Review Date: November 1, 2011
Released by: Dimension Extreme
Release date: August 30, 2011
Widescreen 2.35| 16x9: Yes
When Iím reviewing, I usually try to offer some theory or provocation larger than the film itself for my introduction. In the case of Joel Soisson, though, I think only a link to his IMDb page will suffice:
First, he got his start in the business pretty much exclusively working odd jobs in great slasher movies. First it was boom operator in David Hessís To All A Goodnight
, then it was art dec for the slick Mario Kassar produced Superstition
and then it was line producer on the incomparably gay A Nightmare on Elm Street 2
. From there he moved into a producer role, for the better part of a decade making forgettable films from every possible genre. Under the Disney-acquired Dimension, though, he found prominence and a new direction as both and writer and director of their direct-to-video wing. And when you look at his writing credits, holy shit, every film you never could have imagined would have warranted a sequel you can guarantee he penned one. Look at this list: Prophecy 3: The Ascent
, Highlander: Endgame
, Dracula 2000
, Mimic 2
, Dracula II: Ascension
(clearly he likes ascending), The Prophecy: Uprising
, Dracula III: Legacy
(some legacy, Iím sure), The Prophecy: Forsaken
, Hellraiser: Hellworld
, Hollow Man II
, Pulse 2
, Pulse 3
and now, Children of the Corn
. Iím not even editorializing here, thatís literally all the films heís worked on the last ten years. What kind of life is that?
Soisson proved he could shovel shit so long that Dimension even started letting him direct with the last two Prophecy
films in 2005 and the Pulse
sequels in 2008. Amazingly, he was still able to find directorial work with those on his CV, but I guess in the Corniverse the bar was never set all that high to begin with. So here we are in 2011, 27 years and 9 movies later, and weíve got a new maize movie after a brief 2 year hiatus following the TV remake. You know with Soisson at the helm itís going to be cheap, and given that resume, it probably wonít be any good, either. But then again, the SEGA Genesis prevailed against the odds too, didnít it?
Itís 1973 and Cole (JJ Banicki
) is returning home from the war in Vietnam. Instead of outstretched arms and a happy family, he opens his front door to find his mother dead and pinned to the wall. He finds a voodoo doll made of corn leaves beside her and the words ďBaby KillerĒ are scrawled on the wall in blood behind him. He ventures upstairs to find even more carnage. He also finds a little girl, although sheís not innocent. She tells him sheís enacting the will of He Who Walks Behind The Rows and proceeds to go after Cole. He draws his weapon, aims it at her, but then starts to flash back to Vietnam, wherein he killed a small Vietnamese boy in the line of fire. Heís unable to shoot the girl, and instead he slips and falls out a window and lies, presumably paralyzed, on the concrete, looking up at the children who seem to have run amok in Gatlin.
Flash forward to present day, and a young couple, Allie (Kelen Coleman
) and Tim (Tim Rock
) find themselves stranded on a road ďsomewhere in CaliforniaĒ. They venture off the road following a power line all the way to a house seemingly in the middle of nowhere. In it lives Preacher (Billy Drago
) and his mail-order Ukranian wife, Helen (Barbara Nedeljakova
). Initially they are cold to letting the couple in to use their phone, but upon discovering that Allie is pregnant, Preacher openly accepts their pleas. What started with a bunch of, erm, pregnant pauses quickly escalates into genuine discomfort for the young couple when both the Preacher and his wife start to hit on them. When Timís on the phone in the other room, Helen starts to take her clothes off, opening her legs and begging Tim to take her with him. Meanwhile, the Preacher gets too personal with questions about Allie and her baby history. They need to get out of there, but being in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday means their options are virtually nil.
The couple shack up overnight, and when Allie heads outside to use the outhouse, she realizes that thereís a little boy thatís been locked in the shed. She tries to free him but Preacher hears her and comes outside to investigate. Also snooping is Tim, playing back Preacherís home videos and realizing heís been shooting a little snuff footage, too. They both try to leave but seem to now be stuck in an alternate dimension that keeps them inside the house and oblivious to anyone who comes to visit. Itís going to take a whole lot of, shit, I have no idea, to get them out of there, and somehow they do escape, only to find themselves face first in a compilation of stock car footage. I really have no idea what is going on right now.
If you thought Joel Soisson couldnít top (bottom?) his inexplicably entirely shot on green screen Pulse 2
, then youíd probably be right, but Children of the Corn: Genesis
comes awful close. Emphasis on awful. For the first half hour the film is actually interesting enough and borderline tense. It offers up the tried and true conceit of strangers straying off the beaten path to find a rural nightmare beyond their comprehension. The mystery really drives the first half, but by the end when none of those mysterious elements are answered or come together, it just becomes tedious. After all aspects of reality have been exhausted, the story just seems to invent supernatural sequences just to keep the couple cooped up in the house for longer, never really explaining anything. Cole from the beginning is, I think, the Preacher, and somehow he collects pregnant chicks or something, but the movie doesnít really try and tie any ends together. Soisson mentions in his interview on this DVD that he wanted to keep things a little less obvious than a killer kid this time around, zeroing in instead on the evil and ďdirty laundryĒ behind us all, but he must have put too much bleach in that load, because by the end there appears to be no script left or no scenario explained.
One of the central dramatic points of the film hinges around whether or not Tim cheated on Allie with the mail-order bride, since Soisson purposely left it vague as it happened in order to add intrigue to the rest of the movie. Allie mentions it a few times and Tim denies it, and you think itís building to something, and then, nope, car crash scene and thatís that. Likewise, we have all these scenes and all this buildup behind this kid locked in the shed, and then by the end, uh, heís still in there, and, um, I guess heís fine with it and able to control pitchforks with his mind and cause spontaneous car crashes. Again, the movie just completely abandons story by the second act, with the plot there only to string along seemingly unrelated sequences of production value. And mainly, Iím talking about this car crash scene at the end.
Proving he will whore himself out to save even the pittance of change, Soisson talks on the DVD extra about how he was looking online one day and came upon some cool stock footage of cars falling off a large transport truck. They were cheap, so he bought them, and then wrote a scene in the movie where he could use them. Considering how he tries so hard to make it all work, I kind of almost wish he found stock footage of an elephant giving birth or something just to see how he could link that to Gatlin and the whole Corn legacy. The stock car footage unsurprisingly looks like it doesnít fit at all within this film, but then again, this is hardly a film at all. Itís 81 minutes with lengthy credit sequences at the start and end and primarily itís a chamber drama so Soisson could save money shooting in a single location. Itís not Pulse 2
cheap, but itís close.
Before this, I was familiar with Joel Soisson through the Pulse
sequels, which I reviewed here on the site. The stories were vague, contrived and confused, but I thought that was sort of a ploy to appeal to the dystopian technological apocalypse that drives the films. After watching Children of the Corn: Genesis
, though, I know that Joel Soisson just simply does not know how to tell a story. This movie is a mess, and worse yet, itís a mess that canít even deliver the bottom line for Children of the Corn
fans. The ďChildrenĒ are virtually non-existent, and I guess the corn is too outside of a dream sequence Allie has about being put on a corn crucifix. Itís pretty tough to screw up a movie when the two main components are right there in the title. Instead, itís more like Mumbly Old Pervert of the Sparsely Decorated Cabin In California.
As the first film in the franchise to be shot entirely on digital, Genesis
does represent, as its name suggests, a new beginning for the franchise. Iíd become so used to interlaced, non-anamorphic bargain bin transfers that to find this one so clean and sharp was a welcome surprise. Like many in the franchise it has a muted, orangey pallet that serves the film well. Detail is much improved over previous releases and because of its digital origins there are no specks or scratches to be found. Itís not perfect, though. The entire film seems to play a bit hot, with whites often blowing out, sometimes for stylistic effect and other times not. The biggest issue is in terms of sharpening, of which there is a noticeable amount. There are faint halos around the actors, and itís most evident in some of the on-screen text, like the ďSOMEWHERE IN THE CALIFORNIA DESERTĒ frame near the start of the review. While they take away from the overall picture quality, they shouldnít matter much to fans who have had to suffer through all those middling Dimension and Echo Bridge transfers.
films have never been lacking in sound design, and this one again proves that at the very least these films succeed at registering a consistently ominous tone through the lower end. I know this for a fact on Genesis
because when I went to rip this to my PSP during a bus trip, I found that I had accidentally chosen the LFE track as the main audio track, so for the first 15 minutes I watched the film thinking the entire 1973 prelude was done all arty with only a low bassy rumble. It actually worked out pretty good that way, I must say. This Dolby Digital 5.1 track again exhibits crisp sound effects, clear dialogue and the music track, as sparse as it is, also registers clean and balanced. Directional effects work well during the sequences when Allie is roaming around the farmstead and the Preacher is lurking about. Everythingís peachy here, or I guess in corn terms, Peaches & Cream.
At last, Corn
fans, an extra feature! Yes, itís true, Director Joel Soisson actually sits down for a 9-minute interview to mark that rare and elusive extra for a Corn
film. While I donít find him to be much of an artist, between this and the commentaries on the Pulse
sequels, I do find him to be a humble, honest and affable speaker that isnít afraid to talk about the short cuts and the lengths to which he goes with his films to get them done Ė even if it makes them look worse after the fact. Here he talks about the whole thing about shaping the ending around some stock footage he bought, as well as the story and how he wanted to go in a different direction than the previous films. Itís clear from this interview though, that not even he knew the direction he wanted to go. Ambiguity is not a story style. The interview also has a large amount of behind the scene footage thatís somewhat interesting.
Like Blast Processing, everything Genesis
is founded on is a sham. There are no children, no corn and no sense, instead just a bunch of cheap contrivances strung together to make something long enough to be titled and called a movie. It starts off well enough but abandons all its lengthy setup in terms of a forced, gimmicky resolve that sells its characters and the entire franchise short. Dimension at least gives the film an above average transfer and the included extra marks the first time since the original film that a Corn
movie has had an extra. Talk about sparse crops! I canít recommend the film, and in fact Iíd suggest you avoid it altogether, for fear that if the film is a success, Soisson will strike again, penning a sequel to a film you had no idea ever warranted one. Please, Dimension, keep Halloween
away from this guy!
Movie - C-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - C
- Running time - 1 hour and 21 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- A Conversation with Director Joel Soisson