A Cinefessions Series Review is a periodic column that sees one or more writers watching and reviewing an entire film series. Cinefessions considers any film franchise that has two or more films a series, and thus available for review in this column. This is a way to get a quick look at an entire collection of films in one column. Today, Chris takes a dive into more corn than he could ever care to with the Children of the Corn series.
My favorite theme from this year’s Cinefessions Summer Screams Challenge had to be supernatural week, and I wanted a film series to go with it. I didn’t have access to the ones I wanted to watch, or they wouldn’t fit the requirements of this year’s checklist (that required a series of at least five films). I turned to Netflix, where they, luckily for you guys, have seven of the nine films in the Children of the Corn series. The missing entries are the second film and the remake, which isn’t necessary for completing the series anyway.
The first time I was introduced to The Children of the Corn series was in the late ‘80s when a friend of my mothers was going on about how it was the most disturbing film she’d ever seen. I vividly remember her telling us about there being literal buckets of blood in scenes. To this day, I have yet to see any such thing in the film, so maybe she meant the short story, which I have not read. So let’s hop right in and play with He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
Children of the Corn (1984, dir. Fritz Kiersch)
The plot description from Letterboxd says that in Children of the Corn, a couple finds themselves trapped in a town overrun by a satanic cult of children who believe everyone over the age of 18 must die. That sums it up to a T. There’s a little more to it involving the children and what they worship. The couple is fairly likable, in the ‘80s sense of the term, but I really enjoyed Isaac, played by John Franklin, as he has this weird-yet-creepy female, man-child voice thing going on.
One thing has to be said: this film is a slow burn that never turns the heat up. It just moves along, not giving a care in the world that this couple takes forever to find it odd that there are no adults in the town. The finale is pretty good, with a decent, but predictable, twist thrown in for good measures. I must admit, though, as a kid, this was the only thing making me dread turning 18.
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992, dir. David F. Price)
I can just imagine the pitch for this film: “Hey guys, remember that film that did pretty well at the box office eight years ago? Let’s make a sequel”! This is one of the few times where I’ve seen such a large gap between the first and second film, especially in a horror series where even the god awful ones get sequels. This time around the town has been discovered, and all of the surviving kids have been moved to the next town over. Thankfully, they have cornfields as well. A reporter and his son come to town to do a news story on the events that had taken place. There is a tension between them, as well as some daddy issues.
This film throws everything at the audience. There are killer kids, demonic possession, poisonous corn, and an Indian burial ground. I had to look, and two people wrote this film; the randomness of some of the stuff shows as much. The cast is pretty dreadful with no real highlights. The only redeeming quality for the film is the death via a combine near the end of the film. What garbage.
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995, dir. James D.R. Hickox)
See that title? Yeah, that sums up the film. Two boys get adopted from a small Nebraska town and sent to live in the big city. One boy starts to grow a cornfield on the roof of the apartment complex, and people die via killer corn.
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that the sequel warranted another film, or the fact that they decided moving it to the big city was a good idea, and gave it a theatrical release. The acting is pretty average, but this time around, the film goes for more of a killing spree than usual. My favorite is the lady who gets her face melted by a black corn candle. Charlize Theron makes her film debut here in a minor role of a cult follower. I thought nothing could top how bad the second film was, but oh man, this destroyed that in terms of everything, excluding the whacky kills.
Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996, dir. Greg Spence)
Everyone, please welcome the Children of the Corn series to the direct-to-video side of horror. One night, all the kids in a town get feverish and ill. The next day they start calling each other by the names of the dead kids from the first film, and they seem to be trying to revive their leader. Okay, that sounds awesome. What it leaves out is that the film is now more of a supernatural slasher, where the one evil kid teleports in from pools of blood, and kills people with his scythe. The film does overuse the dream sequence a bit too much, but I still had fun with it, something the first three really didn’t offer.
Yep, this is the best Children of the Corn film yet, and a refreshing take on the series. I totally dug the plot, and it offered some solid kills that kept me entertained. Sadly, the young actors are pretty bad, but, hey, I’ll take that over everything we’ve gotten in the three theatrical releases. Oh, and a young Naomi Watts stars.
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998, dir. Ethan Wiley)
Some rather old looking teenagers wind up stuck in yet another town overrun by satanic children. This time green lightning from some corn brings it on. From there the teens feel the need to try and save the evil kids. It’s overly silly, but I have to say, the film loves big explosions and crazy deaths. Heads explode and kill other people for crying out loud!
This seems to be a weird blend of the first film and The Gathering, with the slasher vibe gone (boo), but a ton of evil kids. Weirdly enough, the town is still full of adults. Maybe He Who Walks Behind the Rows is still new to town. The highlights of the film are Eva Mendes, and Alexis Arquette, who was unrecognizable to me in full boy mode with a goatee! Not the worst outing for these kids, but it’s a step back from the fun of The Gathering.
Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999, dir. Kari Skogland)
Hannah wants to find out where she came from so she heads off to Gatlin, Nebraska, the town from the first film. Upon her arrival, she awakens Isaac, the young preacher kid also from the first film, who has been in a coma for 19 years. The bible foretells Hannah’s future.
This film could have – and should have – sucked, but it’s completely enjoyable. Natalie Ramsey gives a strong performance as Hannah, and John Franklin returns as Isaac, which is a great idea. Looking at the opening credits I saw that he helped write this screenplay, which seems a bit odd, but it works. It’s a very different take on the series of satanic corn worshiping. This is right up there with The Gathering in terms of quality, and I might have actually liked it a bit more than that one.
Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001, dir. Guy Mager)
After her aunt dies, a young woman returns home to Nebraska. She finds the condo has become rather rundown, and a cornfield has grown right up against the building. She meets two pasty kids, who through the course of the film, get less pasty.
This movie was not good at all. It’s slow, and the kills are just laughable. There’s a stripper who gets drowned in the tub via cornstalks. Yes, you read that right. The big finale is kind of a snooze as well, and the acting is pretty basic with no one standing out. The highlight is when she takes the two kids to the local store, and has them play the House of the Dead 2 arcade cabinet. Brownie points for that!
Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011, dir. Joel Soisson)
One would think a ten-year gap between chronological films (the remake, reviewed below, came out two years before this) would have meant that a good story had been decided upon. One would be wrong. Much like the last installment in the Hellraiser series (check out Ashe’s series review), it’s like they just felt forced to make this.
The film opens with a guy returning home from a war and finding out that evil kids have killed his family. It then jumps to present day where a couple’s car breaks down, and a man called Preacher allows them to stay at his house if they agree to stay out of the forbidden area. Toss in one random evil kid that kills three whole people, and you have a rather boring story.
This is probably the lowest the series has gone. It doesn’t have a fun plot, the kills are crap, and there is only one killer kid. What a sour note to end the series on, but hopefully Dimension has laid the series to rest because it really hasn’t been a fun ride.
Children of the Corn (2009, dir. Donald P. Borchers)
I debated on if I had to watch this monstrosity since it isn’t part of the original series, but rather a remake of the first film. Well, I rewatched it for you guys, and it’s just as terrible as it was then. An angry, bitter, nasty, unlikeable couple arrives in Gatlin, Nebraska, which over the past few years, has had all of the adults murdered by Satan worshiping children. You know the rest.
To say this movie is bad is an understatement. The acting is truly awful. This actually premiered on the SyFy channel, so that should give you an idea of its quality. The plot gets altered in the second half, but who cares? The couple who we are supposed to be rooting for are terrible people, and completely unlikable. I wanted them to die, and the film drags on for 93 minutes of pure hell.
The CSR Awards
(The Cinefessions’ Series Review Awards)
Best Picture: Children of the Corn: The Gathering
Worst Picture: Children of the Corn (2009)
Favorite Scene/Moment in Series: Black Corn Candle Death (Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest)
This one was tough because there’s the black corn candle that causes a ladies face to melt off in true ‘90s fashion, or the exploding fireball head that decapitates someone else. I had to go with the cool black corn kill as it stuck out more in what was an otherwise dreadful film.
Best Actress: Natalie Ramsey (Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return)
Best Actor: Alexis Arquette (Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror)
The Children of the Corn series is an anomaly in the world of horror. It spawned way too many sequels for something that was never entertaining to begin with. If you feel like torturing yourself, all but the second film and the remake are on Netflix Instant Queue. I would highly recommend watching the original, The Gathering, and 666: Isaac’s Return, and then calling the series done. Those are the “highlights” of the mediocrity that is the Children of the Corn series.
The average film rating for the Children of the Corn film series is 1.39 stars.