Monday, May 09, 2022

Dark Night of the Scarecrow 2, on DVD

Corn-horror really is a thing and it predated the first Children of the Corn movie on-screen by at least three years. Frank De Felitta’s Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) regularly makes lists of the best made-for-TV horror movies, but a sequel never re-awakened the Scarecrow—until now. The story picks up more than forty years later in Dark Night of the Scarecrow 2, written and directed by the original screenwriter, J.D. Feigelson, which releases tomorrow on DVD.

Chris Rhymer had no connection to the fateful Southern town from the first film, but she suddenly had to relocate there with her moody son Jeremy, because she testified against her mobbed-up boss in court. Only the sheriff knows she is in Witness Protection. Unexpectedly, Jeremy quickly takes to his after-school minder, Hilda Corvis, whom he calls “Aunt Hilda.” That is a little too familiar for Rhymer, but she is more worried about “Bubba,” the imaginary friend she constantly catches him talking to.

Obviously, we know that is the Scarecrow, whom Corvis seems to have a longstanding connection to. However, Bubba seems to take a more protective interest in Rhymer than Corvis realizes, especially when the bad guys start coming for her.

Although Feigelson’s new story is essentially self-contained, it refers back to the first film in ways that ought to satisfy its fans (who should definitely be out there). We briefly see a picture of Larry Drake’s poor, hapless Bubba Ritter and implying the Scarecrow adopted his name is definitely a nice touch. Yet, perhaps not-so-weirdly, the sequel would probably work better as a TV-movie, because it will be too tame for contemporary horror fans. You can almost see where the commercials would go.

On the other hand, Feigelson nicely conveys a sense of rural loneliness. The glowing eyes of the Scarecrow are simple, but effective. As Rhymer, Amber Wedding is a genuinely compelling lead. Carol Dines is also pretty creepy as Corvis, but the rest of the ensemble is more than a bit rough around the edges.

Considering most of the recognizable faces in the original passed away in both the film and real life (including Drake, Charles Durning, and Lane Smith), Feigelson does a pretty good job connecting the sequel to the mythology of the first
Dark Night, but the tension is often undercut by weaknesses of the ensemble. Even though it appeals to early 1980s nostalgia, we just can’t recommend Dark Night of the Scarecrow 2 when it releases tomorrow (5/10), on DVD and BluRay.