Tennessee, 1921: An old woman works in silence, stitching together a crude humanoid effigy from straw, burlap, and… something else. The final ingredient? Human organs. Their previous owner? Unknown.
Once completed, the witch’s scarecrow stands vigil in its field, until a clash between an in-over-his-head lawman and a family of murderous moonshiners erupts into violence. That night, the scarecrow walks.
By morning, there’s no one left alive.
Sixty years later, Brett, who is the last descendant of that ill-fated family, returns to his ancestral homestead with a group of friends. Together they’re planning a raucous, alcohol-fueled weekend in the backwoods of Tennesee, but when Brett spills the blood of his girlfriend Ally during a heated argument, the sleeping scarecrow wakes… and walks again.
Soon, barnyard sex sessions are ending in gore-gushing sickle decapitations, corpses are turning up with their mouths sewn shut and their innards replaced by bundles of hay, and former friends are at each others’ throats over who’s to blame. Is there any way to stop the scarecrow’s rampage or has the fate of Brett and his friends been sealed by the sins of his forefathers?
Previously released direct to DVD by Lionsgate (who rebranded it as the third installment in their patchwork Dark Harvest franchise), 2004’s Skarecrow: A Curse Never Dies is the work of indie filmmaker Ben Dixon. In addition to directing, Dixon is well-known among Nashville natives for founding the long-running Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Festival.
Though Skarecrow has long fallen out of print, it has returned to DVD courtesy of VIPCO (yes, that VIPCO). Being Dixon’s first movie, it suffers from a lot of the same problems endemic to most no-budget horror flicks made by first-timers: muffled audio, choppy editing, amateur acting, and murky lighting. However, that last feature actually works to the film’s benefit at times, such as in the ominous, doom-laden prologue.
Indeed, Dixon seems to have consciously prioritized atmosphere over action here. The result is a slower, darker (both figuratively and literally), supernatural slasher that mixes together elements of folk horror and hillbilly horror. There’s a little bit of Pumpkinhead in Skarecrow’s DNA, a little bit of Evil Dead, and even a little bit of House of 1000 Corpses.
This is a lot cheaper and dirtier than any of those movies, mind you. If you dig DIY stalk-and-slash schlock in the vein of Brad Sykes’ Camp Blood or Dustin Ferguson’s Meat Hook Massacre, though, Skarecrow isn’t a bad way to kill 72 minutes. It’s cheesy and ramshackle, sure, but also refreshingly earnest. It makes no apologies for what it is, and it doesn’t let a lack of resources temper its ambitions.
SKARECROW: A CURSE NEVER DIES is out now on DVD in the USA from VIPCO and BayView Entertainment.