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Old 10-05-2007, 06:33 AM
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Default Scarecrows



Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: October 5, 2007

Released by: MGM
Release date: 9/11/2007
MSRP: $14.95
NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



Horror fans have long clamored for Scarecrows to be released onto DVD. Long out of print on VHS, fans had to rely on bootleg copies in order to add Scarecrows to their collections. Now, finally, thanks to the folks at MGM, Scarecrows is available for the first time on DVD, widescreen and unrated. Was it worth the wait? Lets take a look and find out.

The Story

inline Image A group of commandos - Roxanne (Kristina Sanborn), Bert (B.J. Turner), Curry (Michael David Simms), Jack (Richard Vidan), and Corbin (Ted Vernon) - have held up the payroll office at a military base. They stole over $3 million in cash and, after a brief shootout with the military, escape by airplane at a nearby airfield. With the pilot, Al (David James Campbell), and his daughter Kellie (Victoria Christian) as hostage, they seem to be in the clear as they head towards Mexico. Things take a change for the unexpected when Bert dumps the trunk of money out of the plane and parachutes out behind it.

inline Image Bert lands in a cornfield full of life-like scarecrows. Curry, Jack, and Corbin parachute out after Bert while Roxanne, the group's leader, stays in the plane. After circling the field a few times trying to locate Bert, Roxanne forces Al to land in an open stretch of field. She leaves to help in the search, taking Kellie as insurance to prevent Al from taking off or contacting authorities. Roxanne and Kellie wait at a nearby abandoned farmhouse while the others continue searching. The search comes to an abrupt end when Bert shows up at the farmhouse, dazed and confused. Corbin tries roughing Bert up to find out where the money is, but it's of no use. Bert's not talking and he's in a state of shock. When Curry tries to search him, he makes a gruesome discovery. Bert has been gutted alive and stuffed with cash; he's a living corpse.

inline Image Once Bert is subdued, Roxanne decides that Bert ate the money in an attempt to hide it. Jack soon discovers money littered about the field and they all go out to begin collecting it. With the trap set, the scarecrows begin coming to life and picking off the commandos, cutting off various body parts to be used on unfinished scarecrows. With the body count rising, the remainder of the group must try and make it back to the plane before they too become recycled body parts.

inline Image I don't think I have ever been so torn on a review as I have been with Scarecrows. The fundamental question to be answered by any review is: Is it good or is it bad? I'm still not sure of the answer. It's a simple, short tale involving greed and man's inability to turn down riches even in the face of immediate danger. The scarecrows themselves have no backstory in regards to how they manage to come to life, which I appreciate. I rather that than some convoluted reason. The costume and makeup design on the scarecrows in simple yet effective. They are genuinely frightening, not only in their look and design, but in their eerie silence and uncanny patience. The acting in Scarecrows will win no awards, but I've seen a lot worse. There's no character development and little reason to care about this band of commandos, or even Al and his daughter. Ultimately that works, though, since we are given no real reason to care. The scarecrows do not discriminate against good or bad. They want people for parts, plain and simple.

inline Image For all the simple, effective qualities that Scarecrows has, I couldn't get past one thing: It's too damn long. At a scant 83 minutes, one would think just the opposite. The simple story and the 83 minute runtime just don't work well together. We are given extended sequences of the commandos taunting Bert over the radio while hunting him, and seemingly endless scenes of someone (pick someone, because they all end up doing it) wandering around a cornfield looking for a person or cash. Once an action scene of some sort takes place, rinse and repeat for some more wandering back and fourth. I'm all for a slow buildup of atmosphere and tension, and limiting exposure to create fear, but there just isn't enough payoff. Once the thrills start up again, the buildup has long since faded. There aren't a lot of gore shots, but there are some rewarding ones on this unrated cut, which helps make the painful wait between action a bit more bearable.

There's a lot to like about Scarecrows; I can see why so many love the movie. While I agree it's good, I can't say it's great. I think I struggled coming to that conclusion because it's easy to see that it could have been great. As a Tales From the Crypt episode, this would have been one of the best. But as a feature length movie, Scarecrows remains only slightly above average.

Image Quality

inline Image Easily the best presentation of Scarecrows available, the DVD sports an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The image overall is sharp, with only a few scenes appearing a bit on the soft side. Blacks are solid, which is perhaps more important here considering the entire movie takes place at night. The downfall to this transfer is the grain, which varies scene by scene. Some scenes have light grain, others with moderate, others with extreme, and some with no grain at all. The good news is that overall the grain stays on the light side, but it can get distracting at times. I saw no evidence of print damage, which was impressive for such an obscure movie. A good transfer overall; I'm rating it with a B.

Sound

Included on the DVD is a Dolby Surround track, along with Spanish Stereo and French Surround tracks. The English Dolby Surround is crisp and clear with no distortion heard. There is little use of surrounds or channel separation, but in defense of the track there isn't much need in a movie like this. The track does sound fine, though. I'm rating it with a B+.

Supplemental Material

There are no supplements included. Director William Wesley has a small resume with only two directing gigs after Scarecrows. It sure would have been nice to hear his commentary on the movie.

Final Thoughts

Scarecrows has all the potential to be a great horror movie but is marred by its own running time. It's still worth a watch, and this DVD is certainly the way to do it. MGM has once again put some bootleggers out of business, providing an above average transfer and soundtrack for us to enjoy on Scarecrows first ever DVD release. Some supplements would have been nice, but with the $14.95 pricetag and the obscure status of the movie, I can understand why the initial release is barebones. Hopefully some solid sales will get them to take another look in the future.

Rating

Movie - B-
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - N/A

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 23 minutes
  • Unrated
  • English Dolby Surround
  • English Spanish Stereo
  • French Dolby Surround
  • English and Spanish subtitles

 

 

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Old 10-12-2007, 08:00 AM
It's beer time.
Good review. I saw this on cable about a year ago and was excited after hearing so much about it, but I have to say my reaction was one of "Is that all?" It's an okay movie, but I have to guess the reason people have been so nuts for it over the years is because it was hard to find.
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Old 06-22-2009, 04:13 AM
Awesome Review for a excellent direct-to-video classic. This is from the era when DTV didn't mean it was horse-shit, much like the DTV films of today. (althought has slightly improved)

I grabbed this and The burning last year when they were just out, that was a good weekend.
 
 

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