Dark Night of the Scarecrow shares some story elements with Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Both feature a little girl, a mentally challenged man, a false accusation leading to murder, the failures of southern justice, and ghostly avenging scarecrow.
The antagonist of Dark Night of the Scarecrow, Otis Hazelrigg, reminds me a lot of George Zimmerman, the deranged lunatic who murdered a child, Trayvon Martin, in cold blood this past February.
Both Zimmerman and Hazelrigg are pathetic losers who are given a gun, and a tiny scrap of assumed authority. In Zimmerman’s case, it was a self-appointed ‘neighborhood watch’ position; while for Otis, its the position of mailman. Otis vastly over-estimates his power. When he takes his posse (made up of people even more pathetic than him) to gun down Bubba, the mentally challenged man whom he wrongfully blames for a little girl’s murder, he demands that Bubba’s mother hand him over, insisting that they are there on ‘official business.’ The mother responds, correctly, that the only official thing he has ever done is lick a stamp.
Zimmerman and Hazelrigg each seek to compensate for their personal failures by casting themselves as heroes; believing that recognition, respect, and women will follow. Being infantile of mind, both conclude that the surest way to become a hero is to take down a ‘bad guy.’ This is what they haved learned from their own heroes. In one scene, we see in Hazelrigg’s room a small shrine to George S. Patton, the famed general who took on the Nazis; We’re not sure who Zimmerman’s hero is, but given his intellect and penchant for stalking the night, I’m assuming its Batman.
But neither of them is able to find the villain in their midst, and so they invent them. Zimmerman chose the first black kid he saw in a hoody. Otis, being from a town with not black people, chose Bubba instead.
Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a made-for-TV film from 1981, so it isn’t very graphic, save for Bubba’s execution, which was surprisingly bloody. The rest of the violence is off camera (there’s a great scene where we hear screaming as the camera shows a series of close-ups of lawn gnomes). That said, the issues involved are fairly dark; and the atmosphere of the movie pretty tense and menacing; again, by ’80s TV standards, anyway. So, although it’s ‘family friendly,’ it isn’t a family film, per se.
The characterizations and portrayals are a little exaggerated, as most television of the era was; but there is some decent drama. Otis Hazelrigg is a convincingly rounded character; at times aggressive, at others afraid, but always stupid. The back of the box has a quote from a critic calling this the best made-for-tv horror film of all time, and though it sounds like a back-handed compliment given the sparsity of the genre, I agree with the assessment none-the-less.
The Blu Ray from VCI looks amazing; like it was filmed yesterday. It’s extremely sharp; beads of sweat and pores on skin are visible in close ups, and the scenery is lush and vibrant to the point of looking a little candy-colored. Extras include a commentary, cast interviews, making-of features, and the network promos from its original airing.