The Blu-ray release of Scarecrows fills me with memories of discovering bizarre, low budget horror movies on late night cable. Sadly, I missed this one the first time around, but as usual Scream! Factory has a release stuffed with all the goodness I needed to enjoy the film for the first time.
The story is simple. Thieves swindle money from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendelton in San Diego and hijack a military plane in hopes to find freedom in Mexico. However, one of the team pulls a double-cross and literally jumps ship with the money. This forces the others to land in some abandoned forest to hunt for their spoils. However, they find themselves in the middle of a living nightmare when Scarecrows – for an unknown supernatural reason – come to life and stalk the greedy swindlers. One by one, they succumb to the Scarecrows and find themselves in an awful fate that I will not spoil for new viewers.
The movie is an enjoyable blend of a cat and mouse thriller with a Predator-esque military vibe. However, it was the story behind the movie that fascinated me. First of all, let’s look at what would be the future pedigree of the film’s key players. Photographed by Peter Deming, who had just finished Evil Dead II before Scarecrows, he would go on to shoot Lost Highway, Drag Me To Hell and Oz The Great And Powerful. Producer Cami Winikoff was still at film school when she worked on this, and went of to be the COO of Trimark Pictures overseeing 75 productions including Frida and The Leprechaun series. Assistant Director Barry H. Waldman would go off to produce with Jerry Bruckheimer and work on Pearl Harbor and the National Treasure series. The film’s amazing make-up effects were created by 18 year old Norman Cabrera, who director William Wesley discovered in a comic book store. Cabrera’s work in this film is really the star of the movie. This is the mid 80s and practical creature FX were hot stuff. Cabrera would move up in the FX world, work with Rick Baker and build a resume that includes Planet Of The Apes, Hulk, X-Files, X-Men, The Walking Dead… just IMDB search the guy. On a fun personal note, Winikoff and Waldman are both University Of Miami alumni and I myself am a ‘Cane graduate. Maybe I’ll see them at the next reunion and get them to sign this Blu-ray.
I love that all these talented and successful people had their start working on a low budget horror film. It’s a world I love and completely understand the passion that is required to make it work. Cabrera’s artistry is on full display in this movie. His Scarecrows aren’t lifeless stuffed dummies with sacks on their heads, they have shape, definition and character. The violence in the film is fully realized in spectacular fashion. I’d like to point out one particular grim scene involving a knife and a head. Wesley’s editing is in perfect sync with Cabrera’s design, that I had to watch the gore scenes a few times because they caught me off guard, but were so fun they required some second viewings.. The film’s pace is a little uneven, but not enough to ruin the enjoyment of the movie.
Scream! Factory has put together a great disc. The feature looks and sounds great. In the extras, there are two interviews, one with Cabrera and one with star (and Executive Producer) Ted Vernon. Cabrera speaks fondly of making this film and even shows off one of the original Scarecrow masks. There are two commentary tracks. I listened to the first one with director William Wesley and producer Cami Winikoff. Both were eager to participants on the commentary and had a nice rapport with each other. I don’t want to leave out Icons Of Fright’s Rob G. for being a great moderator on that commentary. He does a fine job leading it, joining in with questions but staying out of the way when he’s supposed to. Let’s have more of him!
Get your pitchfork and hay, Scarecrows is available here.