[Review] "Scarecrows" is for the birds
When are teenagers ever going to learn that scarecrows aren’t just meant to scare off crows, but trespassing hormonal assholes as well? New horror film Scarecrows warns that when given the option between sex in a private lagoon or no sex, choose the sex but definitely do not stay past sundown…
…Directed by Stu Stone and written by Stone and Adam Rodness, the team behind The Haunted House on Kirby Road, Scarecrows tells the story of four horny teenagers who decide to take one last trip before college, and find themselves taking a detour to party in a private lagoon. It isn’t long after a minor water orgy that the moral-less group discovers they have stumbled onto a sadistic farmer’s property, and he has plans to turn them all into living scarecrows.
When you hear the title Scarecrows, you probably imagine this will be another killer scarecrow film in the vein of, well, Scarecrows, the 1988 classic. But in this case, Stone chooses to go in a more grounded direction-in a manner of speaking-with a more natural yet eerie concept in which a shadowy farmer (Jason J. Thomas) seeks vengeance on any who trespass onto his property, thanks to a grim incident that left his wife dead however many years ago. Acting as a sort of deterrent, he and his son (Derek Christoff) dress their victims up like scarecrows and hang them up for all to see. Vlad the Impaler had a similar technique for warding off intruders, in his case placing the heads of his victims on spikes along his castle gates. But where Vlad’s trechnique was quite effective, the farmer and his son don’t take into account that teenagers, are, unfortunately, idiots.
Our cast of characters starts off as interesting enough. There’s Ely (Umed Amin), a mildly prude guy who plans on giving his girlfriend, Ash (Hannah Gordon), a promise ring. Unbeknownst to Ely, Ash is thinking of breaking up with him later that night. Meanwhile, promiscuous Devon (Maaor Ziv) has her eyes on Ely, and he can’t seem to keep his eyes off of her, all while the appropriately named d-bag of the group, Farbsie (Mike Taylor) seemingly just wants everyone to screw and have a good time. It may sound like the premise for a daytime soap opera, and to the cast’s credit, they all do a wonderful job of selling their characters and letting the audience know they’re in on the joke. Even Farbsie, obnoxious as he can be, is fun to watch. What’s shocking is that, even though the setup is there and the entire cast seems capable, those above-mentioned storylines never lead to anything noteworthy.
What starts off as an intriguing group of teens, stupid as they are, quickly devolves into nothing more than your average group of horror stereotypes. You’ve got the prissy girl, the nerd, the dumb jock, and the slut, all wrapped up in one perfectly unhappy family. At least Stone and Rodness keep their characters honest to the aforementioned stereotypes. Farbsie is so damn obsessed with getting the girls naked, that he fails to mention a finger which falls from the mouth of a crow up above, and Devon can’t help shoving a hand down Ely’s shorts the second she gets a chance, nor can Ely resist. I found myself often wondering, why are any of these people even friends? Not a single one of them has any loyalty to the other. I suppose they’re all such terrible people that they belong together, but as a horror film cast, any cheer-worthy potential they have is fed to the crows by the time Scarecrows leads into the second act. It’s a shame too, because the middle of the script really could’ve used any one of the conflicts between the characters as additional story, so it’s shocking that none of that ever goes anywhere.
All of that being said, the first act promises a much better film than we’re eventually given. Because not only does the cast at least begin as relatable people with real problems, but Stone has an understanding for the basics of what makes these sorts of low-budget horror flicks work. Sex. Lots and lots of sex. Audiences are treated to copious displays of teen hormones at work. In Scarecrows, you’ll find gratuitous booty short shots, steamy lagoon semi-orgies, and enough man ass to prove nudity isn’t all about the ladies anymore, the way it should be.
There’s also a strange but effective humor running rampant through Scarecrows. The film is by no means over-the-top, but some of the humor is in a sense that it sprouts from completely unrealistic motivations. I’ve already mentioned the ignoring of not one, but TWO found fingers that do little to discourage the teens from boning in water which is most likely filled with leeches, but there are other moments, such as Farbsie’s irrational fear of fences, or an awkward scene in wich Ash needs to help Farbsie take a shit, that will likely get a laugh just because of how well Taylor is able to pull off the act. So, props to him for convincing me he’s afraid of a little fence, which on paper is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
Aside from introducing a phobia of fences to horror fans (a real though uncommon fear known as Frachtiphobia), Scarecrows does little to provide anything new to the genre, following the same old tropes we’ve all seen so many times before. Forget the stereotypical fodder meat known as the characters, Scarecrows also relies on unnatural exposition from Christoff to sell the farmer’s motive, and becomes so repetitive at times that the three acts of the film can pretty easily be broken down into three categories: Sex and more sex, scarecrow torture, and body reveals, in that order. The plot hardly ever moves at a smooth pace, with too many waved off plot-holes and extreme coincidences to sustain the realism which Stone appears to be going for, considering the down to earth though grisly nature of his killer and the methords in which his victims are dispatched (hint, it isn’t very exciting). In a rare twist, the first act, generally considered the least entertaining to horror fans since the terror has yet to begin, is actually the best twenty minutes of Scarecrows, because it’s the only time we as the audience are actually having fun. Heading into the second act, character development is thrown to the side and Scarecrows becomes a demonstration on Stitching Mouths Closed for Dummies. And I don’t know how many times our final character wandered around in the finale asking different scarecrows hanging in the cornfield if they were still alive or not, but whatever the number was, it was beyond my limit.
But if you still aren’t sure whether or not Scarecrows is the film for you, then consider this: in the final moments, there is a particularly “dramatic” occurrence which takes place, yet it occurs in the presence of some guy getting a blowie from his girlfriend nearby in a car. Perhaps blowjobs equal drama for some, especially if you or your partner has ED I guess, but they aren’t my first choice for heightening the drama of a moment. It’s scenes like this and the treatment of characters that will likely have you feeling unnecessarily dirty after viewing Scarecrows, even if it does start off as your average dumb, fun, depraved farmer John scenario.
You can now hang with Scarecrows on VOD.
By Matt Konopka
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