Friday, June 27, 2014


You know, a lot of horror movies over the years tend to grab well-known inanimate objects that we all recognize upon seeing and turn it into an entity of terror.  Sometimes it’s done well, like many movies about dolls coming to life (take Child’s Playfor example) or done as a tongue-in-cheek comedy (like they did with the killer snowman inJack Frost).  But there’s one thing that’s never been done right and that’s making a horror movie about scarecrows.

Now, some of you may cite Dark Night of the Scarecrow or the opening scene of Jeepers Creepers 2.  A lot of you may say that there havebeen a few films, like 1988’s Scarecrows or the little-known Scarecrow of 2013.  With the exception of the Jeepers Creepers 2 opening (the whole movie wasn’t about killer scarecrows anyway), all those other movies weren’t good or scary at all.  So it just surprises me that no one has tried to take the subject matter to make the pinnacle of scarecrow movies.
A killer scarecrow movie would be perfect for a terrifying movie to play in theaters to big crowds, especially around the Halloween season, but it has yet to happen.  However, in 2011, After Dark Films released a movie straight-to-DVD that would’ve fared well if it was brought to screens for the masses.

As a quick side note, After Dark Films has put out some great titles, really scary and gory stuff that I find entertaining almost every time.  For more on their films, check out the site here.

So the other day, as usual, I tool around the Netflix titles to see what I can add for my next shipment.  I have around 300 or so in my queue, but I occasionally mix them around to match the mood I’m in.  The other day, I was in a horror movie mood—surprise, surprise—and, after seeing the awesome cover art, decided to have 2011’s Husk sent to me in my next delivery.

Horror movies, these days, are so different than the ones I’d seen in my teenaged years.  I admit, I can’t relate to what teens do these days for fun or what type of lingo they use in speaking to one another, so I was worried that would’ve turned me off while watching.  But Husk doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan and gets interesting right away.

The story opens with a quintet of friends—Scott (Devon Graye), Johnny (Ben Easter), Chris (CJ Thomason), Brian (Wes Chatham), and Brian’s girlfriend, Natalie (Tammin Sursok)—driving to a lake to spend some time for some R&R.  Suddenly, a murder of crows starts flying into the vehicle’s windshield and causes them to swerve off the road, incapacitating the vehicle.  Stuck on the side of the road, next to a
cornfield and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, they first notice that Johnny is missing.  Seeing a farmhouse within the cornfield, they set off to find their friend and to see if they can get some help from the residents of the property.  Instead, they find themselves surrounded by killer scarecrows that have mysteriously come to life and the group must find a way to fend them off and try to get away.

The first thing I’d noticed when embarking on this film is the feel of it and how it felt like a horror movie from the 80s.  Without the cheesiness and dumb subplots that gave flicks of the 80s a lot of questionability, Husk tends to be more serious and spooky, striking more fear in the audience than the fun movies of the 80s had.  As the opening went on, it kind of reminded me of Children of the Corn, but probably only because of the immense cornfields on either side of the road shown in the film.  Not only that, but the nature of a group of friends driving cross-country also made me think of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  So thinking of those films in my head as I started watching this movie kind of helped me enjoy it more.

I’d mentioned in a review before (I believe it was 1988’s The Blob) that there are a number of things a film needs to include to make it a great horror movie.  One of those items was having 75% or more of the movie take place at night.  Director Brett Simmons follows that logic perfectly, having the characters crash their car in a day trip only to have them lose daylight very quickly, especially when they all find themselves on the property of this dilapidated farmhouse in the middle of this huge cornfield.

The characters, also, were not unlikable or annoying at all.  In fact, all of them have their own individualities that you can identify with right away to tell them apart.  First, you’ve got Chris, the sort of bad boy troublemaker, but not in an irritating way; there’s Chris’s good friend, Johnny, who seems to be the tagalong; Scott is the nerdy intelligent kid, complete with glasses (in case you don’t get how smart he is); Brian is the jock and surprisingly doesn’t exhibit it obnoxiously within the story (like most movies of this ilk tend to do); and finally Natalie is the only female in the film and is Brian’s girlfriend.  Although it doesn’t seem like we get too much development of their backstories, it’s pretty easy to see what each one is about as the film goes on.
The story, as a whole, seems to be a bit of mystery and a very dark one that isn’t very comprehensible as it initially begins.  But instead of hindering the film, it actually helps it as we feel what the characters feel—utter terror.  As you can tell by my summary of the story, and even if you read the synopsis on the back cover of the DVD, the story features animated scarecrows, so I don’t think I’m spoiling the movie for you. 

The scarecrows are pretty terrifying—and, of course, don’t speak—as they have no face but just a burlap covered head, reminding us of so many masked killers of yesteryear that wear a guise with little to no features.  With the cover of darkness and the cornfields, the filmmakers cleverly edit the scenes to show
these creatures easily darting in and out, striking at the characters and creating quite a few jump scares.
If I have to nitpick at anything within this film, it’s the way they choose to give us a back story as to how these creatures came to be.  Using the annoying device of giving one of the characters a sudden parapsychological power, where they unexpectedly develop the power to see visions, one of the central characters sees how this came to be (sort of).  Not only did the abrupt clairvoyance bother me, but what they see still didn’t explain why these scarecrows are able to be alive and running around.  I guess we can speculate, but it’s not consummately explained.

Anyway, if you can put that nitpick aside and enjoy the bulk of the film for what it is—a scarecrows-coming-to-life movie—then I think you’ll enjoy it immensely.

So, let me give you my final “bit” on Husk.

As I’d said, the movie totally reminds me of the horror flicks I’d seen when I was a teenager, where we get right to the problem and terrorize the characters immediately.  With no 21st century lingo and no constant talk of what kids do these days for fun, the film seems timeless.  I definitely recommend it and think you should add Husk to your library of horror.  I know I’m planning to do so myself.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the movies!

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