The 80s Horror Hit "The Dark Night of the Scarecrow"


Ever since this made for television movie aired as a CBS Saturday Night Movie in the fall of 1981 it has enjoyed a cult following. Watching it now a number of scenes bring to mind other more recent films, whether it’s just a coincidence or homage, there is just something about it that makes it a joy to watch.

Bubba played by Larry Drake, who you might remember as Durant from the “Darkman” movies, is a sweet-natured mentally challenged man in a small farming community. Mary Lee, a nine-year-old girl, is Bubba’s best friend and playmate. Although Bubba is a big man in his thirties he has the same mental capacity as Mary Lee, making them a perfect pair. One day Mary Lee is hurt and thought to be dead, with Bubba being the immediate culprit. As news spreads among the townspeople Otis, the postman, form a mob to take down this supposed child killer. Bubba runs home to his momma’s house and she hides him as the mob comes to her door. They eventually find Bubba hiding as a scarecrow and they enact swift justice with their shotguns. Shortly after they find out that Mary Lee is alright and Bubba had rescued her from a vicious dog attack.

Otis, played by veteran actor Charles Durning, is the ringleader of this mob. When taken to court they are all found not guilty in the killing as the defense claimed it was self-defense. The group had planted a pitchfork in Bubba’s hands. Otis is never seen without his postal employee uniform and acts more like an Army lieutenant. When Mary Lee is told what happened to Bubba, she still believes he is alive and wants to go looking for him.

When the guys who killed Bubba start showing up dead, Otis starts to freak out. He thinks that Bubba’s mother is behind it. One guy is killed by his wood chipper which brings to mind the movie “Fargo”. Another guy is trapped is silo and buried in grain. The deaths are effectively terrifying and gruesome without really ever showing anything. Otis comes face to face with Mary Lee on a few occasions and gives off a very creepy pedophile vibe in each one. Otis finds out that she has been talking to Bubba and he freaks out a little more. A lot of standby horror clich├ęs are used like the screaming tea kettle, the car that won’t start in a panic, the stereotypical small town. This is all taken with a grain of salt, because of the relationship between Bubba and Mary Lee is so sweet and sincere. Her innocent love for him brings him back to exact his revenge. The plot is quite similar to a lot of other revenge from the grave movies, but it does it very well. A newly restored DVD was released in 2010 and includes a very insightful commentary by the director and producer. This is definitely a great movie to watch on a Saturday Night. (assuming you're like me and have no social life to speak of).