Children of the Corny Part 2

Children_Of_The_Corn_666_PosterSo, the following year brought us the 6th film, which brought back the original Isaac (played by John Franklin, the original actor!) and was creatively titled Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return.  A young woman who was adopted out believes her real mother lives in a small town where Isaac has been comatose for over a decade. One thing that stands out about the Children of the Corn films is almost no continuity.  Beyond the first film, they all act like that is the only story that happened at all.

So, Isaac is part of the cult and nothing happened, except, yet again, adults seem in on helping He Who Walks Behind the Rows now.  I mean, again.

There is the attempt at early mis direction of the handsome young man that our lead girl meets is a nice guy, but he is later revealed to be HWWBtR. So, this ends badly for Isaac. HWWBtR seduces our lead girl and the film ends on the cliffhanger reveal that she is pregnant with his child.

Children_Of_The_Corn_Revelation_PosterThe next film dumps the numbering system, calling itself Children of the Corn: Revelation. It also completely ignores the events of the prior film.  Here, a young woman goes to check on her Grandmother, who used to be part of the child cult. We mainly see two kids, who appear to be ghost kids.  They go around this apartment building that is condemned killing everyone living there. The weird part is that the building appears to be in the middle of a corn field.

I actually started having a theory about these films starting with this one…I will share it around the time I get to Runaway, the ninth film in the franchise (well, tenth if you include the remake).

Children_Of_The_Corn_Genesis_PosterSo in Children of the Corn: Genesis (Get it?) we begin with a soldier returning home from the Vietnam war.  He finds kids have killed his family. We jump to the present and a couple’s car breaks down and when they try and find help, they end up in the home of Preacher. He is revealed to be the vet from earlier. He keeps a kid locked up in a shed and the kid appears to have major psychic powers. Again, we have an adult leading things and little connection to HWWBtR.

The couple almost escape, but then the husband is killed and the wife is brought back to be a part of the cult.  Again, the ties to the previous films are non-existent.

Children_Of_The_Corn_Runaway_Poster2018’s Children of the Corn Runaway is (again) about someone who escaped from the cult and then returns to town decades later with her teen son. There are all sorts of struggles as she tries to come to terms with her past only to have it all threaten to destroy her family.

So, about my theory.  Revelation, Genesis and Runaway were not originally meant to be part of the Children of the Corn franchise.  The studio bought independent scripts and had them reworked into being Children of the Corn sequels.  None of them bear any resemblance to the original short story or the prior films in any way. They add elements contradictory to the core concept.  In Runaway? If you remove the opening couple of minutes and the closing minutes, you would have no idea that you were watching a Children of the Corn film.

It is an attempt at a supernatural slasher…and it tries to make you question if the killer is really the one child we see throughout the film or if it might be the lead character. But it never really gels in a way that makes it a good film.

Children_Of_The_Corn_2009_PosterBefore they picked the franchise up with new sequels (there was a ten year break between Revelation and Genesis, and almost six between Genesis and Runaway) they tried a remake that aired on the SyFy channel in 2009.

In this remake, our couple Burt and Vicky are much less in love and their marriage is on the rocks. Part of the strain appears to be Burt’s PTSD.  When they run over a boy while driving through rural America, they go to the nearest town for help. Once there, they find a seeming ghost town.

The film goes for being a lot more gritty, yet seems like they choose to avoid some stuff.  Like we never see the kids slaughter the grownups of their town.  On the other hand, the filmmakers felt it was important that ew know the kids have a plan to keep the cult going by two of the eighteen year olds have sex in a ceremony why the others watch. Hoo boy.

This one also ends on a very bleak and hopeless note.  Burt and Vicky save nobody…and HWWBtR gets to proceed unimpeded.  This remake seemed more like an attempt to be  part of SyFy’s attempts at serious fare, but it is not really that exciting or interesting. It brings nothing of note.  I suppose it is a little better than the other films, including the original movie…but that is just not saying much. This is a franchise that lacks one solid flick and yet, somehow? The franchise just keeps moving on.

Your iPhone Is Making You a Zombie (Cell, 2016)

Cell_PosterIn a lot of ways, Cell is an update of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  King has replaced the mall full of zombies as the representation of mindless consumption with modern technology.  Specifically Cell phones.

Clay Riddell is a graphic novelist who is returning home to his estranged wife and son after after a year away pursuing his dream of selling a graphic novel.  After arriving home, he is talking to his wife and son when his cell phone dies.  He calls them back on an airport pay phone, but suddenly, everything is interrupted by a high pitch noise being emitted from cell phones.  People start frothing at the mouth and then start attacking everyone around them.

Clay tries to avoid being attacked, making his way down to the subways, where he finds several survivors.  He learns the subways train is shut down due to the emergency, and tries to convince everyone to make a run in the tunnels. Only two people, Tom (the train conductor) and another young man join him.  They are attacked in the tunnels and make their way to the surface, with Clay and Tom making it out alive.  They make it to Tom’s apartment, where they run into a young woman named Alice.  One of Clay’s neighbors, she is shaken as she has had to kill her mother to save herself. They proceed to make their way across the the state as  they meet various survivors and try and avoid the zombies.

Like the book, the source of the “zombie” (these are not actual zombies, the individuals are alive) infection is cell phones.  And like the book, the actual source is never revealed.  The movie tries to explain the infection in general terms, though never going as far as King’s original novel. The infected in the book are slowly mutated, opening their minds to new abilities, such as levitation.  The movie includes the notion of the hive mind, with Clay realizing they can see where people are through the eyes of any of the “zombies”. And early on, Stacy Keach’s headmaster suggests it is a new stage of evolution.  The infected “sleep” at night, which the sole remaining student Jordan suggests that the people are having their brains “updated” with new programming.

Clay’s goal is to locate his son, and the intelligence behind the infected use this to draw him out.  For reasons that are never clear, it is implied that Clay is important to the infected, which ends up being undermined by the end of the film.

King adapted his novel as far back as 2009, and had help from Adam Alleca (screenwriter of the Last House on the Left remake). The film’s largest change is the ending.  The book had a sad, but emotionally engaging ending.  King states he took a lot of crap for the book’s ending and so he changed it for the film.  Here, King opts for an ending more depressing than the Mist.

This was a film I was excited to see.  I recall when I read the book thinking the beginning would make the most intense twenty minutes of a movie.  And yet, somehow, the film feels like it downplays the terror of the opening events.

The film often fails to create tension. And both of the film’s big event moments are dragged down by uninspired digital visuals.

That said, the performances are good.  Samuel L. Jackson’s Tom is one of his quieter performances.  This is not the loud and brash stock Samuel L. Jackson performance (which is usually pretty darn enjoyable). And John Cusack tends to be able to make characters who do lousy things (like walk out on his wife and kid to chase comic book dreams) still come across as sympathetic.  He becomes more and more desperate, making some pretty terrible choices. Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan) is strong as Alice. Anthony Reynolds turns in a terrific manic performance as a Ray, a man so disturbed by his dreams, he has avoided sleep for days.

But unfortunately, none of these save Cell from being a mediocre adaption of a Stephen King novel. Sure, this is not Sleepwalkers or Maximum Overdrive…but those films are almost so awful that they become amusing.  Cell is just pretty average.

 

I Love L.A. (Escape From L.A., 1996)

Escape-From-LA-posterJohn Carpenter’s first sequel.  Escape From L.A. brings back Snake Plissken.  The setup here is that in the late 20th century, a Presidential predicts a major earthquake will hit California and Las Vegas because of their sinful ways.  Unlike Pat Robertson, his prediction comes true.  American makes the now island of Los Angeles a one way prison.  The president was elected to a lifetime appointment.  They instituted a theocracy.  If you were to sinful you were sent to L.A. (but you get the option to repent of your sin and be immediately electrocuted).

In the future of 2013, the President’s daughter (oddly named Utopia, because a hyper-religious parent would name their kid Utopia?  Or is the implication that he used to be a hippie?)  has stolen an important prototype and run off to L.A.  Like before, the government calls in Snake Plissken and forces hm to make a deal to go into L.A. and get the prototype back so a potential invasion of America can be averted.

Plissken runs into all sorts of Oddballs, such as evil plastic surgeons and a surfer gang.  He gets help from the morally ambiguous Map to the Stars Eddie and the sexy Taslima.  He takes on Cuervo Jones in an attempt to get the prototype.

Like most sequels, Escape From L.A. mimics Escape from New York a lot.  There is even a scene where he walks into a club and finds a dead Rescue Team member he was tracking.  On the other hand, the film really amps up the action.

The film has stuff that does not really make sense.  The Evangelical President outlawed eating of red meat?  I mean, it might make more sense if the laws were based in Old Testament.  The effects are not..well…effective.  Many scenes are clearly green screened.  The basketball sequence just does not compare to the gladiatorial combat of the first film.

This is not to say the film is terrible.  The cast, including Steve Buscemi, Valeria Golina, Pam Grier, Stacy Keach and Cliff Robertson are all good.  And Russell slips right back into the skin of Snake Plissken with ease.  One of the most entertaining moments is when Snake is captured by the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (Played by Bruce Campbell).  He leads a group of surgically enhanced misfits…they need to keep replenishing their body parts and look like the surgical disasters of nightmare on E! Television.

Escape From L.A. is fun, but comes no where near the classic status of Escape from New York.

 

 

Crypt Keepin’ Carpenter (Body Bags, 1993)

body-bags-coverAn attempt by Showtime to create a Horror Anthology to compete with HBO’s Tales From the Crypt, Body Bags both starred and featured direction from John Carpenter.  Showtime killed the series but released the three shorts set against bookend segments hosted by Carpenter as a creepy coroner.  His assistant was Tobe Hooper, director of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Both directed a segment as well.

Just like the Crypt Keeper, the Coroner makes schlocky jokes, before introducing the story.  It is not entirely certain each bookend was meant for the story that followed.

The first tale, the Gas Station, is about a young woman on her first night working at a gas station on a lonely stretch of road.  After a parade of weirdos, she discovers she is being stalked by a serial killer.  It is not a unique story, but it is well done, with a nice little twist.  Wes Craven has an amusing cameo as a creepy drunk who hits on the young woman.

The second segment, Hair, is about a man who is obsessed with his thinning hair.  In spite of his girlfriend’s insistence that it does not matter to her, he cannot stop fearing losing his hair.  Everywhere he looks he sees luxurious heads of hair.  He drives his girlfriend away because he won’t accept himself.  One night, he discovers a clinic that promise actual regrowth of lost hair.  Richard runs to the clinic for their service.  He is stunned when they try and talk him out of it, but he wants hair.  But in the end, he finds the hair wants him just as much as he wants it.  This is an entertaining story with and entertaining performance from Stacy Keach.  This is also the most humorous of the stories.

The best segment is the Eye, starring Mark Hamill as a minor league baseball player whose career is cut short when he loses an eye. He is offered a chance at a new experimental surgery that gives him a donor eye.  But with the eye comes dark and depraved visions.  Are they his own or the previous owner of the eye? Hamill gives a strong performance.  Of the three tales, this is the best of the bunch.

As with all anthologies, some installments are better than others.  But thankfully, in the case of Body Bags, all three are ranging from decent to very good.  While the first two segments are directed by John Carpenter, the Eye is directed by Tobe Hooper.  This is an enjoyable film.  And for those curious…you get to see Luke Skywalker’s bare butt.

 

 

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