Release Date(s)1988 (June 2, 2015)
Studio(s)MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Scarecrows is an obscure 1988 action/horror hybrid. The plot centers on a group of military personnel who decide to make off with their base’s payroll and hi-jack a cargo plane. One of the thieves decides to turn on the others, dumping the money and parachuting out of the plane. The group follows him down to an old farmhouse, whereby they come upon a field full of rotting scarecrows.
Despite a DVD release of the film from MGM, Scarecrows isn’t really a title that many horror fans bring up that often. When watching the movie, it’s easy to see why it slipped between the cracks so easily. The ridiculous amount of dialogue (which is ridiculous itself sometimes), as well as some slightly over-the-top performances make it a movie that’s prime for the trash heap. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it complete junk either. It’s certainly a movie that requires a bit of patience because of all of the aforementioned details, but for a horror fan, it’s got plenty to embrace. The scarecrows themselves are actually quite spooky, especially considering what they do with their victims, which is stuffing them full of straw and turning them into zombies (more or less). To say the least, the real star of the film are the make-up effects (courtesy of KNB alumni Norman Cabrera), which are quite gruesome, as well as effective.
There are also some good tongue-in-cheek moments thrown in, such as the female soldier who is always carrying around a pair of dice, and when she’s killed, her dice lands on snake eyes when it hits the ground. There’s also plenty of suspense that’s built up over the course of the movie. Shot by cinematographer Peter Deming (who also shot Evil Dead II, the Scream sequels, and Cabin in the Woods), and with an effectively creepy score by Terry Plumeri, it’s a movie that’s surprisingly successful with its plot at times. Shot with a small budget, director William Wesley managed to make a horror movie that uses what it has to the best of its abilities, and that’s all you can really ask for.
It should be noted that this release of the film features the unrated version and not the R-rated version as listed on the rear cover, which was also how it was presented on the original MGM DVD release (with that wonderfully corny tagline on the cover: “They only want a brain... yours”).
Scream Factory’s treatment of Scarecrows is to be commended. The presentation features a transfer that appears to have been sourced from an older HD master. Normally the company will advertise if a new master has been struck for the presentation at hand so chances are good that it was ported over to them. That being said, this is still a worthwhile presentation, and a definite upgrade. Grain is very apparent, spiking mostly during darker scenes, but detail is quite good. Colors aren’t particularly impressive, but skin tones fair quite well. Black levels aren’t quite so deep, and due to some minor crush, some shadow detail is lost. Contrast levels are consistent, however. Other than moments during the opening credits (of which they are no doubt modeled after The Exorcist), it’s a very clean presentation with no apparent digital tweaking. Videophiles might feel the need to nitpick the presentation to death, but considering the film’s low budget origins and overall execution, one has to realize that there’s only so much you can do with it. Still, this is a terrific high definition upgrade.
For the audio selection, you get two tracks: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. I actually prefer the 5.1 track over the 2.0, believe it or not. Anyone who reads my reviews knows that the closer to the original audio the soundtrack is, the happier I am. In this instance, however, I think there’s plenty of sound activity to warrant its inclusion. Dialogue is well-prioritized, and not always in the front channels. Sound effects, and especially the film’s score, are quite enveloping. Ambience, particularly the crickets chirping, manage to really widen the sound field. There’s also plenty of speaker to speaker activity to be had, offering some nice dynamic range. It’s an effective track overall, as it allows more room for the sound to breathe, as opposed to the 2.0 track. The latter is fine, but the 5.1 is better. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
There’s also a nice selection of supplements to check out as well. There are two audio commentaries, one with director William Wesley and producer Cami Winikoff, and the other with co-screenwriter Richard Jefferies, director of photography Peter Deming, and composer Terry Plumeri. There’s also an interview with special make-up effects creator Norman Cabrera entitled The Last Straw; an interview with actor Ted Vernon entitled Cornfield Commando; the film’s original storyboards; a still gallery; and the original theatrical trailer.
By and large, Scarecrows is likely to become one of those movies that gets a decent resurgence thanks to Scream Factory’s efforts in digging it up again. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s got enough good elements to it that will make many horror fans want a copy of it in their library, and for them, this Blu-ray should do little to disappoint.
- Tim Salmons