Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I should probably nail my colors to the mast right now and come out and say it. I really don't care much for the first CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) film. Didn't like it in '84 and it's twice as uninteresting now. I think the meat-slicer scene was the thing that got me back in the day, but it sure could have been realized more effectively. The thing that really surprises me about the film and its success, is how popular it was even though it was taking some very broad swings at organized religion, specifically Christianity. Watching it in today's political climate where numerous spin-offs of Catholic and Protestant religious groups have their own bastardized version of the bible and millions of dollars invested in lobbyists and political action, it's difficult to see this film even coming close to being the box office hit that it was in '84.

Made for a mere $800,000 with a then little-known Linda Hamilton, CHILDREN OF THE CORN harvested over $14.5 million in the US alone during it's three month theatrical run. These days it would be nothing more than a crappy SyFy movie of the week. Oh wait, it was. Yes, in 2009, if you recall it was re-adapted (with Stephen King's usual "they fucked up my story so I'm going to set it right" press releases) and completely reviled. But I'm not even going to get into that here. Cheap-ass sequels, that's what I'm all about, and CHILDREN OF THE CORN has got them in spades ("spades" I say! Jeeze, tough crowd). Inspired as I was from Fred's revisiting of the masterpiece (of sorts) CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST (1995), I had to revisit this entry, which to be honest, I don't remember liking too much. I must have been off my feed, because this is nothing short of a neglected classic. A big thanks to Mr. Dixon for getting me to watch it again.

This poster does not lie
Sequels usually come in two flavors: a blatant rehash of the original film or something totally ridiculous that proves that nobody really cared what the film contained  as long as it hit the bullet points and had the correct title. This is definitely the latter, and  my preferred method of sequel delivery. So what do we need to keep the investors happy? Corn crazy cracker kids with dangerous farming implements, check! Popcorn-studded, bastardized bibles, check! A firm desire to do-in the elders, check! Oh, and some sort of crucifixion via corn stalks. Gotta have that. Also, if you really want to market that film to the fanbase and get those wallets open, you need some gristly effects. If you want some seriously whacked out gristly effects, you get Screaming Mad George (who we've never seen actually scream, but does giggle a lot). For a while there SMG was the muthalovin' man when it came to badass sequel insanity. Get him to do the effects and you are sure to get a big spread in Fangoria Magazine, and as all of us who grew up reading Fango know, those big-ass spreads never lie.

Directed by James Hickox (the other son of director Douglas Hickox), who really didn't do anything noteworthy afterwards, and written by Dode B. Levenson and Matt Greenberg (of PROPHECY II and the new PET SEMATARY adaption), this sequel decides that the series was already getting tired of the fresh air and needed to be transplanted to Chi-town. Brilliant. After "he who walks among the rows" aids in their escaping from a drunk and abusive father, Eli (Daniel Cerny) and Joshua (Ron Melendez), two members of the original corn cult are being adopted by a well-off couple in an undisclosed part of Chicago.

Ok, so that explains his psychic abilities...
He had pig's blood dumped on him at the prom.
Right out of the gate young Eli starts stirring the proverbial poop, psychically making crystal figurines break (while the older Josh takes the blame), causing cockroach-infestation hallucinations and growing a cornfield in an abandoned lot behind the house. Well yeah, otherwise it would be "he who walks among the condos" and that wouldn't be scary, would it? Eli also gets into it with the head priest in their Catholic school and manages to get all of the kids to follow his own abandon building sermons (including a young Charlize Theron). Meanwhile, Josh is merely trying to adapt to his multicultural surroundings including trying to get some from his black girlfriend. Edgy stuff! Bitter about his brother's new friends, Eli runs amok using his powers to fuck with everybody in sight. Even the school's admin can't escape Eli's maniacal hyperactivity. Eli uses his pyrokinesis (I guess) to set her head on fire while laughing like he's the only one who didn't drink the kool-aid. At this point, Josh is starting to realize that his adopted brother might be up to no good. What sort of no good? Well, all the kids are listening to Eli's sermons after class, and now the basket ball courts are deserted! C'mon now, you can't let the little bastard get away with that!

Hickox and co. definitely embrace this sequel with some serious gusto. In the film's opening scene we see the corn itself actually attacking the drunken father, crucifying him, sewing his eyes and mouth shut and ripping his arms out of their sockets. Hell yeah man, none of this red and yellow video blob thing or swirling winds. In addition to that we get some of Screaming Mad George's trademarked lunacy with a woman's head splitting open to disgorge a swarm of roaches; Johnny Legend's vine-impaled head lurking in the soil waiting to bite the local bully; and a truly spectacular moment where a character's head is ripped from his torso and pushed up into the air so that his spinal column serves as a corn stalk. Plus lots of sickle based bloodsplashery (it's a word) and impalement. Best of all "he who walks" is now more like "he who shambles"! The creature that has been heretofore been  represented by some really bad colored blob (or even as an invisible wind) is now a giant amorphous blobtacular Lovecraftian monster covered in eyes, teeth and tentacles! This last bit is only made better by the fact that it sports, quite literally, the most unconvincing miniature shots eeeeever. Yes, I am including CLEVELAND SMITH: BOUNTY HUNTER (1982) in that. Seriously, who screened those dailies and said "yeah, that's good, let's go with that"? Who am I kidding? They probably said "sweet, that didn't cost us as much as we thought!"

One of my favorite parts, though, is when the boys sit down with the new folks for dinner. A nice home-cooked meal in Chicago? This is going to be grea - pizza? Ok, yeah, pizza, Chicago, I get it, but what the hell is with that pizza? It's got a dense, inch-thick crust and it's cut into wedges? WtF? That's not delivery, that's DiGiorno! Ok, Eli, I'm with you. Those idiots need to be sacrificed pronto.

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