Directed by veteran novelist Frank De Felitta from a script by J. D. Feigelson, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a suspense/horror 1981 made-for-television film airing on CBS. According to Editor Aaron Crowell Managing of HorrorHound Magazine, the movie was the first feature length horror film with a scarecrow as its centerpiece, with many having copied this image in the superseding years, giving Feigelson credit as the entire “killer scarecrow” genre.The plot concerns Bubba, a mentally handicapped man being unjustly accused of attacking a young girl. Disguised as a scarecrow, he hides in a cornfield only to be hunted down and shot. Immediately afterward, it's revealed that he saved the girl from a vicious dog attack, so the members of the search posse cover up their crime and successfully beat the rap for murdering poor Bubba. Unfortunately for them, someone's not too happy about their Karma Houdini status, and one by one the men are killed off in grisly accidents, the only common element being a mysterious scarecrow that suddenly appears in each man's field...The film was finally given a DVD release in 2010.
Tropes in the film:
- Accidental Murder: Hazelrigg accidentally causes a heart attack on Bubba's mother when he sneaks up on her in her home. He covers his tracks by blowing up her home.
- Asshole Victim: All four members of Otis' posse, but Otis himself is the worst of the lot for not only never showing remorse, but also willingly committing even more crimes to cover up what he did.
- Children Are Innocent: Marylee. Though this is subverted in the beginning when she sneaks into a neighbor's yard against Bubba's pleas because she wanted to look at the fancy fountain inside, only to be attacked by a vicious dog.
- Dirty Old Man: Otis Hazelrigg. Definitely not the funny, harmless variety, either.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Harliss' death. The film jump cuts to a shot of strawberry jam dripping onto a plate at the exact moment he goes into a wood chipper.
- Harmful to Minors: It is strongly implied that Otis Hazelrigg is a child molester and the reason he hates Bubba so much is because he makes it difficult to get to Marylee. Mrs. Ritter sees right through him.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The film takes place around Halloween.
- Karmic Death: Otis dies when he, in a panic, runs into the same pitchfork he used to frame Bubba, being held by Bubba himself.
- Killing In Self Defense: After the posse learns that they shot Bubba for a crime that he didn't commit, Hazelrigg puts a pitchfork in his hand to make it seem that they shot him in self-defense. The criminal court somehow buys it, despite poor Bubba being tied to a post when they pumped him full of lead.
- Manchild: Bubba's mama describes him as being mentally the same age as the children he plays with.
- Mama Bear: Mrs. Ritter is a loving, protective mother of Bubba, and lots more badass than his tormentors.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Otis and his little lynch mob have this reaction when they learn Bubba actually saved Marylee's life. Not because they feel bad for having killed an innocent man, but because they have to figure out how to cover their tracks.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The film's gorier moments utilize this trope so the viewers can use their imagination.
- Odd Friendship: Bubba and Marylee, though not quite as odd since Bubba has the mentality of a child. Later, Marylee seems to have one with Bubba's mother after his death.
- Real After All: The film leaves it somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not Bubba's ghost is taking revenge on Otis and his gang up until the very end. Turns out this time, Bubba did do it.
- Scary Scarecrows: A scarecrow is always placed on the fields of the next victim. After they see it, they end up dead.
- Shovel Strike: When Otis's last friend freaks out and is ready to turn himself in, Otis soothes him — and then brains him with a shovel from behind.
- Villain Protagonist: Otis Hazelrigg, due to his actor Charles Durning getting top billing.