Scarecrow Gone Wild
- Straight to Video
- Director: Brian Katkin
- Written by: Brian Katkin
- Running Time: 90 minutes
- Language: English
- MPAA Rating: R - Restricted
- Cast: Ken Shamrock, Matthew Linhardt, Samantha Aisling, Caleb Roehrig, David Zelina, Kristina Sheldon, Jeff Rector, Tara Platt, Travis Parker, Lyndsay Douglas, Sean Andrews, Lisa Robert, Eric Forte, Jeremy Davis, Dennis Kinard, Johnny Marks, Olivia Munn, Agnes Olech, Jennifer Dawn, Steffany Huckaby, Steve Worley
There’s something about cornfields that have always unnerved me, a sense that they are hiding something deep in their interior. I imagine something hunched and waiting to jump out and scare the bejesus out of me, or anyone who might stumble into them. Interestingly, about twice a week every summer for the past few years, my friends and I travel up to Consecon, Ontario to go swim at a fairly private little beach. The thing about this beach is that in order to arrive there; we’re forced to drive through several miles of large, spooky looking cornfields that begin just off the main highway exit and end just out the entrance of the beach. Standing on the edge of the shoreline, we can literally see miles of cornfields spread out menacingly in front of us. That, combined with the fact that the beach rarely sees any visitors except for the few privy to its location, there’s a palpable creepy atmosphere that underlines every trip.
Well, anyways, on to the review.
With a title like “Scarecrow Gone Wild”, it’s pretty easy to arrive at a conclusion about the film’s worth, and, appropriately enough, many have done so regardless of whether or not they’ve actually seen it. With such a spoofy title, I, like the rest of the normal viewing public, assumed beforehand that by slipping the DVD into the disk player, that I was probably going to spend the future 90 minutes cringing at a silly story, bad acting, ridiculous gore effects, pointless moments where girls run around topless, and, maybe, even a few jokes about flatulence, and, for the record, the movie delivered in all of those areas. However, strange as it sounds, I actually found myself grooving on the film’s vibe. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, something that, in all honesty, quite surprised me.
Even though hazing has been outlawed on campus, that doesn’t stop a group of collegiate baseball players from dragging four of their newest team-mates out into the middle of a large cornfield for a night of good old beer guzzling, border-line torture, intiation goodness. Even though the team coach (Ken Shamrock) has strictly forbid it, they decide that what the coach doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
One of the freshmen, Sam (Caleb Roehrig), a skinny, nervous, gawky-looking kid is lured out of his dorm room by his best friend and team-mate, Jack (Matthew Linhardt), who convinces him that he can wrangle up some alone time with Beth (Samantha Aisling), a girl that Sam has had eyes for since the beginning of the semester. What Sam doesn’t know is that it’s a trick to get him out for the initiation. After giving the coach his word that there will be no hazing out in the cornfield, Jack assumes that the rookies are going to be dragged out to the beach where they’ll spend a few hours running laps. In the meantime, he decides to get acquainted with the gorgeous Beth -- huh, what about Sam? Mike (David Zelina), the stereotypical bully of the team, has other ideas, and opts to go ahead with their original plan – drag the rookies out to the cornfield and scare the hell out of them with well-worn local stories of a spooky scarecrow maniac.
As the hazing begins, Sam starts to get combative, accidentally hurling a five fingered stinger and connecting. Sadly, his knuckles bounce off the face of one of the girl’s who has tagged along to enjoy the festivities, and it's all down hill from there. What the players fail to realize is that Sam is a diabetic (we learn later that he made the team because he cheated on his physical exam), and his sudden 'crazed' state is direct result of his lack of insulin. In a fit of anger, they tie Sam's nearly naked body up to an old cross where a human-sized scarecrow hangs and they leave him out there for the night, while they head off to a nearby beach for some partying. To cover themselves from any legal respercussions (you know, if Sam accidentally dies or whatever), the players send the three rookies back to retrieve him and bring him to the beach. The three rookies won’t be getting there. The reason: Sam, has gone into insulin shock and somehow his spirit has fused with that of the inanimate scarecrow behind him, and, thanks to a cliché, er, I mean a curse, placed on the grounds by some mystical Indians, supernatural stuff happens and the Scarecrow and Sam become a single entity – a murderous rampaging entity, ready to slaughter anyone who gets in his way.
Jack and Beth, following a panicky phone call from one of the players, race to the cornfield to find Sam near death. They rush Sam to a trauma center where Beth’s brother in law is able to quickly stabilize him – keeping him alive with a respirator. The next day, the evil Scarecrow begins to dispatch the various players and their girlfriends cavorting down on the beach, in all kinds of gruesome ways – many of which seem like a direct homage to various early 80’s slasher flicks. As Beth and Jack become aware of the curse, and that somehow the Scarecrow and Sam are inexplicably linked, it becomes the standard race against time to figure out a way of killing one while saving the other – disposing of the soul to retain the body or vice versa. Even though the film ends on a rather sour note, with a very unnecessary twist, I did rather enjoy it for what it was.
Anyone who rents or purchases a movie titled “Scarecrow Gone Wild” expecting “Citizen Kane” deserves to be disappointed. Summing it up perfectly was Jerry Murrel (1998's "Family Plan"), who worked as an assistant cameraman on the film, when he wrote, “We knew we were working on a C or D movie - it would be a stretch to call this a B movie.”
With a single goal of providing a few minutes of entertainment; goofy, violent, silly entertainment, it totally delivers. The acting is sufficient with no real standouts and even a few bad performances – namely the film’s biggest name, Ken Shamrock (1998's "Champions"), who seems to equate loud and tough with good and dramatic. Got to give Shamrock points for trying though. Matthew Linhardt and Samantha Aisling (2005's "Mascara Diablo") were a nice looking couple and they shined in their scenes together – especially the romantic ones. David Zelina (2005's "Sasquatch Hunters"), as the brutish Mike, was probably my favourite character. His transition from exaggerated jackass to unlikely hero, smells of contrivance but remains quite amusing. His death at film’s end is, surprisingly, sour tasting especially since he seems to have turned a corner as a character and the audience will assuredly grow to like him... I know that I did.
Director Brian Katkin has worked in genre films for many years beginning in 1998 with "If I Die Before I Wake". In 2002, he formed a friendshp with legendary filmmaker, John Huckert (1985's "The Passing"), and the two went on to produce two amazing genre films, "Shakedown" and "Slaughter Studios". Two years later he would direct "Scarecrow Gone Wild", effectively ending his directing career. From that point, Katkin worked only sporadically in film (mainly as an editor and a writer), with much of his energy being turned toward television fare. If this project was any indictor, Katkin has a real understanding of the genre and I'm curious to see what the future might bring if he ever decides to hop back into it in that capacity.
A couple of points about the film I have to mention, one of which involves the homo-erotic undercurrent obvious to some viewers, I think it's quite admirable. I love the idea that independently produced films are taking the lead on this subject. You can clearly see John Huckert's influence on Katkin here regarding this. One imdb.com poster said it better than I could, so I decided to add his musings on the homoerotic subtext; Terence65, wrote; “I found several bits of this film to have a homo-erotic tinge. The scene in the shower at the start of the film when they have the pledges in the locker-room shower, the main "Hazer" reaches down (out of camera view) and grabs some part of the pledges anatomy and starts slapping it. The diabetic nerd and his cool friend/brother were obviously lovers when they were younger, and the scene of him giving the nerd his insulin shot is an obvious metaphor of his desire to penetrate him in a different way. When the "Rough Boys" take the nerd and hang him on the "Crucifix?" he is placed on top of the scarecrow in the catcher’s position. They then pour beer over him and one of the "Rough Boys" starts licking it off his chest!” Not important, I guess, but something to think about next time you watch this film.
Another thing quite apparent was the religious subtext. While religious symbolism and themeology were kept to a minimum in the first two movies, this one is quite blatant about drawing aspersions to it. From the way Sam is tethered to a cross in the Jesus Christ pose (and his subsequent spiritual resurrection) to the way Sam and Jack seem to represent Caine and Abel, two “brothers” and the sacrifice in blood that is made to appease a higher power. Shamrock’s allusions to the cornfield (could it be Garden of Eden?) and “inviting the Devil” suggest that to engage in sin was to invoke the Devil, much the same way eating the Apple would bring on the Devil. Without being too heavy handed, the film did seem written in such a way as to conjure all kinds of analogies to religion. Regardless, don't be so quick to dismiss films like this so out of hand. Be it the religious or homoerotic subtexts, sometimes there's more than meets the eye.