of this film on DVD and it still brings back memories when and where I watched it. This is a must see, so check it out and remember,"Bubba didn't do it"....or did he? Excellent made for tv movie.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Bubba is a mentally handicapped adult who hangs around with a very young girl much to the disdain of the local mailman who is always talking about taking matters into his own hands with his backward redneck friends. When Bubba turns up on the girl's mothers doorstep with the youngster covered in blood, the mailman gathers his friends together for a lynching mob and they murder him in a scene involving a scarecrow. Later they learn that Bubba was innocent and are prosecuted for the slaying but manage to get themselves acquitted.
Then a strange scarecrow turns up in their field and slowly, one by one, they meet some form of a very nasty demise.
This film is a Whodunnit' and nearly everyone in town is suspect of murdering the men who go to all sorts of trouble to figure out who is trying to kill them. The whole film from start to finish is a very interesting murder mystery with its fair share of horror; however forget about the twist ending that some of you may have heard about. There is no real twist ending, it just sort of works out in a very eerie way that looks good, but do not expect much brain work involved. To tell the truth the ending may be a little disappointing for some but the whole film itself is done very well for a TV movie and that is why it earns five stars. This is far from a perfect movie but for the horror genre is leaps and bounds ahead of most. Well worth watching and very creepy.