Tom Doty Times Columnist

April 11, 2014

“The Breakfast Club” gets into a mashup with “The Children of the Corn,” when the titular creature goes after a group of high school kids serving out a detention in this horror effort from the SyFy Channel.

It begins with a token effort to introduce us to the cast. The bunch of teens serving out a detention are a mixed bag of your typical stereotypes. You get a thug couple who swap enough spit to clog a tuba, an introvert who daydreams and perpetually sketches the girl who never notices him, a new girl who is trying to fit in, and a shy Ally Sheedy-type. This group needs a leader, but it is stuck with Aaron. He is pretty bad at retaining authority, but just excellent at teaching his kids that poor leadership will mean that they get out of school early — as in forever, when they are deep-sixed by our rampaging field monster.

Turns out this town has a Scarecrow Festival every year. There is a lot to celebrate, too, as this creature has killed 30 people over the years but is still seen as an urban legend (it seems that the people of this town have an Ostrich’s view of history). The town decides it needs a giant scarecrow from the farm where the legend began for the festival (not only will this save them the cost of building or buying one, but they will also have an opportunity to ditch some of the worst kids by having a detention class fetch the beast).

The town even hedges its bets by letting ineffective Aaron chaperone the mission. He is surprised to learn that the farm is now the property of his ex-girlfriend, Kristen, who had left town. These two have a history that appears interesting, but the film ignores it. Now she is back, and so is the third wheel who helped break up their relationship. He’s a macho trucker (you know so, ‘cause he rocks a tight beard) who must put up with Aaron’s insults about how being a teacher is more lucrative. Turns out Aaron probably doesn’t teach economics, or tact for that matter.

Before this love triangle can generate anything close to a spark, our group is set upon by the scarecrow. It chases them to a farm house where they take shelter and realize that — prepare for a shock — cell phones don’t work in this field. Huh? Side note: Why don’t cell phones work in horror flicks? I don’t know, but these films would make more sense if they were all just set in 1970, when we didn’t have smart phones (or smart presidents, for that matter).

The cast has to make a break for it and they try to escape for the rest of the movie. They run, drive, swim and stumble for help but are picked off at every turn. Pretty soon it’s just down to Kristen and Aaron to kill the creature, but they are about as good at that as they are at protecting their student charges. It all comes down to a fiery finale aboard an old abandoned boat that just happens to be loaded with enough gas to make a huge CGI explosion.

The best moment involves a student using their brain. She deduces that the creature actually wants Kristen. Her outline of how she came to this conclusion is logical and spot on. A lot of bloodshed could be spared if they listen to her, but Aaron, being a horrible teacher, shoots down the theory. He proceeds to lose all of his students as the creature rips through them to get to Kristen.

This is a change of pace for the SyFy Channel. Usually their movies are about poorly animated beasts killing teens. This time the CGI is excellent, but the victims are such cutouts that you don’t really care what happens to them.

The scarecrow looks good and appears to be made of tree bark. It can materialize out of the ground and send woody stalks right through the feet of its victims. Pretty cool stuff, but it is wasted on a shoddy script that offers sketchy characters who never come to life before they are called upon to die.

That said, the film does offer Lacey Chabert as the farm owner whose family probably caused the creature. That doesn’t matter, though, as she is allowed to be the final girl. Her only complaint was probably that her costumes were too small and tight fitting. The director doesn’t seem to mind the bad fit and constantly offers close ups of her straining against her puny blouses.

Lastly, this film breaks every rule of the horror movie. The characters split up constantly, even though they die every time they perform this action, they don’t wear seat belts, and they fall into bickering over every decision, even though they opt for the wrong choice each time.

Worth a look if you have been dying for a decent CGI monster picture, but more discerning viewers will want to stick with “Dark Night of the Scarecrow” for their straw man chills.

Best line: “I say we give her to it.”

2014, unrated.