Thursday, February 12, 2015

Classic Terror, B-Movie or Otherwise

I truly believe that someone’s first experience with a piece of art is prone to become that person’s favorite. Of course, this is a purely experiential observation; however I have noticed that it has happened to me on more than one occasion. And it makes sense: if you enjoy your first brush with a piece of entertainment, every time after will be compared to that first time. I imagine I am not alone and that many people feel the same way about these first impressions, whether it be with film, music, or any other art form. This theory certainly applies for my foray into the genre of B-movie horror.

I unequivocally love the film called Scarecrow Gone Wild. But my love for this film goes much deeper. I’ve seen Pulp Fiction and The Godfather more times than I can count, and every time I watch them, I pick up new evidence of why these films are so brilliant. But I have little doubt that I have watched Scarecrow Gone Wild more times. You read that right: I cannot think of a single film I have seen more in my life than Scarecrow Gone Wild. I watch it multiple times a year, and I have probably seen the special features more than I have seen most films.

I first watched the film when it was released (straight to on-demand, if you can imagine) with a good friend in 2004. At the time, I thought it was just a bad movie with a funny title. I had no idea that I would be embarking on a lifelong journey with the film that would haunt me for a decade (figuratively, certainly not literally, as the film is not scary in the least). My friend and I were at the perfect age to appreciate the blatant humor of such gags as throwing a bottle of gasoline at an undergrad from a moving vehicle. We were also excited to point out the gentleman out for a jog on a beach who is clearly not associated with the filmmaking at all (and probably didn’t sign a release agreement). Our young minds were not, however, prepared to notice the subtleties of messages like the tragedies of hazing. These kind of qualities become evident after years of dissecting the film.

For a while, this was just a private enjoyment, shared between only the two of us. We might have been only a very limited group that saw this film originally. I’m not sure if anyone else watched the movie unless they were fans of the first two parts of the trilogy. Right, it should be mentioned that this is the third in a series, but take it from me, the first two are not worth the effort. There is a reason the Gone Wild is sold as a standalone--to differentiate itself from its predecessors. At any rate, we must have been part of a small audience to witness this piece of artwork at its inception. They say only a few thousand people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but all of them formed a band. Such is the kind of influence of Scarecrow Gone Wild.

It is difficult to assess exactly what it is the value of the film without going into the specifics of what make the film great. Despite the natural “good versus evil” theme that develops throughout, it is unclear which side emerges victorious. By the end, the viewer wonders whether or not evil is truly extinguished. With the losses sustained, the cost of attempting to end the terror of the scarecrow is almost too great. Perhaps the deepest, most unsettling question: is the scarecrow just plain evil, or is it the more complex embodiment of the pain inflicted by the hateful undergrads? These questions are left to the interpretation of the viewer.

Fortunately, the action is not distracted by a cast of star actors. While talented, the intrepid college students are played by several young, yet-to-be-discovered thespians. Since this group is not dominated by a standout actor, it allows for the realism of the scene to become evident. The film is anchored, however, by the acting talents of the World Wrestling Federation’s own “World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Ken Shamrock. His classic portrayal of coach and gym teacher is engaging and provocative. The former wrestler displays every ounce of his expertise for both acting and fighting.

Halloween may be a long time away, but some horror movies are worth watching throughout the year. And just because it’s spring, there is no reason why you could not stand a little scarecrow in your life. Perhaps you can take advantage of this unique weekend of Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day for a two-night double feature. To be sure, horror movies are always exciting and you can always pick up new things from watching them. B-movie horror is no different. A surreal mixture of emotion, from humor to tragedy, drama to terror, Scarecrow Gone Wild has just a bit of everything. You owe it to yourself to see this picture. That way, when it is filed away by the National Film Registry, you can say you saw it first.