Children Of The Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

Director: James Hickox

Starring: Daniel Cerny, Ron Melendez, Jim Metzler

ELI – “We who are young have a vision and that is the gift to us from He Who Walks Behind The Rows. Our greatest harvest is to come!”
T-LOC – “Harvest this, motherfucker.”

Let’s face it, there are only so many corn-related scenarios you can plant before the crop gets spoiled, so after Children Of The Corn and its iffy sequel it was decided to take the series to the streets instead. No longer are we dealing with a town full of creepy-looking Amish kids, instead we’ve got two of them living in the city.

Joshua and his younger brother Eli have been moved from Gatlin to live with foster parents in Chicago. Since they come from Amish backgrounds it takes them a little while to get settled into their new city lifestyles, and this is further compounded by the fact that the younger brother is a fucking maniac.

Eli fell for the "shaken Coke can" trick

Things come to a head when the inseparable brothers go to their new city school and are promptly separated (due to their age), which doesn’t go down too well with Eli. While Joshua tries to fit in, learn the city life and befriend his new classmates, Eli instead starts hatching a plot to make everyone pay.  Continue reading “Children Of The Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)”

Children Of The Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

Director: David Price

Starring: Terence Knox, Ryan Bollman, Ned Romero

REDBEAR: “My ancestors would have told you that man should be at one with the Earth, the sky, the water. But the white man has never understood this. He only knows how to take. And after a while there’s nothing left to take, so everything’s out of balance and we all fall down.

GARRETT: “Wait a minute. So that’s what happened here in Gatlin?”

REDBEAR: “No. What happened in Gatlin was those kids went apeshit and killed everybody.”

How can a film be so good yet have a sequel so achingly bad? Many will tell you this has always been the case (Freddy’s Dead and “The Exorcist II” spring to mind). But Children Of The Corn II is so terrible compared to the first film that your soul will weep.

Seemingly taking place soon after the events of the first film, news teams have arrived to cover the story (presumably the survivors of the first film notified authorities). Meanwhile Garrett, a reporter, is driving through the countryside for a job interview in New York with his son Danny coming along for the ride (against his wishes). Hearing of the story in the small village of Gatlin, they decide to check it out. Horrific hijinks ensue.

Children Of The Corn II is rare in that you’ll probably enjoy it more if you haven’t seen the original first. If you already know the story so far, your brain will be overloaded with questions for the first 40 or 50 minutes. “How long is this after the first film?” “Are those two corpses at the start meant to be the couple at the end of the first film?” “How come Malachai looks so different?” and “Where did that new kid come from, and how did he become the leader so quickly?”.

This was the shittest barbecue ever

Put simply, this film makes no attempt to connect with the original. The first scene after the credits (a terribly-acted news broadcast) tries to explain its own version of what happened, deciding to totally ignore the characters played by Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton in the first film. One of the most important characters, Malachai, has been replaced by someone who looks absolutely nothing like him and has no emotion whatsoever (unlike the original actor who, as mentioned in the previous film’s review, made the part his own by being a wanker). Naturally the actor could not be called upon to play the role again because this was filmed eight years after the original and going by the story he would already have been sacrificed because he’d be well into his twenties.

The whole thing reeks of shoddy filmmaking in general. Two elderly sisters are played by the same person and are never seen in the same scene; a Native American character stereotypically called Red Bear is introduced and quickly gets into character by talking about how foolish “the white man” is; and the quality of the acting reminds me of a girl from my Drama class in High School (she failed).

It’s not all bad news however. There are some interesting death scenes (one in particular involving a windscreen and a bale of corn, reminiscent of Final Destination 2) and the actor playing Micah, the new cult leader, is curiously strange (as the role demands, after all). He’s certainly one of the more interesting characters and fits into the “Isaac” role of the first film quite neatly.

Humour is also scattered throughout the film, a move that is unwelcome in my opinion. The original film was straight horror and nothing else; an attempt to add comedic elements is out of place (except for the excellent quote at the top of this review, of course). A death in which an electric wheelchair is taken over by one of the kids is a prime example of humour ruining the tone of the film.

The only real area in which this film is on an equal ground with the original is unfortunately that both have a weak ending. Again we are treated to what seems to be a giant mole tunnelling underground, followed by poor CGI effects in an attempt to add an unnecessary supernatural element to the film. Of course, the sequel takes it too far before this point anyway, with pointless Predator-style ‘body-heat’ POV shots that affect the film in no way at all other than adding to the shitness factor.

Children Of The Corn II would have received only one skull out of five had it not been for the pleasant addition of Christie Clark, a fine actress who sadly didn’t do many films after this. To give a film an extra half a mark based on the appearance of a minor character alone however speaks volumes on the overall shoddiness of the entire production.

Do yourself a favour and watch this awesome seven-minute version of the film, which cuts out all the boring shit and leaves you with the weird shit.

Children Of The Corn (1984)

Director: Fritz Kiersch

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Peter Horton, Courtney Gains

“Our time of tribulation has come. A test is at hand. A final test.” (Isaac, Children Of The Corn)

Films based on Stephen King books are a mixed bunch. You have your great films that are unfortunately not much to do with the book (The Shining), your great films that stick nearly 100% to the book (Pet Sematary), your non-horror films (Stand By Me) and your pieces of shit (Dreamcatcher). Having not read the short story Children Of The Corn is based on I am not at liberty to suggest which category this film falls into, but needless to say it’s sure to be one of the first two because this is a fantastic flick.

A doctor and his girlfriend are moving to the big city so he can set up a surgery. Whilst driving past a cornfield they hit a boy who steps onto the road. Realising he had already been stabbed, the doctor puts the body in his trunk and drives to the nearest town to get some help. Trouble is, the nearest town is Gatlin, a small countryside village much like any other you’d care to name. As long as you’re naming one in which the children have killed all the adults and are members of a religious cult.

This is Isaac. He's weird.

There must be something about Stephen King books that makes their film translations scarier than usual. I can personally sit through 95% of most 80’s horrors without batting an eyelid. ‘Tense’ chase scenes don’t usually affect me and I can work out when the big scares are coming in most of the films, as they were more predictable back then. However, of the countless ’80s horror films that attempt to scare the viewer, only two I’ve seen so far succeed in making me feel extremely uneasy: Pet Sematary and Children Of The Corn.

The film opens with a flashback of events that took place three years before the film is set, and right away the audience is thrown into the mix with a number of ‘scythe n’ knife’-related killings and a freaky looking Amish lad who looks as if he hasn’t slept for 7 months. In time however, you may grow to feel sorry for him. Maybe.

The thing that really wins me over with Children Of The Corn is the imperfection of the two lead characters. Whereas in most films the hero is the virgin who never smokes, always does the right thing and collects injured birds off the road and gives them baths, Children Of The Corn forces you to question your feelings on the heroes. This kicks off right from the first scene, where Burt refuses to propose to his girlfriend Vicky and doesn’t seem to have time for her. Meanwhile, when Burt suggests they take the injured kid’s body into town to get help Vicky at first refuses, showing a coldness not many ‘hero’ characters demonstrate. While this could have so easily resulted in a film with characters that the audience feels no sympathy for when they get involved in later events, the excellent performances by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton coupled with the effective script only make the characters more believable, bringing the audience closer and making it easier for them to relate to Burt and Vicky (after all, nobody’s perfect).

This is Malachai. He's a twat.

The real stars are the children, though. There are good kids, bad kids (the nameless ones who always seem to be there whenever someone pegs it) and batshit mental kids (Isaac, the leader of the cult). And then there’s Malachai. Never before have I hated a character more than I hated Malachai. Perhaps the young actor playing him (Courtney Gains) was tapping into the years of mockery he received for having a girl’s name, or perhaps he’s actually like the character, but this boy’s sneer makes you want to punch his head off and you really want him to get what’s coming to him (which, at the end of the day, is what the filmmakers intended). I’d love to have been at that casting meeting: “I think we should give the role of Malachai to young Courtney Gains, because he’s a complete prick”.

Although for the most part Children Of The Corn isn’t too dodgy, it does contain one of film’s biggest taboos: the brutal killing of children. Some of the adults get theirs too, especially at the start, but when you’ve got a town full of kids and they’re all a bit mental, some of them are going to have to take a kicking.

This film would have received a full 5/5 if it hadn’t been for one disappointing aspect; the ending. Perhaps this is how it ends in the book, but as soon as the dirt started moving Tremors-style and getting a little out there I was disappointed. Had the film stayed away from special effects at the end and kept to the idea of a religious cult it would have been a far more satisfying ending. As it is, it gives the impression that the kids actually knew something we didn’t and maybe weren’t so mental after all… a pretty weak end to a fantastic story.

This is also true for the last scene. The last 30 seconds are so underwhelming that when you see the words “The End” you can’t help but think that ending was just thought up at the end of shooting in order to get a final scare in there (and I use the word ‘scare’ loosely). Don’t let that put you off however. Children Of The Corn is 88 minutes long. Of these 88 minutes, 80 are fantastic. It’s just a shame those last eight were so disappointing.