Apparently scarecrows are the new Inbred Rednecks to low-budget horror filmmakers. Aside from Paul Moore’s “Dark Harvest”, about killer scarecrows that come back from the dead seeking revenge, we also had the South African “Slash”. And then there’s “Scarecrow Slayer”, about a teen that dies and returns from the dead for revenge. I suppose possessed scarecrows are preferable to Inbred Rednecks; after all, you can only stand so many cliché before they become unbearable. And the Inbred Rednecks of low-budget horror films have been tedious going on 10 years now.
Our horror opus opens during the Depression, which is surprisingly the best shot sequence in the entire movie. Alas, it only lasts for about 8 minutes. While in the past we meet a farmer who, despite the fact that his neighbors can’t grow a thing because of the massive drought, nevertheless has a plentiful harvest. Turns out the farmer has been killing and using people as scarecrows in order to achieve this miraculous harvest. Flash-forward to the present, where Sean (Don Digiulio) learns that he’s inherited a farm from the family he never knew, of which he’s the last survivor.
Although Sean is hesitant to stir up memories, his girlfriend Jess (Jessica Dunphy) convinces him to take a trip to the farm. As all teens that have inherited out-of-the-way farms from a family they never knew existed are wont to do, Sean brings along a band of victims — er, friends. The friends are, of course, a mixed brood, including a Token Black Guy and two lesbians; also, I think one of the girls is British. Along the way, they encounter an Old Guy Who Knows Stuff, who, like all Old Guys Who Knows Stuff, warns them off the farm.
Are you starting to get the idea that writer/director Paul Moore doesn’t have the slightest interest in being even a teeny bitty original? While the friends are only concern with having fun at the decrepit farm, Sean unearths his family’s sordid past, as well as bringing to life a couple of ticked off scarecrows looking for some payback from what’s left of the family line — namely Sean. Although to be fair, Moore does through a wrinkle at genre fans — instead of just one Old Guy Who Knows Stuff, Moore gives us two! I tell ya, ol’ Paul sure is a genre innovator.
The script is appropriately hackneyed, with more than a couple of cheesy lines and head-scratching moments. At one point, our characters are awakened in the morning by roosters, but our (supposedly) college educated kids don’t know what a rooster is. One of them even calls the rooster a raven. Folks, you can’t make this stuff up. The only gratuitous nudity is a scene at a lake where characters strip down and jump in. There is also some kissing by the two lesbians, but for the most part the film seems inclined to talk about its T&A rather than actually showing it.
For a film that barely runs 75 minutes, “Dark Harvest” spends an exorbitant amount of time engaging in poorly written comedy banter. It’s not until the 50-minute mark that someone finally gets run through with a scythe. When the killing starts, “Dark Harvest” does earn its pay — in a cheesy, low-budget sort of way. In any case, the characters basically run back and forth between the cornfield, the main house, and the barn. And the scarecrows have apparently come back from the grave with the ability to growl like either bears or lions, although it’s curious that these undead blokes can’t fight a lick. Seriously — one of the lesbians could have taken these guys on mano-a-mano.
The best thing about “Dark Harvest” has to be the ending credits, where the filmmakers include choice blooper reels from the production. Although there was never any doubt that the film is low budget, it’s still a riot to see the filmmakers struggle with the simplest movie gags, such as getting a book of matches to light on cue. Of course the behind-the-scenes reel is only there because the film itself is so short. Then again, who wants to see a padded out “Dark Harvest”? Perish the thought.
But seriously, folks, no matter how low budget your movie is, there is simply no excuse for misspelling the name of your own state in the film’s opening legend.
Paul Moore (director) / Paul Moore (screenplay)
CAST: Don Digiulio …. Sean
Jessica Dunphy …. Jess
Jeanie Cheek …. Darcy
B.W. York …. Bryan
Jennifer Leigh …. Angela