Scarecrow County (2019)

Directed by John Oak Dalton [Other horror films: The Girl in the Crawlspace (2018)]

It’s always been my opinion, as a horror fan, that scarecrows have been an underutilized antagonist, a complaint of mine since I find scarecrows damn cool. I mean, look at them – straw, sickles, pitchforks, hats – what’s not to love? Scarecrow County doesn’t really do much for me in that department, but for a taste of local flavor, it was an okay experience.

Though I was born in Arizona, I’ve spent most of my life in Indiana. It’s a folksy place – aside from Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, it’s mostly quite rural (and even the busier cities, such as Muncie, still feel rural), farmland runs supreme, and despite Indiana Beach’s promise, I’m not entirely sure there’s much more than corn here.

One thing that’s definitely not here is any type of movie industry. I have no idea what the Indiana Film Commission is doing, but those must be some cozy jobs, because there really hasn’t been a whole lot of movie-making out here, which is a shame, because some locations (such as Brown County, to anyone in southern Indiana) would make for amazing movie locations, especially for horror.

I’m not a proud Hoosier by any means, but I am happy when I see Indiana come up in some form in media, because despite being the 17th-most populous state, I get the sense a lot of people just forget we exist. Only a handful of horror films are solely filmed here (most well-known might be Found from 2012), and many of the others are lesser-known films (Daylight from 2013, Shadow People from 2008, Beware of the Klowns from 2015, Phantom of the Woods from 2013, The Stray from 2016, Backwoods from 1987, and Terror Squad, also from 1987), and the only one I’ve seen so far has been Backwoods.

Scarecrow County was filmed partially in Ohio, but most of the locations are within Indiana (specifically, Parker City, Mooreland, Yorktown, and Farmland), and so getting a taste of a more homebred movie was nice. In fact, the director, John Oak Dalton, went to Ball State University, which is the same college I attended.

All of this is exactly why I made sure this is a movie I took the time to watch, and related, none of this background goes that far to make the movie any better. The production quality of Scarecrow County actually surprised me, as it seemed pretty damn decent (I immediately was reminded of Truth or Double Dare (TODD), only this film had more soul), and while I can’t say I really enjoyed the film, I was impressed by plenty of aspects.

Taking place in a small town (and given the main character works at the Parker City library, I’d wager the film takes place in Parker City), there’s a strong sense of the small-town oppression that isn’t uncommon in the midwest. I live in a moderate-sized city, almost 10,000 people. Parker City (which is actually a town, but that’s a distinction I don’t want to get into – look at Fishers), though, has a population of around 1,300. Even the village I lived in while a child in New York (Penn Yan) had five times that number.

Much of the film revolves around the good old days – back when the high school basketball team were the biggest thing, and those kids, now older but still friendly with each other, are getting killed off by a scarecrow after an old journal written by a gay kid they knew back in high school is uncovered. It’s a decent story of a mysterious past event and how the ramifications stretch to the present-day, something like Cherry Falls, only on a lower budget.

The film has a bit of a psychological twist to it, which does give the film a unique feeling at times, but it also renders the finale a bit weak, I felt. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the revelations during the finale, but I just sort of wish they did a bit better job of expanding on some of the events of the movie.

Chelsi Kern made for a pretty good lead, and playing her father, Tom Cherry did a nice, authentic job. I didn’t entirely get Rachael Redolfi’s character (she spent most of her time locked in her house and drawing some public domain comic strip character named Fantomah and imagining that Fantomah is talking to her), but I guess Redolfi did well enough. John Bradley Hambrick’s character was someone I was expecting a little more from, but Jeff Rapkin had that big fish in a small pond attitude down well, and I enjoyed it.

As many may know, there’s not a plethora of great scarecrow horror films out there. For every decent one, such as Scarecrows, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, and Husk, you have films like Scarecrow (2002), Scarecrow Slayer (2003), Scarecrow Gone Wild (2004), Dark Harvest (2004), Skarecrow (2004), Return of the Scarecrow (2017), Rise of the Scarecrows (2009), Bride of Scarecrow (2018), Curse of the Scarecrow (2018), Scarecrow’s Revenge (2019), and American Scarecrow (2020). That’s a lot of scarecrow films, and so few have even close to a 5/10 on IMDb.

Scarecrow County isn’t a great scarecrow horror film – I do like the scarecrow design, and who can’t love that pitchfork? But it’s more focused on some psychological aspects, and all the kills are off-screen. There are some creepy scenes here and there, but it’s not as rewarding as one might hope.

Honestly, I do wish I liked this movie more. It’s an ambitious movie, what with the various plot points and deeper subjects hit on, and I think it’s well-made for what it is. I just didn’t personally jibe that much with the story. Not by any means a bad film, for an okay slice of newer horror, this may be worth checking out.


Author: Jiggy's Horror Corner

Fan of the horror genre, writer of mini-reviews, and lover of slashers.

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