Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981, TV-Movie)


In a small town, a posse of angry men kills a mentally disabled man (Larry Drake, Benny Stulwicz in TV’s L.A. Law) after he is (falsely) accused of hurting a little girl. Later, members of the posse begin to die one by one under mysterious circumstances. Is someone, or something, avenging the dead man?

Reaction & Thoughts:

“… there’s other justice in this world besides the law!”

The 1970s was the Golden Era of creepy TV movies. Looking back, I realize that I need to blame the TV Movie-of-the-Week for many sleepless nights. Originally aired on CBS, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is one of my favorite TV movies from the era; a spooky revenge tale with supernatural overtones. The film scared me as a kid and I’m happy to announce that the movie hasn’t lost its ability to unnerve the viewer.

J.D. Feigelson wrote the teleplay. Dark Night of the Scarecrow was directed by mystery-author-turned-filmmaker Frank De Felitta, whose books Audrey Rose and The Entity became international best-sellers (both books were turned into films). Felitta’s experience in the field of horror literature made him the perfect person to helm this chiller — Felitta is able to create a dense atmosphere of mystery without showing much.

If jump-scare tactics and gory violence are your thing, you’ll probably find the movie annoyingly quaint. But if, like me, you appreciate slow-burn narratives and an ominous sense of anticipation, you’ll enjoy this simple yet eerie TV production. Nothing here will make you jump out of your seat, but there is a good chance that at the end of the movie you’ll have an urge to double-check the darkest corners of your home.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow takes its time to set up the scenario. You are halfway through the movie before you are treated with something unsettling. Personally, I liked the fact that the film doesn’t seem in any rush to get to the good stuff. The time is well spent fleshing out characters and developing situations. As I suggested before, you never see any real violence, but this modest film somehow manages to keep the suspense alive. The final sequences are very disturbing and creepy.

The film has a great cast. Charles Durning (When A Stranger Calls) has the best role as the town’s mailman who may or may not have a thing for little girls. He plays the kind of villain you love to hate. Also in the cast is Jocelyn Brando (The Big Heat), Marlon’s sister, in a rare movie role as the mother of the mentally challenged man. Horror always works better when good actors convince you that the impossible is possible.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Dark Night of the Scarecrow was a childhood favorite and as such nostalgia played a part in my enjoyment of the film. I do think the film is genuinely well-made and scary, a great film for viewers who prefer psychological horror over gore. A nice selection for Halloween night. Highly recommended! Color, 96 minutes, Not Rated.


10 responses to “Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981, TV-Movie)

  1. I have it lined up on YouTube but since I’m a complete wuss I’m waiting for daylight before I watch it. I have several classics on tap to re-view but I’m too scared to even type their names … gulp …

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have admired this TV movie for decades and I’m always glad to occasionally find it on YouTube. Especially around Halloween. Charles Durning is superb and Larry Drake, whose unique talents for playing a mentally disabled man were most popular as Benny in L.A. Law, is a vital reminder here for how vigilantism can be the most dangerous crime in any society.

    Liked by 2 people

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