Scarecrows Gets the Red Carpet Treatment From Scream Factory (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Oh boy, when I was a kid, I loved Scarecrows! I genuinely had it as one of my top five or so horror films, above all the classics, from Halloween to The Exorcist. So when MGM finally debuted it on DVD in 2007, I jumped on it. Aaand... maybe I'd over-estimated it just a tad. In fact, when Scream Factory first announced their upcoming blu-ray edition, I figured I was content to just stick with my DVD. But then they announced all the awesome extras they'd amassed for this title, and dang it, Scream Factory, you pulled me back in!

Update 7/47/17: I just picked up an interesting 2011 DVD set from MGM, called 6 Horror MoviesScarecrows is one of those six, so I'm adding it to the comparison.
Scarecrows, now, is a pretty mixed bag for me. The plot doesn't hold up so well to an adult viewing, but that's not such an issue. It was always just an excuse, anyway, to toss their characters into their spooky situation. But those characters, oh man. When I was young, I was just oblivious to how amateur hour a lot of this material is. The acting is super hammy, and the writing's no better. At least they played it straight, rather than winking at the camera to acknowledge how dopey it is; but it's hard to imagine I or anyone involved in the creation ever took this stuff seriously.
But on the other hand, the scarecrows themselves are still great. The design is terrific, the special effects - both of them and the gore - are excellent; and the location is terrifically dark and atmospheric. There are some really cool supernatural concepts as well, which I'm biting my tongue not to spoil, but are still effective. Even simple stuff, like how the scarecrows start calling out to their next victims in the voices of the people they've already killed, is quite eerie. So while a good half of this film totally fails to hold up, the other half still shows real talent and at least enables the film to deliver the film as a cheesy good horror flick.

So, I've still got the old MGM disc, and now I've got this loaded Scream Factory special edition. I've flipped it around to their reverse artwork, which uses the old VHS imagery (I like how the center of the "o" in "Scarecrows" is a scarecrow itself), but this is one instance where the newly commissioned artwork is nice, too. Both are really good. Now, how about the discs themselves?
Scream Factory's brand new blu on top; MGM's 2007 DVD middle;
MGM's 2011 DVD bottom.
Very reminiscent of the Blind Dead in this shot. Love it.
So, naturally, Scream Factory has taken MGM's master and given it the HD treatment on blu. Between the two DVDs, the 2007 disc is a teensy bit sharper than the 2011 (it probably boils down to compression), but you'd only see it in a direct comparison, and both are SD, so I doubt it's an important distinction to anyone.  So going back to the blu and the original DVD, the colors, 1.85 framing and everything are all pretty much the same. There's a lot of solid blacks on hand, which might make viewers suspicious of a little black crush having gone on here. If that's the case, any of it that's on the blu was on the DVD just the same. And considering how dark this film is supposed to be, it's hard to say. All I know is the filmmakers did a great job lighting the film, so everything looks great and the actors pop against the stark blacks, perfectly riding that line between hard to see and unrealistically lit.
2015 blu left; 2007 DVD right.
And there's no doubt the blu-ray is an improvement. Look at how the metal headphone collar pops on this guy's neck in the close-up here. Better yet, look at his zipper in the bottom right-hand corner. On the blu, you can make out each individual tooth of its track, while on the DVD it's just one continuous blur. Detail is nicely boosted here, and in a film like this, where we're always looking in the background and corners for clues of a lurking menace, that's a real coup.

Scream's disc also has a strong DTS-HD stereo track and optional English subs, though the non-English speaking crowd will miss out. It's ditched the Spanish and French dubs, and Spanish subs, from MGM's disc.
That's about all the MGM discs had going for them, though. Even their menus (both DVDs have identical menus and features) were a generic design they created for some of their horror titles when they lost interest in designing individual menus for their catalog films. So Scream Factory naturally topped them with their HD upgrade, but they've positively blown them out of the water in the special features department. Let's just start with the small stuff, they've got the theatrical trailer, which already puts them far ahead of the old DVD, plus they've got a stills gallery, which gives us a brighter, behind the scenes view of the film's many effects, and there's a collection of original storyboards.

Moving on to the serious stuff, this release has two audio commentaries: one by the director William Wesley and producer Cami Winkoff, and one by co-writer Richard Jefferies, director of photography Peter Deming and composer Terry Plumeri, the second of which is actually a composite of three individual interviews, but no less interesting. So, basically the whole gang's reunited for Scarecrows in 2015. Of course, the special effects are such a big part of this film, so things wouldn't be complete without their on camera interview with Norman Cabrera. And there's one more interview, with Ted Vernon, who played the bald, strongman member of the team. "I'm always cast as the tough guy," he says, "because I am!"
Scream Factory has really rolled out the red carpet for this offbeat, low budget 80s horror flick, giving it the kind of special edition treatment you always hope for but don't usually expect it to get. And I'm happy to report that their transfer is a genuine upgrade from the past DVD, with no trade-offs or issues to make you hedge your bets. So maybe it's not the devilish masterpiece I once imagined it to be (though if you're reading this and you're still a teenager, see this quick before the analytical parts of your brain develop any further - you'll thank me!), but it's still an enjoyable, black romp. And it's never looked better than it does now.

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