[Movie Review] Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) ★★★★☆

Bubba being shot as the Scarecrow

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a solid atmospheric watch for Halloween.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a made for tv film that relies on atmosphere, suggestion and solid characters. It’s a supernatural revenge film that plays out in a small town with narrow-minded people that take the law into their own hands. It’s a simple  premise but shot with detail and care and the whole storyline is focused on that one devastating and critical act of violence and the revenge that comes after. Without gore, graphic violence, but brutal murders nonetheless that aren’t explicitly shown on screen, it manages to create a tragic but satisfying horror. 


Bubba is a 36 year-old man who is gentle and friendly but mentally challenged and has the mind of a child. That’s the reason why he likes children so much and his best friend is Marylee. The postman Otis Hazelrigg is constantly watching him to catch him red handed, expecting or maybe even hoping he hurts a child, so they can do something about Bubba.

When Marylee sneaks into a garden, she is brutally attacked by a dog and Bubba brings her mangled body home. That’s the sign for Hazelrigg and his companions Skeeter Norris, Philby and Harliss Hocker to hunt him down and punish him. When they find him in a field dressed up as a scarecrow to hide from them, they shoot him with no mercy. Right after this terrible and loathsome act, they get a call that Marylee is all right and that in fact Bubba has saved her life. 

But in court, the four men are acquitted of murder, for they are fine members of the community. Bubba’s mother screams there’s other justice than that of men. And she is dead right. 

Why you should watch it

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a solid revenge horror that is focused on atmosphere and the characters who are all played in a great way, instead of gore and brutalities. But that doesn’t mean the four men get what they deserve in an ugly way, and are mysteriously killed off one by one.  

The structure is straightforward and it won’t be a surprise that Bubba comes back as a scarecrow looking for revenge. But the best and smart part is it isn’t Bubba/the Scarecrow himself who acts out this revenge. It is therefore more a supernatural revenge film than a revenge slasher. It also upholds Bubba’s friendly nature. He isn’t out to get them for pleasure but for justice and we don’t see him do anything. The Scarecrow is just a presence to create an ominous vibe and to scare the hell out of the four men. Bubba wouldn’t harm anyone, not even his killers, and this way his kindness and innocence stays intact, and that is cleverly done. 

Although the films mostly follows the bad guys and especially Hazelrigg who is a man who spirals out of control and who might even has enjoyed his first kill, which makes it easier for him to kill again. His character is mean, vile and his demise is the most gruesome and personal one. 

Marylee is a very strong character who keeps defending Bubba even if she is threatened. Her part in this revenge story is very satisfying, for the audience and for her. 

It’s a very simple story where it is obvious who the bad guys are and who the meanest of them all is and who the innocents are who deserve to be revenged. It’s not common in horrors that the Scarecrow is the angel of death and justice at the same time, instead of a creepy evil being, although his creation still is a scary one which is just right for Halloween, while it plays out during that special horror time of year. 

My favorite part

The ending is the best part. The crushing of the pumpkins before the actual death is a symbolical way to emphasize the gore and gruesomeness without actual gore. It’s a scary, spooky and satisfying ending with a nice twist that makes all the difference and leaves you with some chills. 


Rating: ★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★☆☆☆

Drama factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Cast and crew

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is directed by Frank De Felitta and written by J.D. Feigelson. It stars Larry Drake (Bubba), Tonya Crowe (Marylee), Charles Durning (Otis Hazelrigg), Robert F. Lyons (Skeeter Norris), Claude Earl Jones (Philby), Lane Smith (Harliss Hocker), Jocelyn Brando (Mrs Ritter) and Tom Taylor (D.A. Sam Willock).

Duration: 96 minutes. Music: Glenn Paxton. Cinematography: Vincent A. Martinelli. Edited by: Skip Lusk. Produced by: Bobbi Frank, Janet Greek. Production company: Wizan Productions. Distributed by: Warner Bros Television Distribution. Original network: CBS.

Check the trailer below