Review Date: October 27, 2011
Released by: Echo Bridge
Release date: May 10, 2011
Widescreen 1.85| 16x9: Yes
I remember in an interview on one of the Black Christmas
DVDs, Margot Kidder mentioned how impressed she was with just how much horror fans knew about cinema. Sure, we’re in it for the gore, the nudity, the depravity and maybe for a bit of social commentary, but horror fans also seem to possess a fascination with film history. I don’t know what makes us that way, whether it’s part of the same gene that draws us to the darker side of cinema or whether it’s a byproduct of the horror movies we watch themselves. I certainly thought the latter when watching Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
. In it you could see new actors on the verge of being discovered (Eva Mendes, Alexis Arquette), old actors many have forgotten about (Fred Williamson, David Carradine) and then other actors you recognize but can’t pinpoint (that kid from Kindergarten Cop
and Child’s Play 2
). I was also watching it as Ethan Wiley’s belated sophomore picture after the underrated House II: The Second Story
, or as a product of the nineties Miramax machine, or as the fifth film in a series that has possibly the worst continuity ever. The point is that the more and more I watch horror, the less it is about the predictable films or the requisite bits of exploitation and the more it is about the interesting history of the actors and collaborators that entertain us. There’s no question as to the intrigue of Fields of Terror
’s resume of entertainers (hell, even two of Frank Zappa’s kids have cameos!), but is it entertaining?
A young boy, Ezekiel (Adam Wylie
, Child’s Play 2
) is confronted by a large yellow and green flame while in a corn field. You know by his name that he has to be destined to be the next evil child leader of the church of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. The kid is taken over by the flame (this time the embodiment of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, wherein previous films it was anything from a tremor-like force in the dirt or a giant throbbing gore monster like in Urban Harvest
...I guess nobody can make up their mind just what the hell it is) and wastes no time in putting into action the beliefs of the corn’s creator. That story is the same – children are born pure and anyone over 18 corrupts that innocence, so the kids instead band together to keep the community young and devout. In this one the community of adults just sort of cast them off as weirdos, since the followers of He Who Walks Behind the Rows don’t seem to go out looking for trouble. They were all taken in by the shut-in Luke Enright (David Carradine
) and worship in private on his land.
The children’s sanctuary in Divinity Falls is interrupted though when a bunch of teenagers crash their car in the holy corn field. Despite on their way to a funeral for a close friend they’re certainly not morose. Drinking, taping inflatable dolls to street signs and cracking jokes seems to be their way of coping. Or something. They were supposed to meet up with a couple friends, but horror rules dictate that whenever a group of people is supposed to meet up with a smaller group, the smaller group will inevitably be killed off unbeknownst to them beforehand. So yep, the kids are doing what they do best, and they’re going to do it to this latest batch of teen fodder too.
A slight snag erm, crops up, when one of the brokedown teens realizes that her little brother might be a runaway who joined the kid cult. It leads Allison (Stacy Galina
) to investigate further, causing strife both in the sect of adults led by Sheriff Skaggs (Fred Williamson
, as badass as ever) and in the children’s community. Time is ticking for the children of Divinity Falls, and it’s time to make another sacrifice. Who’s next?
What I like about Ethan Wiley’s approach to storytelling is that he is able to strike an enjoyable balance between fun and seriousness. His characters always seem to have levity, even in the midst of dying (“Here’s your eternal light!” one victim says as he blows himself and the rest of the kids up kamikaze-style in the barn), but yet no matter how preposterous the story (whether it’s a prehistoric world concealed in a room in House II
or a Demonic CG Ball of Flame in Fields of Terror
) he always stays true to the principles of the genre. His films therefore offer up horror for the straighter edge fans (are there such a thing?) and a sardonic wit for those of us who have been there done that so many times before. Fields of Terror
is no masterpiece, but it knows its purpose and for 82 minutes does it well.
The film moves at a very efficient pace and is buoyed by affable dialogue between the leads that adds some lightness to a series that too often takes itself way too seriously. In that sense it sort of borrows a page from Urban Harvest
in transplanting hip, young ciphers for the target movie watching demographic into what’s typically not sexy subject matter in Bible quoting zealots. All the kills are handled rather well, never really too graphic but done with enough setup and payoff to be quite menacing at times. One of the first kills, where the children circle around a helpless woman on her homestead and then proceed to hack her to death with scythes is pretty disturbing. Wiley often appeals more to the psychological side of what makes death scenes effective, but does surprise a few times during the finale with some pretty nasty effects work, including a gooey metamorphosis that wouldn’t seem all that out of place in Carpenter’s The Thing
. The cinematography also turns it up a notch for the last reel, with some interesting overheads and shadows and a perhaps too kinectic pendulum-esque shot-reverse shot on a rocking chair. Seeing Eva Mendes do a pretty awful job at acting (I bet she’d like a second take at that spontaneous crying scene she has) and the two vets in Williamson and Carradine chew the scenery also makes for a fun watch. Carradine’s death feel kind of uncomfortably meta today in light of how he died of sexual asphyxiation, though.
Without the guilt or heady pretence of most of the Corn
films, Fields of Terror
is certainly one of the lighter, more entertaining films in the crop. It doesn’t get as taught as the fantastic forth film or as guignol as the third act in Urban Harvest
, but it definitely makes you wish writer/director Ethan Wiley contributed more to the genre than just this and House II
between 1987 and 1998. I say this without pun, this is a fun popcorn movie.
It’s probably a surprise to no one that Echo Bridge has released Children of the Corn V
interlaced about six or so years after any other major distributor has released a theatrical film that way. But they did. Sharpness suffers as a result, with the film always a mite softer than it should be. That out of the way, it’s actually a pretty flattering color grading, with rich, vivid colors and a stylish use of brown hues throughout some key moments. Detail on skin and all those dusty roads is noticeable. The bad CG fire effects still look just as bad as they did when this film came out over a decade ago.
Echo Bridge serves up their patented dish of mono a la mode, and like the video it’s actually a little better than the first impression. Fields of Terror
actually has a pretty ambitious sound design, with an active use of the lower end for extra kick during effects and a lot of sharp foley sounds for objects and ambiance. It’s a deep mix that would really sound great in an expanded soundspace, but even as it is in this flat Dolby Digital 2.0 track it still sounds pretty good.
Echo Bridge gives us a menu, and He Who Walks The Rows demands you be happy with just that.
With low budgets, terrible series continuity, quick release pattern from sequel to sequel and the thankless task of trying to make little children scary time and again, the Children of the Corn
series has kind of gone against the odds up to the fifth film, delivering on its premise with a variety of vision and wit some pretty accomplished performers. Ethan Wiley’s Fields of Terror
is not the best in the series, but it is probably the lightest, something you’d expect from the director of the enjoyable romp House II. Likewise, the presentation here from budget outfit Echo Bridge gets the job done a little better than you’d expect. For a $6.99 list, play the Field
if you are a fan of the franchise.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B-
Sound - C+
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour and 23 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio