So, originally, I was going to review each of the Children of the Corn Films. But frankly, I did not feel like writing detailed reviews of all ten films…because…well…
The Franchise is pretty awful. Please note, I will not be avoiding spoilers and am just going to express thoughts about each film very briefly.
Taking place pretty much in 1984, the first film opens with an absurd narration from a kid explaining how one day, the child prophet Isaac led his child followers to slaughter the adults in town per the command of “He Who walks Behind the Rows”.
As I noted, the opening slaughter contains a child narration that really undermines the film. It could have been a horrifying moment if they had simply stepped back and let it all play out silently. A few years later, because somehow nobody noticed a town went and killed all the adults, Burt and Vicky are traveling across the country. They find themselves in Gatlin where they run afoul of Isaac and his cult. They plan to sacrifice the couple to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, but they manage to escape and not be killed by the a red storm cloud.
And then, about eight years later, just in time for cheap CGI, the first sequel arrived. John and his son Danny are driving cross country and get stuck in Gatlin, apparently right after the first film. The remaining kids are being taken to the next town over and reporters and police are everywhere, since everyone now knows the kids all killed their parents, they let them wander around town.
John is a reporter and decides to stay in town for the story. And I am pretty sure for the owner of the bed and breakfast they are staying at. He and Danny do not get along. And so, Danny resents this whole “stay in town” thing…until he meets Lacey.
Danny also starts hanging out with the creepy Micah, who, unknown to everyone else has become possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows. In a super early 90’s CGI sequence. This begins a trend of terrible CGI in the franchise.
One of the weirder aspects of the film is that while it is clearly supernatural, the film provides a naturalistic explanation. Why? We all know that HWWBtR is real and some sort of monster. What is the point in suggesting it is all due to some hallucinogenic fungus? I mean, there is a setup that the infected corn is going to be shipped all over the country and that adults were in on it…for reasons?
Anyways, In the end, Micah gets shredded and the heroes get away. Another weird thing with the film? It takes place a day or two after the first film. Which was 1984. Yet there is no attempt to tie them together, both films behave as if the story takes place in that present. And while the first film played the mayhem more seriously, this film goes for comedic deaths. One woman is crushed under her house with a Wizard of Oz moments before her death.
Three years later, we get Urban Harvest. Shortly after the events of the second film, Eli and his older brother Joshua are adopted by a couple and move to the big city. There, Eli starts to convert kids to his cult and plant s a corn field in backlot of their apartment building…because that would not look weird.
Joshua is a bit less into the whole HWWBtR deal. People die crazy supernatural deaths anytime they start to interfere with Eli and HWWBTR. Eli’s corn is super tasty and so his step dad plans to try and get it sold all over the country.
Eventually, all the kids gather in the corn field to pledge themselves to HWWBtR, apparently after several killed their parents.
This is the first film to show us HWWBtR and it is…uh…it is…how do I put it?
Probably the only notable thing in this film is an early appearance by Charlize Theron.
Apparently, it was successful enough that we got Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering a year later. A film starring a Pre-Respectable Horror Naomi Watts.
In the film, she returns to her small town home to help with her agoraphobic mother (Karen Black). She works for the local doctor and the town finds themselves under siege by Creepy Kids. This film tries to reign back the comedy, aiming more for creepy kid killings. But it is also just not much of a stand out.
That is the hard part. While they try and go in a more serious direction, it ends up being kind of boring.
I don’t know if Mirimax was pulling the same idea as their Hellraiser approach and just making sequels to hold on to the IP, but two years passed and we got Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror.
This one has an early role for Eva Mendez, as well as a pre-transition Alexis Arquette. Again, creepy kids abound, but this time, an inexplicable trend is introduced. An adult who seems to be leading the cult. It does not make any real sense with the mythology, but each film kind of does whatever it wants.
And frankly, part of the problem is that there really is just not much to do with the idea of a cult of killer kids in rural America. I don’t mean, you could not tell a totally scary story based around creepy kids. But as a franchise, it really has its limitations. How big can the cult be? How does HWWBtR find new kids? By the fifth film, we are already seeing a tired cycle and honestly, we have yet to have a good film in the whole lot. Maybe that is yet to come?