Friday the 13th: The Series featured cursed objects, but sometimes those items came in weird packages. For instance, there’s the ol’ cursed scarecrow that walks at midnight in “Scarecrow,” episode 11 of the first season; apparently, someone created a creepy trash bag-sporting guy to stand on a cross and scare birds and then, later, take revenge on unsuspecting victims when the owner pins a picture to the scarecrow’s chest. The episode takes inspiration from the likes of Dark Night of the Scarecrow: indeed, in one harrowing scene, a mentally handicapped man is killed while wearing a scarecrow costume. But this is a decidedly creepy episode of Friday the 13th: The Series that makes use of a small town farm setting for atmosphere.
Without much lead-up, we check in with Ryan and Micki, who are currently on their way to the farming town to pick up the scarecrow after someone replied to one of their mailers about the missing items. First they try the local farm, with residents who are off-putting and claim to know nothing about the letter or the scarecrow; then they shack up at Marge Longacre’s inn, perfect timing to witness a murder right on the doorstep seemingly done by the cursed scarecrow.
“Scarecrow”‘s setting is its main draw, because this time, Micki and Ryan are alone (no Jack in this episode or in “Tales of the Undead”) in an unfamiliar area. The episode is full of dark dreary nighttime sequences, ranging from a wife’s run through foggy farmland to Ryan’s search of a dark barn. And the scarecrow itself is sufficiently spooky because of its bag head, which is form-fitted to give the semblance of eyes and mouth.
While “Scarecrow” shares its main plot point with a host of other horror films, it differs somewhat slightly because of its farm setting as well. This scarecrow collects three heads with his scythe and then yields a fantastic crop, which has helped keep the farm and Marge Longacre in business for some time. Ryan and Micki’s snooping cause the problems, since the Cobean family were fairly comfortable with their setup before the scarecrow became the big subject. Marge, the main villain, has seemingly also become somewhat crazy living with this secret; she goes full-on Pamela Voorhees toward the end of the episode, brandishing a huge pair of scissors.
There’s a lot to love about “Scarecrow.” Its plot moves quickly, and there’s quite a bit of variety to the episode’s arcs – something that Friday the 13th: The Series often suffers from because of its intense focus on just one item per episode. This also has a large number of deaths, from beheadings (all cut-aways – pun intended – with decapitated heads on the ground as aftermath) to gunshot wounds. There’s a sense of real danger here, especially when Micki’s attacked, because of the large scythe that the scarecrow carries; more often, Friday the 13th: The Series focuses on the danger to others.
Better, though, is its subtle character development with Ryan. He befriends a young orphan boy who accompanies Ryan on their adventures – probably not a good idea what with all the danger, but Ryan’s still learning – and John LeMay does a great job portraying the fatherly figure in this role. At the end, he even gives the orphan his baseball, signed “To: Ryan From: Jimmy.” While “Scarecrows” doesn’t allow the audience to hear Ryan explain who Jimmy is, the reference points to a significant event in Ryan’s life, one we’ll learn about later in the series.
“Scarecrows” is one of the better episodes of Friday the 13th: The Series, an eerie hour that cribs from other scarecrow films while taking a unique approach to the subject matter. Its scarecrow design is nightmarish, too, which helps things considerably. And there’s also that setup about Jimmy that will continue in future episodes, establishing some continuity in a show that often jumps from week to week without a set arc.