Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

Recently, my husband and I were talking about movies that had a significant impact on our the-world-is-safe-and-wonderful psyche as a child. Mine was Gremlins. Gremlins ruined me for a long time. My parents, as well as so many others, took their children to see what they thought was a movie about cute and furry mogwis only to end up up stuck with hordes of screaming children who were convinced Gremlin eggs were hatching under their beds every night.

He did not have this experience, instead, at the age of 7 he came down with a nasty fever on Halloween night and was nestled in front of the made-for-TV movie, Dark Night of the Scarecrow. With a fever so high that he was hallucinating (his hands felt like two balloons), for some reason his family thought this show would make him feel better. Instead he sat terrified and learned about bigots, revenge, and executions.

This was a sad story to hear, and yet when he walked out of the room I immediately turned to Amazon and bought the movie.

When the DVD arrived, his eyebrows rose and I said excitedly, "Let's watch it!" To my surprise, I did not win any Awesome Wife points that day.

Several weeks later he finally agreed to watch the movie again, for the first time in over 30 years.

He remembered a surprising amount of the film, and I was pretty dumb struck. Although fairly low-budget and cheeky at times, the moral of the story came through loud and proud. The horror/monsters of this film, like so many that are geared for kids, was not under the bed or in the closet (teaching how to not be afraid of those places), but in the heads of adults - people children should learn to both trust and fear. This movie is also what I call an everyday horror movie, where the horror of the film happens everywhere, all the time, still.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow, a rather sad film with a bitter sweet ending, is frightful for children and adults. I advise watching this with a small group or alone. I'm not a huge fan of movie ratings (e.g., PG-13, R, etc.) because I don't trust the business behind it, but there is a place for judging when and when not to show certain movies to children where the expectations are off (see also my Gremlins experience).

If you believe you're children will understand the consequences for being a complete asshole message, and are ready to not be afraid of ghosts, then this will be a good one for you. If not, give it time. If you're in the mood for a chilling ghost story about revenge, then this one will be a good one for you. If you're simply mean to people and know it then I recommend changing your ways, stat.

In the end, my husband was glad he saw it again (getting monsters out of the closet), I'm glad I saw it with him (learning).

Recommended pairing: love, your favorite drink, and any dish that scares you a little bit because of a bad experience in the past.

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