Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sega Cornesis--I mean, Children of the Corn: Genesis

I challenge anyone to find anyone who knows someone whose cousin’s neighbor’s ex-girlfriend knows someone that would call Children of the Corn the best horror franchise of all time. It just won’t happen, and I’ll bet Joplin’s laser pointer on that.

It’s not that the Gatlin series has the worst individual films in horror. Of the ones I’ve seen--which is almost hard to count since so many just blend into boredom--none really fall below the trashy fifth Friday the 13th or glorious ridiculousness of Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2. Perhaps that’s the whole problem with the series: for all its low budgetry and dark premise, it also doesn’t take any real risks.
The original film boasts some of the most disturbing moments of the 80s, mostly because I’m a sucker for kids’ crude crayon drawings and stabby teenagers. 

Part 2...well, we had evil corn and a pretty kickass runny nose death. 

The third installment--which I haven’t seen in years and can’t speak currently on--SEEMED to be quite fun, while after that, the slew of we’re-not-even-trying-to-rise-above-the-VHS-market last few films seem notable solely for the inclusion of random before-they-were-famous stars (Naomi Watts, Eva Mendes). Most recently, SyFy attempted a revamping of the series with the painfully shrill 2009 remake.

The strange thing about this is that in terms of potential, Children of the Corn is BUSTING. I know other horror buffs look down on killer kids, but a prepubescent wielding a knife feels as natural a combo to me as cheese on a pretzel (you know, like a Combo). 

And yet...and yet...there’s hardly anything special about the Children of the Corns. Save for the original’s Isaac and Malachi, nobody remembers the villains. The kids never hitched their pitchforks to outer space. Roseanne never stopped by for a cameo. But the series continues to pump out mediocre entry after mediocre entry, including today’s feature, Children of the Corn: Genesis.
Quick Plot: In 1973, a Vietnam vet returns home 20 miles away from the infamous Gatlin to find his entire town has been taken over by elementary schoolers. As he stares down a li’l killer, the man has some war flashbacks and turns his gun on himself, only to instead have a child hurl a doll at his face, fall out a window, and bring us to the opening credits.

I hope to someday have my life advance twenty years by having a doll thrown at my face.
Cut to present day, “somewhere in the desert of California,” where a married couple is stranded with car trouble and eager to become horror movie bait. Tim and the newly pregnant Allie do as you do in a horror movie and head to the nearest creepily isolated farmhouse, where they’re greeted with awkward aloofness by Billy Drago (always a sign that you’re in the wrong part of town when it comes to cinema) and his mail order Ukranian bride Helen. The hosts let the couple stay the night until a ride can take them to a garage in the morning, providing they follow THE VERY SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS of not snooping around where they shouldn’t.

Easy, right? Just go to sleep, wake up, go home, and regale your friends at the next dinner party with anecdotes of the time you almost got murdered in the desert of California. Use the car ride to think of all the embellishments you’ll add to the tale. Sure, there may be what mildly sounds like a child’s screams just around the outhouse, but considering you’re already freaked out by your situation and JUST WANT TO GET OUT OF IT, you should TOTALLY investigate after that goodnight pee, right?

So yeah, Allie gets caught by Billy Drago, who then explains--after Tim gets manhandled by Helen--that he ordered his mail order bride without knowing she was pregnant, then ended up with a demon seed who now lives in a shed behind the outhouse. Or something. There’s some telekinesis involved, a policeman getting snatched up by the sky like the Julianne Moore alien movie no one saw, marital bickering, a car crash that the Internet tells me is completely borrowed from the vaults of the Bad Boys 2 editing room, and a good 72 minutes in, the first appearance of a bonnet.

So clearly, Genesis is a slow film.
Yes, a Children of the Corn film is slow. It’s a good hour before we see any real violence and a good post-credits sequence before we figure out just what behind the rows is going on. On one hand, such a style is interesting for a series that generally sticks to a different kind of formula. Except on the other, it’s boring. So there’s that.

High Points
Though nobody’s gunning for an Oscar (or heck, Scream Award) the performances are more than decent across the boar--eh, corn field
Low Points
Slow motion can be used effectively. Slow motion is not used effectively in Children of the Corn: Genesis. Slow motion is also used ineffectively at least seven times in Children of the Corn: Genesis
Lessons Learned
If you're still in California, there simply HAS to be cars
Pregnant does not equal dying
It’s really hard to get sweet iced tea in LA (you have to special ask for it)
Creepy backwoods preacher men aren't particularly interested in your newfound decision to go vegan

After serving your duty in the military, you get discharged with your very own handgun
Children of the Corn: Genesis isn’t an awful film or by any means the worst in the series, but it’s a fairly dull one that I don’t need to revisit anytime soon. When it hits Instant Watch, it might make for an adequate 80 minute stream, though any further effort should be avoided. The DVD includes a fairly pretentious interview with writer/director Joel Soison, so there aren’t extras to bump it to a buy. Unless you indeed are that cousin’s boyfriend’s neighbor’s teacher’s dog walker’s sister’s bodyguard’s girlfriend who does indeed ADORE the series, I’d say wait to catch it on cable. Or just watch Drago mug in 7 Mummies instead.


  1. Did you know that one of the Children of the Corn movies had Eric "Ricky from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2" Freeman? Whichever of the fifteen or 77 CotC films it is, it's listed as the only other thing that the GREATEST actor to ever have lived was in.

  2. I always forget that wonderful fun fact! He's apparently uncredited in the first film. I also wouldn't be surprised if he turns up in some Lumiere Brothers silent shorts or a prehistoric cave painting. The man is, after all, a god.

  3. I simply appreciate you actually sitting all the way through them. Believe me, I've tried.

  4. I almost wish the movies were WORSE. Then they could be bad-good instead of just mediocre...

  5. I checked out after number 2. Was not aware they were up to #8..its a pretty bland series indeed. The first film had a few jump scares that got me, as i just rewatched it recently..

    Children & Corn respectively probably deserve a better fate cinematically.

  6. I always see trailers for the Children of the Corn sequels on other DVDs and VHSes, and I just haven't gotten around to them. I feel like eventually I'll have to break down and make them happen, even if I know it's going to hurt.

  7. The first film has some of my favorite horror moments. I LOVE that opening diner scene and since I've a weakness for kids' crayoned drawings and creepy church music, there are a few more moments (plus that score) that I still find incredibly unsettling. And I LOVE the original poster. But the movie itself is a mess and completely ripe for a quality remake...

    Which SyFy tried to miserable effect.

    But I genuinely do think there's tons of potential for the series. It's killer kids! And cornfields! And creepy church stuff! It could be SO good.

    But 8 films and counting, it hasn't been. Granted, the only films I don't have clear memories of all the films, but i know none were spectacular. I would kind of recommend part 3, since I *think* it's a little more fun than anything else in there. The Naomi Watts one (4, I think?) is decent but not special, and after that, I think the rest are on par with Genesis: mediocre Direct to Video (name drop!) sequels that never really register as being anything but that.

    But hey, if either of you decide to tackle the series, let me know! I'd be curious how they all play back to backish.