I’ve always thought scarecrows were cool horror movie monsters. It probably stems from my childhood, when I read The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight by R. L. Stine and watched Batman: The Animated Series, which featured a pretty cool version of the Batman villain, Scarecrow. Although they’re just clothes stuffed with straw, something about the fact that their heads are either jack o’ lanterns or burlap sacks and that they stalk the cornfields late at night seems creepy; ‘stalk the cornfields’… I kill me. Scarecrows have potential to be good monsters, but Husk does nothing to utilize that potential. And its shallow plot doesn’t help either.
The story is that a group of young people get in car accident that forces them on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. The car accident in question is that a murder of crows smashed themselves into the windshield of their SUV; one crow actually drives its beak through the windshield before it stops/splats. The characters are summed up as follows: Chris the tattooed coward, Brian the boyfriend with can do attitude, Natalie the girlfriend who dies, Johnny the man who dies after a few lines, and Scott the nerd who has visions. The whole plot is precipitated by one stupid act on the part of Johnny, who walks into the cornfield instead of walking up the road to get to a service station; you didn’t think their cell phones would work did you? This leads everyone to go out into the cornfield to search for Johnny. They come across an abandoned farm house and Chris finds Johnny in a room upstairs with nails through his fingers, sewing a burlap sack. He puts the sack over his head, becoming a scarecrow, and heads out into the fields. When they try to walk back through the cornfields to escape, Natalie is cut up by Johnny scarecrow with his nail fingers. Through a series of flashbacks, Scott has visions that show him how a disturbed farmboy who lived there killed his brother with a pitchfork and dressed him up as a scarecrow because the farmboy’s brother was the favored son. From several attacks in the cornfields and Natalie’s transformation into a scarecrow, Scott figures out that the scarecrows, which are the corpses of the dead brother and the dead members of the young group, can only be animated one at a time because they are possessed by the spirit of the evil farmboy, the scarecrows can’t leave the cornfield, and the dead friends must undergo a transformation process to turn into scarecrows, which involves hammering nails into their fingers and sewing a burlap sack for a mask. At no point is it explained how it is that the evil brother got the power of possession or why the scarecrows can’t leave the cornfield or why they have to go through a ritual to be transformed. It’s also not explained why ripping the burlap sack off one of the dead people’s heads de-animates them. The disappointing, boring ending to the film does nothing to resolve this and only adds one more question. Why didn’t they just kill the last surviving character and be done with it?
While I try to see the good in even the most wretched films, Husk was just disappointing. Although what I describe sounds like a hectic mess, the film is slow and the ‘scares’ are few and far between. I liked the ritual where they hammered nails into their fingers and sewed the burlap mask with a vacant, soulless expression. I also liked the biblical allusion at the start of the film when Natalie finds a sign that reads “Genesis 4:11.” The verse is part of the Cain and Abel story and suggests that the evil farmboy is cursed just like Cain was. However, since I had to look that verse up after the film to understand the reference, it did nothing to save the film for me. I would have thought a retelling of the Cain and Abel story with undead scarecrows killing teens would be cool, but it wasn’t. Sadly, Husk just felt empty, like the rind of an orange, or a shell, or that green leafy part around an ear of corn, whatever that’s called…