I had heard about it from the kids at school; it was all anybody talked about that Friday. I had seen commercials for it on TV; the commercials became more and more frequent the closer it came. And so I (and my younger sister) had begged Dad to turn it on. A few minutes later, we were begging him to turn it off.
It was Dark Night Of The Scarecrow, a made-for-TV movie about some rural fellows who kill a mentally-handicapped man as he hides in the garb of a scarecrow and are later stalked and killed by that same scarecrow. I recently acquired a copy of this movie and got to see it in its entirety. It is a fairly serviceable film, not great but as good as if not slightly better than comparable fare, and it didn’t come anywhere close to terrifying me as fully as it had that Friday night long years ago, but it did have some elements that were legitimately creepy.
Good or bad, scary or not, living up to memories or failing miserably is not really the point, though. The point is that when the movie was shown that Friday night (8:00 PM on CBS, I think) it was an event. It had been hyped for days if not weeks. It had full page advertisements in the TV Guide and the newspaper. People stayed home to watch it. Nearly every TV in the greater Columbus area was tuned in to it (and most weren’t turned off when the all-too-eager kids lost their eagerness). And it wasn’t the only event of its kind; there were several other events like that. I distinctly remember when The Creature From The Black Lagoon had been such an event. It was being shown in 3-D, and so 3-D glasses had to be procured at the local 7-11, and then the TV color had to be adjusted according to the instructions given before the show (instructions relayed by a local horror host, if I remember correctly). And the real thing about these events, the thing that can’t be replicated in our current era of the VCR much less the video on demand and TIVO and all other media services, was the sense of urgency. There was an urgency to being in front of the TV and on that channel at that time. There was an urgency in getting to 7-11 to get the glasses (a daunting feat for an eight-year-old). There was an urgency because you couldn’t control when the event would occur and you wouldn’t be able to see the event if you missed it. There was an urgency to the waiting through the news and the games shows and dinner time. There was an urgency, an anticipation, an ambiance that no TV event (not even something like the Lost finale) can really match today.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love modern media technology; it was modern media technology, in fact, that let me recoup my childhood loss and finally see what I was too chicken to see back then. I would not want to go back to the days before modern media technology; I wouldn’t want to be without it. But I would like to have a few more events; I would like to enjoy an event again.
P.S. If you are more interested in the movie than my memories, it goes like this: Larry Drake (the creepy guy from Darkman) plays Bubba, a 36-year-old with the mind of a child. When a dog mauls a young girl who was last seen in Bubba’s company, history’s oldest and fattest lynch mob (which includes Lane Smith, the creepy guy from V, and Charles Durning, the creepy guy from When A Stranger Calls, and Claude Earl Jones, the creepy guy that you‘ll recognize when you see him) hunts Bubba down, finally finding him hiding in a scarecrow. Then they slowly shoot Bubba to death (which is when my sister and I begged Dad to turn off the TV). They are then acquitted of his murder. But soon a scarecrow appears on each of their property in turn, and when the scarecrow appears, the man whose property it appears on dies in a rather rural way (one man is chopped up in a wood chipper, another is crushed by corn in a corn silo; I actually saw that part on a commercial and have wondered about it for years). It has a lot of filler and is unnecessarily dramatic in parts, but it has a pretty good production value, good acting, and some genuinely spooky parts.