The video rental business was booming throughout the ’90s. From mom-and-pops to huge chains and even several well-known grocery stores, it seemed like everybody wanted in on the action. With the increasing rise and revenue of VHS rentals, filmmakers saw a big opportunity: bypass theaters altogether and release movies directly to the video market. The horror genre, which is well known for smaller budgets and a rabid fan base, was ripe for success within that relatively new business model. 

For Nightmare on Film Street’s Hot as Hell month, I’m taking a look at 2009’s Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, which is set during the heat of a summer corn harvest. It’s a particular harsh season as the main character’s crop is suffering from a drought. The movie is a loose tie-in to the original but is by and large a standalone story. The previous film relied heavily on loud jump scares but this one is the exact opposite. This time, the drama follows the Rollins family as horrific events descend on them after an old scarecrow is placed in the field.

 

 

Messengers 2: The Scarecrow stars Norman Reedus (TV’s The Walking Dead), Claire Holt (47 Meters Down), Heather Stephens (The In Crowd), Richard Riehle (3 From Hell), Laurence Belcher (X-Men: First Class), Darcy Fowers. The movie was directed by Martin Barnewitz from a screenplay by Todd Farmer (Jason X). Following the moderate box-office success of the original film, the sequel was released direct-to-video.

One of the blurbs featured on the DVD case for Messengers 2: The Scarecrow declares the movie as “The Shining goes country”. The statement is a succinct description of what unfolds later in the narrative. John Rollins (Norman Reedus) is a down-on-his-luck farmer who is struggling to make ends meet. A series of bad fortune plagues his life: the irrigation pump is broken and he can’t seem to fix it, a murder of crows is eating what little corn his crop is producing, he can’t afford to pay his bill at the local feed and seed store, and to top it all off he’s having family problems.

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Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is an interesting direct-to-video horror movie, as it straddles the line between fun b-movie and character study.”

 

Norman Reedus does a decent job portraying John Rollins in Messengers 2. With Reedus’s careful performance, albeit not a perfect one, the character comes alive. Viewers are able to see and understand Mr. Rollins‘s struggle and heartache as almost everything common to his everyday livelihood is falling apart. The rest of the cast isn’t given as interesting roles as Reedus, but each member of the Rollins family is important in rounding out the character of John. Through the interactions John has with his wife and kids, the developing story is able to add multiple layers to his character.


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Messengers 2: The Scarecrow often alludes to the character of John experiencing a potential mental break that may result in violence. Through the course of the film, however, we see that the cause of John‘s mental stress is not a simple answer. Instead, his torment is built by many different things stacked on top of each other. The increasing paranoia is played in a way that it appears deep-rooted in his psyche, a fact that being paired with Reedus’s performance, makes the viewer feel for the character and understand his desperation. Most impressive are the moments of silence, when Reedus’s expressions and body language are able to convey a multitude of emotion and thought.

 

 

After finding an old scarecrow in the barn at the farm, John places the scarecrow in the field. Soon his life takes a drastic turn for the better as a series of good fortune is thrown his way. With the upcoming harvest beginning to look more promising, the Rollins’s livelihood is bright. There are other things, too, that work in John‘s favor: he wins a weight-guessing game at the feed & seed store and the irrigation system begins to run again. Despite everything good that is suddenly happening in John‘s life, the events in Messengers 2 eventually take a dark turn when people around him begin dying.

John‘s wife, Mary (portrayed by Heather Stephens), begins to suspect her husband in the murders. Similar to John‘s spiral into paranoia, her own continues to build. John begins to blame the scarecrow for everything that is happening around the farm. It doesn’t take long for his suspicions concerning the scarecrow to add weight to Mary’s own suspicion of him. The tension finally culminates in a well-acted confrontation between the two characters.

 

 

Fans of blood and gore are given a little more than what they saw on-screen during the PG-13 rated original. The design of the scarecrow itself is creepy, but it is only in the final moments of the movie where the promise of the killer scarecrow is finally fulfilled. Understandably, the lack of actual scarecrow mayhem might put off a lot of viewers who are thinking they are getting themselves into a mindless slasher flick when checking out Messengers 2.

However, fans of dark drama will have plenty to enjoy. Messengers 2: The Scarecrow is an interesting direct-to-video horror movie, as it straddles the line between fun b-movie and character study. The film works best during its slow-burn sequences. That said, some things in the story are not fully explained. The open-ended structure is an idea that works on one particular story thread but not so much in others. Ultimately, the movie is worth checking out. Seeing the original beforehand is not necessary to enjoy the sequel. While not as polished of a spook show as the original, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow has its own spooky scarecrow merits.

Have you seen Messengers 2: The Scarecrow? What is your opinion? How would you compare it to the original? Let us know on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!