My notes on The Scar Crow (2009)
Opening with a well-staged period witch-swimming and hanging in the woods and featuring three sexily weird sisters, this modest British essay in the terror-by-scarecrow subgenre has a pleasant throwback feel which evokes ‘70s items like Blood on Satan’s Claw or Vampyres, but its upfront story also fits in with 2009-era Britblokey horrors (Severance, The Cottage, StagKnight, Small Town Folks, Lesbian Vampire Killers, Doghouse). Four laddish white-collar cut-ups on a team-building exercise in the country happen across a farmhouse where the sisters – Vanessa (Marysia Kay), an unlikely name for a farm-girl in witch-hunting times since Jonathan Swift made it up in 1714, Prim (Anna Tolputt) and Proper (Gabrielle Douglas), unlikely names for girls at any time though amusing in context (Prim is short for Primrose, no idea where Proper comes from) — have been cursed to dwell since they murdered the abusive father (Andrew Bolton) who ratted out their mother Elizabeth Tanner (Julie Barnard) as a witch.
After the prologue, we get into a framing story as Daz (Kevyn Connett), the nicest guy in the gang (unfortunately, the weakest actor), wakes up from a nightmare flashback and tells his fiancée (Anya Lahiri) either about his dream or what happened on his lads’ trip with best mates Tonk (Tim Major), Joe (Michael Walker) and Nigel (Darren McIlroy). Cheating on an orienteering exercise, the lads stray onto the farm – where the sisters have stuck their dead father up as a scarecrow, only for the witch-accuser to demonstrate curse powers by decreeing that none of the family can leave until he’s been replaced by a scarecrow patched-together from five other folks. In the local pub, exposition is delivered Hammer Films style by nattering peasants the visitors unwisely ignore, and back at the farm things take a sexploitation turn as the older girls go to work on keeping the boys around so they can harvest various body parts.
After a long build-up, which is mostly ominous atmosphere and all-too-credible city lout behaviour, the film jumps into ‘80s gore-mongery as the scarecrow wrenches off the dick of a git taking a piss in a field, and thereafter we get regular dollops of video nasty-style entrail-sploshing or limb-wrenching which tends to swamp the character or scare business. Joe and Nigel get mangled first, leaving Connett and Major to carry the film: Daz is the go-along guy who draws a line like Michael J. Fox in Casualties of War and breaks his best mate’s nose to stop him raping Prim, but Major’s performance as a drunken horndog capable of terrible things without really meaning to is much more interesting than Connett’s wavery hero (he also has a nice narrative shortcut moment as he tumbles that the seemingly innocent women are part of the horrors engulfing him – boiling down to ‘oh shit, they’re in on it, let’s leave’).
The girls are all fun, enunciating arch period dialogue and smouldering like vintage starlets when they aren’t being alarmingly domestic as the menfolk are going into panic mode – though there’s a jump from the early scenes, which are grimly realistic in the depiction of a family of women dominated and exploited by an incest-happy hypocritcal lech, to the more fun sex-and-gore business. Writer-directors Pete Benson and Andy Thompson stage a few nice ghostly dissolves and tricks – as when a character opens an ominous door only to find a neat empty bedroom, then turns his back and we see the bloody shambles behind him where his friend was gutted.
Kelly Young Kim, your reviews are so well written that I find myself searching them out for movies I have NO desire to see, just so I can absorb your delicious turn-of-phrase and metaphor.
Kim Newman Kelly – thanks very much … though I hope sometimes to persuade you to see things you might otherwise not know about. And The Scar Crow is an okay little British horror film.
Colette Balmain I was really pleased to see your review. Thank you. One of my ex-students interviewed the director a couple of weeks back, and I thought from the interview, the film looked interesting. I shall definitely make a point of seeing it.
Pete Benson Wow didn’t see the ‘Vanessa’ bear pit gaping forth under foot. Thanks for taking the trouble to write a review. Always good to see considered feed back.
Mike Peel gore-mongery and dollops of entrail sploshing or limb wrenching, thanks i like that….