Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

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  1. Chunkblower

    Chunkblower Member

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    [​IMG] Reviewer: Chunkblower
    Review Date: October 24, 2011

    Format: DVD
    Released by: Echo Bridge
    Release date: April 12, 2011
    MSRP: $6.99
    Region 1
    Interlaced
    Full Frame 1.33 | 16x9: No
    1992

    Children of the Corn didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it premiered in 1984. It came and, by virtue of its extremely low budget, made a tidy profit before disappearing to the wasteland of home video. Then, a funny thing happened there: the film started to gain a following. Slowly but surely it built an audience and a reputation. Indeed, the booming home video market of the 1980s gave a lot films a second chance at profitability (box office dud 9 ½ Weeks was one of the top renting titles of the decade) or helped them find enough of an audience to justify a blockbuster sequel (The Terminator). As the 80s concluded, what was initially dismissed as a low rent potboiler had earned itself a solid reputation as one of the better Stephen King adaptations of the decade, all thanks to the muscle it flexed at the video store.

    inline ImageOf course, this is the horror genre so any film with even a small following is ripe to be franchised. It took a while (rights issues, I think) but eventually a sequel followed. Sequels that trail so long after the fact are usually one of two things: either they’re a one-off to make a few quick bucks, or they’re a kind of proof of concept for the resurrection and continuation of a franchise. I think it was intended as the former but, somehow, Children of the Corn II wound up being the latter. It planted a seed that would grow into a shockingly prolific series that continues to this day (the ninth Corn movie, Genesis, was released just this fall). It’s kind of amazing that the series continued after Part II, since The Final Sacrifice is an awful sequel and a terrible movie on its own, unambitious terms.

    The Story

    inline ImageIt’s immediately after the carnage depicted in the first film and the media and law enforcement descend on the town of Gatlin to sift through the wreckage and figure out what happened. The surviving children, uncommunicative aside from muttering about “the corn,” are shuttled off to foster homes in the nearby town of Hemingford (a reference to King’s The Stand). Tabloid reporter John Garett (Terence Knox) is taking a break to take his estranged son Danny (Paul Scherrer) on a road trip while Danny’s mother is off getting remarried. En route, they almost get into a car accident with some of John’s former colleagues from his days as a real journalist. The reporters are heading to Hemingford to cover the story about the children of Gatlin. John automatically smells an opportunity to regain some credibility as a journalist by covering a sensational story that’s 100% legit (for a change). John and Danny head straight to Hemingford and rent a room at the local bed and breakfast which is owned by the attractive Angela Casual (Rosalind Allen), who has also taken in one of the orphaned Gatlin children, Micah (Ryan Bollman). The reporters, on the other hand, get lost on the way to Gatlin, stopping in a cornfield to check a map (bad idea). As thanks for their devotion to the pursuit of truth, the two are slashed and speared by some vengeful cornstalks.

    inline ImageBack at the bed and breakfast, John tries to interview Micah but all the nearly comatose boy can manage is utterances about “…the corn.” Danny can’t help but take potshots at his Dad’s hamfisted investigative style and the two get in an argument where John gives a brutal dressing down (“I was seventeen and I made a mistake!”). Danny, understandably upset, takes off for the bus stop and a trip back to civilization. At the bus stop he meets the nubile Lacey (Christie Clark). She’s the only argument he needs to stay in Hemingford, at least until he can get into her pants.

    inline ImageThat night the children of Gatlin gather in a nearby cornfield. With Isaac gone, they are without a leader and some of the kids are starting to get skeptical that any of the things Isaac preached were true. Perhaps sensing that he’s about to lose his flock, He Who Walks Behind the Rows chases Micah down and possesses him. Micah emerges from the corn as the prophesized new leader, and he mobilizes the children for another campaign of murder and terror. Their first victim: Mrs. Burke (Marty Terry), the town busybody, who’s been uttering dire warnings against the children. They lure her underneath and then drop her house on her (an intentional nod to The Wizard of Oz?), and leave a cross smeared with corn mold on the front of their house as a calling card.

    inline ImageAs John investigates the Gatlin killings he meets Frank Redbear (Ned Remero) at the abandoned school. Frank is a Native American who is also a professor of anthropology at the local University. Together, they discover that the corn mold has toxic and corrosive properties. The substance seems to be all over the corn and the two men team up to discover the connection between the mold and the Gatlin killings, running afoul of corrupt law enforcement and narrowly avoiding a height readjustment via combine in the process. They need to do something with the quickness, too, when Lacey and Angela are abducted to be used as sacrifices to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, with Danny to be the one to swing the sacrificial blade.

    inline ImageI’m not one of the original’s ardent admirers but I will grudgingly admit that it has its moments and as a low rent thriller, it’s hardly the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s not a story that exactly cries out for a continuation, though. Even if it were it’s hard to imagine any film crying out to be followed up in as mediocre fashion as Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice follows its predecessor. It’s mind-blowing that Corn II was able to secure a theatrical release, since everything about it from the static direction to the flat acting to the chintzy special effects just screams early 90’s direct-to-video. Even being a fairly undiscriminating 13-year-old, I still remember seeing a newspaper ad for Corn II and thinking to myself: “Hasn’t that train long since left the station?” Apparently not; there’s no corpse so (corn)moldy that there isn’t a filmmaker somewhere willing to exhume it in the interest of making a quick buck. I’ve been on lately about how a lot of horror sequels are good and under rated; this film is a glaring counterpoint to my thesis.

    inline ImageLike many of the worst genre sequels, Corn II doesn’t expand the mythos of the first film but tries instead to explain it away. Rather than being a supernatural embodiment of evil, He Who Walks Behind the Rows now manifests itself as the hallucinogenic symptom of exposure to toxic corn mold. Of all the ways you could explain away the events of the first film, this has got to be the most inane one possible. The film doesn’t even have the courage of its convictions, as it implies a supernatural cause from the get-go and then makes it overt in the finale. Is this some half-assed attempt at building suspense? Seriously, what is the point of this subplot?

    inline ImageThe original was hardly a polished mega budget production, but Corn II reeks of cheap, poverty row filmmaking from frame one. The silly computer effects that were evidently added after the fact (they’re not present in the Canadian and European theatrical versions) may have given the movie a bit of razzle-dazzle back in 1992, but they haven’t aged well at all. That money would have been better spent beefing up the in-camera make ups or adding a couple of creative kills. The intent was probably to hop on the T2/Lawnmower Man CGI bandwagon which might have earned them a few additional bucks in ticket sales but really kills any chance for Corn II to have an extended shelf life.

    inline ImageCredit where credit is due time: there is one pretty good practical effect gag involving a whittled voodoo doll and an epic nosebleed in a church. The scene starts out funny but grows more and more intense and horrifying as it progresses. The scene never really crescendos to a genuinely memorable payoff, but it should still hit home for anybody who has suffered a public, gushing nosebleed.

    inline ImageB-movie staple Rosalind Allen appears as the owner of a bed and breakfast. In one of the stupidest wardrobe choices in cinematic history, she’s wearing shoulder pads under her flimsy, practically see-through t-shirt. She and Christie Clark, the other female lead, aren’t given much to do other than bed the male leads and be damsels in distress during the finale. As is the case with a lot of real religious cults, it seems that sexism is the coin of He Who Walk’s realm.

    inline ImageIt’s odd that this movie was penned by Gil Adler and A.L. Katz during the same time as their tenure on HBO’s Tales from the Crypt series. The screenplay for Children of the Corn II stands in stark contrast to their work on that show: their Crypt episodes are among the best of the series’ run, while Corn II is one of the lamest horror sequels of the 1990s. Yes, the constraints of a low budget can make it difficult for writer’s work to make it to the screen but, seriously, it doesn’t cost anything extra to write punchy dialogue instead of bad, or to throw in some or wit or a clever turn of phrase to liven up the proceedings. You’ll find none of that in Children of the Corn II.

    So anaemic is The Final Sacrifice that it doesn’t even deliver on the base level that even the most distressingly average B-movie can usually muster. There’s almost no gore, no decent scares or cheap thrills, nothing new added to the mythos and no point in watching it, whatsoever. The original was an okay enough potboiler but this is the film that launched a ten film franchise that is still chugging along today? That’s a dark miracle that perhaps He Who Walks Behind the Rows might have had a hand (or stalk) in.

    Image Quality

    inline ImageThe video is about as impressive as the film itself. While the full-frame image is mostly clean and free of defects, it’s also extremely washed out. Colors are dull and detail is lacking. Day scenes are washed out and dark scenes are rife with crushed blacks and mosquito noise and the fiery finale is a showcase of color banding. Oddest anomaly: at the end of the scene in the abandoned school contrast really noticeably strobes for a few seconds.

    Trippy, man.

    It’s an okay transfer but it looks like it was pressed from a VHS or LD master. The source material is clearly in need of re-mastering, though I can certainly understand not wanting to bother spending the time and money on such a mediocre movie.

    Sound

    inline ImageThe Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is serviceable. All elements are well balanced but none of them stand out. The sound mix on the film isn’t terribly sophisticated so there’s not much to say about this track. It accomplishes the bare minimum it needs to and nothing more (which is honestly more than can be said of the feature itself).

    Supplemental Material

    No supplements, not even a trailer, are included.

    Final Thoughts

    inline ImageChildren of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice has long been out of print and has gained a bit of lustre as movies do when they’re kept out of the hands of the public. Do not be deceived. While there was no good reason for it to take so long for it to be released on DVD, there’s no good reason to see it now that it has. This belated sequel feels lazy and slapdash and, worst of all, it’s dull, dull, dull. Even if you’re a fan of the original, don’t waste your time with this follow up. Among cinematic harvests, Children of the Corn II is a low-yielding crop.

    Rating

    [​IMG] Movie - D

    Image Quality - C-

    Sound - C

    Supplements - N/A


    Technical Info.
    • Colour
    • Running time - 1 hour and 34 minutes
    • Rated R
    • 1 Disc
    • Chapter Stops
    • English 2.0 Audio
    Supplemental Material
    • N/A
    Other Pictures

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    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 23, 2015

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