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Case Number 22643: Small Claims Court

Buy The Midnight Horror Collection: Deadly Harvest at Amazon

The Midnight Horror Collection: Deadly Harvest

2002 // 82 Minutes // Rated R
Scarecrow Gone Wild
2004 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Scarecrow Slayer
2004 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Released by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 31st, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan finds that two out of three are bad. Very bad.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Scarecrow (1973) (published July 25th, 2005) and Scarecrow (2013) (published February 21st, 2014) are also available.

The Charge

He's the death of the party.

The Case

Scarecrows, like clowns, serve a useful, fairly benign function. Their job is to look like a human so that animals—primarily crows—will stay away. Like clowns, there's something really creepy about the scarecrow, this almost-man hanging in the fields. Since so much of our cultural mythology—from Valentine's day to the hockey goalie—has been mined for sweet slasher goodness, it's no surprise that the scarecrow hasn't been immune. Now we have not one, but three separate films that star a scarecrow as avatar of revenge. The results are predictable low-budget scares combined with some decent special effects. Maybe diehard low-budget fans might find something to enjoy here, but there's little else to recommend these flicks.

All three films share the same basic story: a social outcast dies near a scarecrow. The scarecrow comes back and seeks revenge. In the first and second film, it takes place in remote midwestern locations, while the third transports the scarecrow to Spring Break beaches.

I actually didn't mind the first Scarecrow film that much. Sure, the plot had been done before, the acting was so-so, and the kills not nearly gory enough, but there was a charm to the film that I found irresistible. It didn't hurt that the film gives Tiffany Shepis (a noted low-budget scream queen) quite a bit of screen time. Sadly, the films quickly deteriorate from there. Scarecrow Slayer is almost a remake, and Scarecrow Gone Wild is just sad.

Much of the problem with these films can be traced to simple budgetary issues—high schoolers look like thirty year olds because young actors can't be located or gore is toned down for lack of money. However, there are numerous other problems that have little to do with budget. Chief among them is the delay in each film before the titular Scarecrow wreaks his revenge. We don't need 30 minutes of setup in an 80-something minute movie before we get to the killing. Furthermore, Scarecrow not only ingests the soul of the dearly departed outcast, but somehow also becomes a ninja, as evidenced by all the flipping and twirling he does before dispatching his victims. This also adds to the problem where the filmmakers can't decide if the scarecrow is scary or funny. Certainly the mask would point towards scary, but his goofy movements and lame dialogue point more towards humor.

On the flip side, the Scarecrow franchise isn't completely without redeeming value. The filmmakers do a great job of nabbing at least one name draw for each film. The first one has the well-loved Tiffany Shepis, while the sequel nabs horrormeister Tony Todd. Scarecrow Gone Wild scrapes the bottom of the barrel to give us Ken Shamrock, wrestler and MMA fighter extraordinaire. Each of these actors gives at least someone out there a reason to watch these flicks. The films also do a pretty decent job with the Scarecrow costume itself. Although I think he's treated as a bit of a joke in his dialogue and movement, the costume itself (especially the mask) is really effective. I suspect that many people who end up watching Scarecrow or its sequels are seduced by the quality of the mask on the cover art and decide to give the film a try, much to their woe.

Echo Bridge is releasing this budget-minded collection with all three movies on a single disc. These were originally shot on video, so I don't expect them to look that great. Putting all three on a single disc probably doesn't help them any, though. The image generally looks like low-budget video, but there are definitely places where a more generous bit rate would have helped increase detail and reduce the noisy shimmer on the image. There are some places where it feels like the movie was shot through gauze because the image is made soft by the compression applied to it. They're not unwatchable by any means (and some might appreciate that that these not-so-good films aren't perfectly clear), but those with the individuals releases aren't missing anything. I was surprised how good the audio mix on these film is. Each film does a decent job with filling out the stereo field, and dialogue is clear and well-balanced with the effects and (admittedly cheesy) score. Those hoping for extras will be disappointed. All we get here is a menu that allows viewers to choose which of the films they will experience: no audio options, no subtitles, no extras.

If you absolutely must own any or all of the Scarecrow films, then The Midnight Horror Collection: Deadly Harvest is the way to get them at one low price (less than $2.50 a film, MSRP). The first film can be slightly recommended as a solid low-budget slasher flick for those well-versed in the genre, but the other films should probably be avoided by all but the most desperate horror viewers.

The Verdict

Guilty of beating a decent idea into the ground.

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Scales of Justice, Scarecrow

Judgment: 79

Perp Profile, Scarecrow

Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Scarecrow

• None

Scales of Justice, Scarecrow Gone Wild

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Scarecrow Gone Wild

Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Scarecrow Gone Wild

• None

Scales of Justice, Scarecrow Slayer

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Scarecrow Slayer

Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Scarecrow Slayer

• None

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