We here at Absolute Horror are used to plots that are essentially incomprehensible. But rarely are they literally incomprehensible, as was the case with SCARECROWS. Which isn’t to say it’s all bad, just that there were many moments I quite literally had no idea what was happening. Moreover, there were plenty of times I would hear dialogue and not know who was speaking it. It was like watching a Terrence Mallick film gone horribly, horribly wrong. Yet, despite it all, this low, low-budget scare flick actually manages to deliver some thrills.
I could spend a lot of time explaining the plot, but given its title you can bet that scarecrows will be a big factor. In a nutshell, a group of military bank-robbers kidnap a father-and-daughter pair of pilots and fly off in an attempt to escape to Mexico. After an internal struggle between the bad guys for the stash of cash they have, one parachutes out into the field below, forcing the others to land and track him down. In these early scenes, don’t feel bad if you have no clue what’s happening. The entire film is set at night, so it’s often tough to see. Making matters worse, all the bandits wear headsets to communicate with one another, so voices are heard speaking through the sets, you’re just often not sure who is saying what.
Soon enough, the gang and their captives are holed up in an abandoned farmhouse, and one-by-one get picked off by…wait for it…zombie scarecrows. Better yet, the scarecrows somehow have the power to turn their victims into the living dead as well, so those who are killed come back to haunt the living too. Why? Who knows?
The movie never bothers to explain anything. Why would these zombies hang out quietly in a field doubling as scarecrows anyway? Why not make it to town and get some killin’ where the killin’s good? I don’t know, and neither will you. A theory is bandied about for ten seconds that those who used to live in the farmhouse were in league with the devil, but that’s dropped pretty quickly, so you’ll just have to make up your own explanations here.
Much of this movie frustrated me – particularly the acting and dialogue. These are some seriously low-budget actors (led by Miami’s own Ted “Wolfman” Vernon) and they’re often given lines that double as clunky attempts at humor. But why worry too much? Just about all of the characters will get taken down by zombie scarecrows anyhow. Still, against all odds, there were some genuinely creepy moments. Maybe it’s that the film is set against the quiet of night, maybe it’s that there’s no explanation, maybe it’s just seeing these damn scarecrows sit quietly then suddenly catching a glimpse of them as zombie. Whatever it is, there are moments that work in this movie.
Clearly, the director William Wesley knows how to operate a camera and create a good mood for some killing. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to work with actors or how to improve a pretty bad script. The end result is a very mixed bag. Still, we watch these things for the killing, and this movie has some decent ones, so I have to err on the side of recommending it - especially for the appearance of the zombie with the big mouth (I know it sounds weird, but you’ll know what I mean when you see it). It’s a pretty jarring effect. SCARECROWS isn’t much, but it has its moments.
RATING: ** and a half (out of four)