Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

dark night of the scarecrow poster 1981 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Good gothic horror

Needs to play up the Southern gothic part of the gothic horror, tweak story

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Studio:   Wizan Productions

Genre(s):   Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):   October 24, 1981

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

dark night of the scarecrow bubba didnt do it larry drake tonya crowe

Bubba didn’t do it!

Otis Hazelrigg (Charles Durning) has never liked Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake).  The mentally challenged Bubba has always played with children, and Otis suspects Bubba is just looking for an excuse to cross the line with a child.  When Marylee Williams (Tonya Crowe) is attacked by a dog and Bubba is suspected, Otis gathers a posse of Philby (Claude Earl Jones), Harliss Hocker (Lane Smith), and Skeeter Norris (Robert F. Lyons) to hunt down Bubba and stop him once and for all.  Taking matters into their own hands, the men take lethal action…but when more deaths begin to occur, the men fear someone might know their secret.

Directed by J.D. Feigelson, Dark Night of the Scarecrow was a made-for-TV horror movie.  The film first aired on CBS in October 24, 1981.  The film was released to mixed reviews but has gained a cult following over the years.

dark night of the scarecrow bubba costume larry drake

Bad hiding spot Bubba…

Scarecrows are in their name “scary”.  Oddly enough, they had been under-utilized in horror.  Comics had used scarecrows, but there really weren’t any great horror scarecrows until Dark Night of the Scarecrow.  The movie created a small horror sub-genre of scarecrow films (most bad), but Dark Night of the Scarecrow has some moments.

You can tell that Dark Night of the Scarecrow was one of the first scarecrow films because the scarecrow is actually pretty unutilized.  The dogging of the men who killed Bubba by an unseen horror now would have more scarecrow and less “unseen”.  The lack of scarecrow actually builds suspense and a slight mystery (is it Bubba?), but it could have even been built up more.

The cast is surprisingly good.  Larry Drake is good as the simple Bubba who gets cut down (he later went on to play a disabled man on L.A. Law to critical acclaim).  Charles Durning comes off as pretty skeevy as the head of the posse who has his own secret lusts.  The movie also features Marlon Brando’s sister Jocelyn Brando (as Bubba’s mother), Alice Nunn, and Lane Smith in smaller roles.

dark night of the scarecrow charles durning tonya crowe ending

Who’s the perv now?

The movie is low budget but makes nice use of the scenery.  The film feels like a Southern gothic film but the movie really looks like it is set in California.  I imagine being set in a swampy Louisiana or rural Alabama or Mississippi and wish they had shot the movie there…still, the movie looks quite good and has some good imagery.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is simple but effective.  The movie isn’t quite horrific as it could be (granted a man being sent through a stump grinder is pretty graphic), but it is relatively low-key in the horror building atmosphere instead of jumps and gore.  It might be a good “intro to horror” film for younger viewers, but scarecrows might forever become a villain or a nightmare.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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