Most Syfy original movies are as high-concept as you can get — they give you pretty much what you’d expect from a to-the-point moniker. Rather than strictly falling into the campy, so-bad-it’s-good phenomenon of Sharknado, Syfy’s latest, Scarecrow, admirably takes itself seriously without lobbing too much exposition at us, but it’s never scary or cheesy enough, even by schlock standards.
Unless you’re not well-versed in the horror genre, an opening with two heterosexual teens rolling in the hay probably won’t end well. As we come to find out, the victims were there early for an all-day detention on an isolated farm. Teacher Aaron (Robin Dunne, Syfy’s Sanctuary series) — he goes by Mr. H — is taking six high school students on a bus. Their punishment for a mean prank is to dismantle the scarecrows in the corn field for their town’s Annual Scarecrow Festival. Of the kids, there is trouble-making couple Tyler (Richard Harmon) and Nicki (Julia Maxwell), the innocent Maria (Nicole Muñoz), introverted sketch artist Calvin (Iain Belcher), the selfish Beth (Brittney Wilson), and nice guy Daevon (Reilly Dolman). Assisting them all is Kristen Miller (Lacey Chabert, TV’s Party of Five and Baby Daddy), Aaron’s ex-girlfriend who’s back from the city to sell her family’s farm, as well as truck driver Eddie (Carlo Marks), who happens to be Aaron’s ex-friend and Kristen’s ex-boyfriend. Urban legend has it that “the scarecrow lives to kill us all, keep it buried in the fall,” and sure enough, once something starts dragging a few of them through the cornfields, they hole up in the decrepit farmhouse and try to survive.
Working from a no-nonsense screenplay by Rick Suvalle, director Sheldon Wilson (Cold Spring, Mega Cyclone) keeps the 86-minute feature moving at a rapid clip before it runs out of steam about a half hour too early. As hokey as the premise of the titular scarecrow doing all the slashing might sound, Scarecrow shows its hand early without actually showing the monster too early. Once it does, the CG creation ranges from competent-for-the-network to schlocky. Only does the scarecrow actually appear creepy once in the shadows from a distance in broad daylight, not unlike the specter in Mama. On the acting front, Dunn and Chabert bring as much class and conviction as anyone could. The remaining teenagers aren’t bad, either, before becoming stock fodder for the scarecrow.
As cheap and shopworn as jump scares can be, Scarecrow could have used more. Kills are generic, save for one in which the scarecrow enters a crotchety shut-in’s body, and the one opportunity involving a farm thresher pulls back on the goods for its made-for-TV restrictions. This being a horror pic, characters do make silly decisions (i.e. someone tries to take charge by throwing a fiery bottle at the scarecrow onto a truck, their only escape), and there are instances of distractingly sloppy writing (Calvin puts together a drawing of the scarecrow from everyone’s descriptions, but did anyone actually see it? If they saw it, they wouldn’t be unsure of it being a scarecrow).
Audio & Video
Audio is loud and clear, dialogue coming out coherently and Matthew Rogers’ music score pounding with menace. The colors are natural and scenes set at night never look too dim.
The DVD release is strictly bare-bones, containing not a single extra.
On the grounds of a no-frills slasher flick, you could do better than Scarecrow, but you could also do a whole lot worse. It’s at least worth a watch on a lazy Sunday night.
DVD available February 25th from Cinedigm