Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Children of the Corn: A Sequel Retrospective (1992-1999)


My mom was a big Stephen King fan, and the reason why I became obsessed with the horror genre at a very young age. From Pet Sematary to IT, I can remember staring at the novels she owned, transfixed on the artwork. While she was more of a bookworm, it was always the audio & visual element that grabbed me. Now, I can’t say for sure which King film adaptation I saw first, but one that stuck out was, Children of the Corn. Something about children, kids my age at the time, turning against their adult contemporaries in incredibly violent ways. It was quite creepy. 

Now the transition, I recently starting diving back into 90’s horror, to be more specific, early 90’s. A reason? None really. Call it feeling nostalgic for spending a weekend with friends, out and about at the arcade or to see the newest release of Dr. Giggles or Leprechaun. Yes, I saw those in the theatre, no shame here. Ah, but how about Children of the Corn. Oh, yes there were sequels. So, so many sequels. None of which had any involvement from Mr. King himself. 

So this started my re-journey through the maze and this seemingly never ending, ridiculous franchise. Do I dare enter? Do we uncover the mythos of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”? Do I need to sign a waiver?! Spoiler: I quit after Part 5.

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)
Hey, this has “final” in the title, that’s worked out really well in the past for others. Hmm nope, there’s been eight more films released in the aftermath. It’s not an entirely lost cause, this is the last in the series to be released theatrically. Arriving a whole eight years after the original. And in all honestly, this is the second best entry behind well, you know. The comical deaths make this a rather hilarious time killer. An elderly wheelchair bound woman is flung through a plate glass window after being struck by an 18-wheeler. Another woman is crushed, Wizard of Oz style, under her house. This is what we are here for, mindless crap, and this one delivers an ear full….of corn. Ahem, moving on. 

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
The first entry under the Miramax distribution brand, and the first to take the series, plot wise, out of the midwestern sticks. We’re introduced to a pair of boys that make their way into the big city of Chicago. Adopted into a new family, no time is wasted in corrupting the fellow kids at school into their farming cult. Props for at least trying something different here, and it sort of works. Depending on your standards. Bad acting, head-scratching writing, but you get special effects by the legend, Screaming Mad George. That’s a huge plus in my book. This is not the low point of the franchise, not yet. 

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)
Did you enjoy the over the top silliness of the last few entries? Well, tough luck. That’s out the window. No mention of the “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” sub plot that played heavy over the last two films. This entry centers around feverish nightmares and an illness that has taken over a town. It’s up to, academy award nominee, Naomi Watts, to save the day. Yes, Naomi Watts, is the protagonist. Throw in some Karen Black for good measure, and you have the best acting you’re ever going to get in this series. This doesn’t excuse it from being a complete bore. At least Ms. Watts learned a lesson, and never starred in another poor horror franchise sequel ever again... *The Ring Two has entered the chat*.

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)
At this point, Miramax is pumping these films out with no regard. Somebody must have been renting them to justify that. It’s me, I’m somebody. By the way, can I point out how lazy these sub titles are. Fields of Terror sounds like something you’d find at HersheyPark around Halloween season. This is the entry that broke my brain. We get cameos from Kane Hodder, Fred Williamson, and David Carradine. It stars, Eva Mendes, in her first role. I felt like the DiCaprio meme, where he points at the TV screen. Oh, the plot, it involves some evil kids. Eva Mendes throws herself into a burning silo. That’s the highlight. 

Although my trip to Gatlin ended here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the final entry during this specific decade. Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return, released in 1999. Actor, John Franklin, ‘Isaac’ from the first film does in fact do what the title promises. He returns, to star and co-write. That gives this more tie in back to the original source than most, if not all of the aforementioned. I have not rewatched this since it’s initial release, so I really can’t say much. Although, Nancy Allen is here for some reason. From classic DePalma films to a direct-to-video sequel with the worst, try-hard, numerical name. She’s too good for this. 

In 2016, Stephen King was quoted as saying “I could do without all the Children of the Corn sequels”. Well, no shit. 

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