If there’s one thing that I can say I truly appreciate about experience and age it’s that the meanness of youth often falls away. Sure, sure, we’re still mean as old folks but with luck we gain the wisdom that other people shouldn’t have to take big old swigs of that meanness just because we feel the need to hand them the cup. There’s something about us though, even now, where some of us feel the need to ‘@’ whatever creative we feel like to let them know we don’t like whatever it is they’re doing. It’s not necessary but some of us do it anyway.
I was sort of like that when I was younger and reviewing movies.
I didn’t do it all the time but sometimes I let the meanness take over and tried to show how cool I was by being mean. It was childish and unnecessary, but I did it just the same.
For me, I had forgotten where I came from, in all honesty.
As a kid I made movies with friends. They were awkward, silly, mostly improv epics that were well shot, painfully acted, and obviously amateurish. There were sparks of something more, but a spark doesn’t always start a fire. Many, MANY years on I am older, and I’d like to think wiser and have made my own films and been involved in film productions and have more empathy for the art and craft of a film.
It’s easy, as a reviewer, to stand five miles away and look at a film and dismiss it out of hand and even to be mean about it. Easy, but not necessarily right. That’s not to say every movie is ‘good’ or ‘worthy’. It’s to say that when we talk about these films, we should have an ounce of compassion. There’s a place for snarky commentary, sure, but it should be as fair as is reasonable and should always keep in mind that hey, people poured their time, money, and hearts into these things. It’s easier, then, to be mean to the major releases, that have far more resources and money behind them so that they have opportunities lower budgeted films don’t. You should still take care not to make it personal, but sometimes bad is just bad.
SAYING all of this, I try to be fair and not personal when I review stuff now.
Even if it’s ‘bad’, someone made it, someone loved it, and someone may love that same film you deride. Meaning – my opinion isn’t and has never been the be-all-end-all, and NO ONE’S opinion is. We’re just telling you what we like and don’t.
On to the review.
RISE OF THE SCARECROWS: Hell on Earth
You have to give it to director Geno McGahee, it takes a lot of drive and passion to return to a movie you made nearly twenty years ago to make its sequel. We’re starting to see more of that in Hollywood but it’s a rare thing in indie cinema. Usually folks will either strike immediately, seeing a flurry of sequels before the first film is even out yet, but there’s something to be said to going back when you feel drawn to it naturally.
RISE is the story of a struggling writer that returns home to stay with his aging father. With the matriarch of the family gone the writer’s father is struggling, like his son, and the thought is that the son can work on his book and take care of dad at the same time. What the son doesn’t know though is that his father and that area has a secret that refuses to remain buried.
The town and its surrounding woods are home to three bloodthirsty scarecrows that demand sacrifices to sate their thirst for blood. There is a deal in place that keeps the scarecrows from picking off the locals, so long as there are bodies for them to plunder so the locals make sure that any strangers that come to town.
Our writer meets a woman that assists his father with his grocery orders and a romance quickly develops.
CUE THE SCARECROWS!
Naturally, all good things must face the vengeance of angry scarecrows, it’s just the way of things, and so it is that Hell does return to earth in the form of some straw-heads and a mean arsenal of farm implements. Let me stop here and cred it the inventive and goal-oriented go-getting scarecrows three that make sure that they always have the proper tools of destruction at hand. If there’s one that I respect, it’s an inhuman monster that takes its job seriously. If only more young people followed the example of these scarecrows, then we’d be a better nation for it! Why, I’d give a left arm, probably literally, to have those fine fellas working with me!
A group of partying *grumbles out ‘twenty-somethings?* folks in the woods are living their best lives when the writer and his new ‘special lady friend’ happen by and a quick, and weird, friendship and bond is formed. A promise of future partying is made, and the writer and his ‘special friend’ go back to the real world of adult responsibilities, like being a writer and grocery gal. In the camp though, one of the group has disappeared, a victim of the scarecrows, and another member is having visions of them.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
As the scarecrows go about their gruesome business our friend, the writer, begins to realize that something is off about his father, the town, and the people that populate it, and he slowly understands the awful bargain that was made with those vile villains and that his father may be involved.
RISE is a passion project in ever way, and its clear, just as its clear that the people in front of the camera, and probably behind it, had a blast making the film. This is a quick moving little movie with a lot of service paid to fans of the original and those fans will be rewarded.
Watching it, it brought back my own recent experiences with low budget filmmaking, and it reminded me of the good and bad of that process.
This is a much more gruesome movie than the first, and the scarecrows are clearly the stars of the show. The actors do admirable jobs, though there are only a few that stand out as being more polished and professional. The story has some interesting teases, but the dialogue doesn’t always hold up – though the banter between the writer and his ‘special lady friend’ is pretty good (save for a joke that comes off as way more cringe-worthy than funny – believe me, you’ll know it!). I wish there was time spent building the world and the characters but there’s a tricky balancing act with movies like this where you want to be conscious of the clock and not get too self-indulgent and precious with drawing things out.
The film is well made, using a lot of handheld camera work and it’s well edited and put together. The film has an over-reliance on the heavy metal soundtrack, but I do get that it’s a lot easier and cost effective to have bands let you use their music than it is to have someone score it.
Saying that, the song over the credits is AMAZING!
And I give Mr. McGahee props for the mid-credits stinger. It’s always fun when folks have fun with the sneaky things you can do with a film.
I can’t say I enjoyed RISE, much the same as I didn’t enjoy its predecessor, BUT I can say I better appreciate it, and what it takes to make it, than I did before. If you are into the first film, you will love this sequel. If you are looking for a gruesome scarecrow chiller, this should fit your bill. It’s a sincere slice of low budget horror and is full of the sort of wide-eyed love of moviemaking that is nice to see.
1.75 out of 5
RISE OF THE SCARECROWS : Hell on Earth is available on Tubi.
Check it out.
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