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...
Tropes in the film:
- Asshole Victims
- 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 Hazelrig.
- Ghost Story
- Harmful to Minors: It is blatantly implied that Otis Hazelrig 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.
- Laser-Guided Karma
- Manchild: Bubba.
- Mama Bear: Mrs. Ritter.
- 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.
- Only Sane Man: The district attorney.
- 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.
- 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.