Children of the Corn
Review Date: October 24, 2011
Released by: Echo Bridge
Release date: April 12, 2011
Full Frame 1.33 | 16x9: No
didnít 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 Ĺ 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.
Of 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 theyíre a one-off to make a few quick bucks, or theyíre 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
, was released just this fall). Itís 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.
Itís 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 ďthe corn,Ē are shuttled off to foster homes in the nearby town of Hemingford (a reference to Kingís 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 Dannyís mother is off getting remarried. En route, they almost get into a car accident with some of Johnís 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 thatís 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.
Back at the bed and breakfast, John tries to interview Micah but all the nearly comatose boy can manage is utterances about ďÖthe corn.Ē Danny canít help but take potshots at his Dadís hamfisted investigative style and the two get in an argument where John gives a brutal dressing down (ďI was seventeen and I made a mistake!Ē). 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
). Sheís the only argument he needs to stay in Hemingford, at least until he can get into her pants.
That 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 heís 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, whoís 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.
As 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.
Iím not one of the originalís ardent admirers but I will grudgingly admit that it has its moments and as a low rent thriller, itís hardly the worst Iíve ever seen. Itís not a story that exactly cries out for a continuation, though. Even if it were itís 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. Itís 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 90ís 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: ďHasnít that train long since left the station?Ē Apparently not; thereís no corpse so (corn)moldy that there isnít a filmmaker somewhere willing to exhume it in the interest of making a quick buck. Iíve been on lately about how a lot of horror sequels are good and under rated; this film is a glaring counterpoint to my thesis.
Like many of the worst genre sequels, Corn II
doesnít 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 doesnít 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?
The 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 (theyíre not present in the Canadian and European theatrical versions) may have given the movie a bit of razzle-dazzle back in 1992, but they havenít 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
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.
Credit 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.
B-movie staple Rosalind Allen appears as the owner of a bed and breakfast. In one of the stupidest wardrobe choices in cinematic history, sheís wearing shoulder pads under her flimsy, practically see-through t-shirt. She and Christie Clark, the other female lead, arenít 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 Walkís realm.
Itís odd that this movie was penned by Gil Adler and A.L. Katz during the same time as their tenure on HBOís 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 seriesí 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 writerís work to make it to the screen but, seriously, it doesnít 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. Youíll find none of that in Children of the Corn II
So anaemic is The Final Sacrifice
that it doesnít even deliver on the base level that even the most distressingly average B-movie can usually muster. Thereís 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? Thatís a dark miracle that perhaps He Who Walks Behind the Rows might have had a hand (or stalk) in.
The video is about as impressive as the film itself. While the full-frame image is mostly clean and free of defects, itís 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.
Itís 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.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is serviceable. All elements are well balanced but none of them stand out. The sound mix on the film isnít terribly sophisticated so thereís 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).
No supplements, not even a trailer, are included.
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice
has long been out of print and has gained a bit of lustre as movies do when theyíre 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, thereís no good reason to see it now that it has. This belated sequel feels lazy and slapdash and, worst of all, itís dull, dull, dull. Even if youíre a fan of the original, donít waste your time with this follow up. Among cinematic harvests, Children of the Corn II
is a low-yielding crop.
Movie - D
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour and 34 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Audio