This made for television movie freaked me out when I was 12 years old. Halloween brings a lot of seasonal specials to life, and us Generation X kids had it made. Salem’s Lot, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Trilogy of Terror, all essential media for horror fans growing up in that era. Nostalgia is woven into the crux of my horror love, as it should be. If not for movies like Dark Night of the Scarecrow, my impressionable mind might have gone in a different direction, and who wants to imagine me as a sports fan? Seriously. No one.
Bubba (Larry Drake) is a kindhearted mentally challenged man who identifies more with the local kid than adults in his Podunk town. He’s friends with Marylee, a child who sees Bubba for the innocent he really is. When Marylee is attacked by a vicious dog, a group of hicks go vigilante on Bubba, thinking him a child killer. He hides by taking a scarecrow’s clothes and climbs up on the cross. The bloodthirsty posse finds him, and all four men open fire on the scarecrow. When I was a kid, Bubba’s wide, blue eyes staring from behind the scarecrow mask scared the shit out of me. These men shoot a terrified man with Down Syndrome as he helplessly clings to the scarecrow’s wooden cross. It’s remarkably messedup for a 12 year kid to watch, and on television no less. Thanks, CBS.
The gun smoke is still lingering when the posse receives word that Marylee is okay and Bubba saved her life. Otis (Charles Durning), Skeeter, Philby, and Harless are inevitably arrested and tried for Bubba’s murder. Thanks to some fancy lawyering, the group is acquitted, and they vow to never speak of that night again. Well, the ringleader, Otis, failed to remember the weird wind that whipped up immediately after Bubba’s death. If he had, they would know supernatural winds after a mentally challenged man’s murder is a totally bad omen. Soon, the men begin to drop one by one. Who’s killing the guilty? Is young Maryless articulate enough for calculated murder? Could Bubba’s elderly mom be behind it? Or is it possible that wind carried Bubba past the land of the dead and back to exact his revenge?
No one likes made for television movies, boo, I know. The genre has some solid flicks out there and this is one of them. Before tonight, October 24th, 1981 was my last viewing and I’m just as surprised as you. I remembered this movie creeped me out enough to make an impression, but it really is a solid TV movie. The acting is very good, and veteran character actor, Charles Durning, is eerily believable. The film is set near Halloween, expect to see lots of retro decorations, harvested cornfields, pumpkins, etc, all lending charm to the movie. Director, Frank De Felitta (The Entity) captures the soul of small town, America, skillfully weaving the movie together towards the rather intense climax.
This is the perfect Halloween marathon movie, but you don’t have to wait until October to enjoy it.