AUGUST 30, 2011
If you recall my review of Hellraiser: Revelations, I could have seen it as the second half of a double feature with Children of the Corn: Genesis, but my car knew that at this point in HMAD I shouldn’t be doubling up, and thus it refused to start and I missed the screening (good ol' Ryan Rotten picked me up for Hellraiser). But it had no problems getting me to Blockbuster today in order to rent the flick on street date, so thanks, car!
Anyway, it’s not too bad, as these things go. Like that horrid Hellraiser thing, it was shot quick/cheap by Dimension in a rush so that they could retain the rights to the series before their contract ran out, so don’t expect much in terms of production value or even a cast; there’s only like 10 people in the entire movie (five of whom are adults). But unlike Hellraiser, it actually uses its limitations in a creative way, focusing on the characters (and a story lifted from Twilight Zone) and delivering a decent thriller that may not satisfy fans of killer kid movies but at least doesn’t totally disgrace the franchise name like its “cousin”.
In fact it’s so unlike the others that if not for numerous references to Gatlin and “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”, I would suspect it was just some generic evil kid movie that was retitled for DVD. A kid is the villain, of course, but he has telekinesis and doesn’t even talk, a far cry from the usual babbling tykes like Isaac. We see a few of the other kids but they don’t do a lot; hell there’s barely even any sickle action. However, the film almost seems like a remake at first, as it concerns a young couple (Kelen Coleman and Tim Rock, both refreshingly easy to identify with and personable) seeking help in a strange town (well, basically just a house here) after some car trouble. At first I laughed at the obligatory “Based on a story by Stephen King” credit, but in actuality it’s the closest any of the sequels have been to his original story.
But instead of them wandering around and running from kids, its an almost real time account of them waiting around for the tow truck. The house is owned by Billy Drago, so you know that they’re in trouble, and thus it just becomes a question of WHEN they will be taken out by him and/or the kids. Since they probably didn’t have the dough to have a lot of kills (or kids, who can only work at certain times of the day), writer/director Joel Soisson opts for something a little closer to psychological thriller, with Drago telling each side of the couple something about the other (one a lie, the other we’re never given a straight answer) and playing them against each other, which causes tension and allows to pad the running time with cheap but effective personal drama.
Also, the “Why don’t they just leave?” question has a pretty great answer – the kid is using his power to keep them there. But it’s not some stupid “they drive for 20 minutes and somehow end up in the same place” scenario, instead he just sort of beats the shit out of the guy as he tries to leave. Objects knock him over, makeshift battering rams are forcibly removed from his hands, etc. Soisson really hammers the idea home too; the guy is almost laughably stubborn in his repeated attempts to get away despite the obvious fact that someone/something is working overtime to stop him from doing so. Plus Drago actually has a real role to play, unlike the names that have popped up in previous entries for 5 minutes tops, and he’s always fun to watch.
The ending sucks though. Without spoiling much, there’s a big out of nowhere action sequence (using stock footage from Bad Boys II, of all things), followed by a final scene that’s a confusing mix of tragedy and spirituality. Maybe it made more sense on paper and things had to be cut for budget/time, or Soisson has just spent too much time with Wes Craven (master of potentially interesting ideas that don’t necessarily translate to screen), but either way it doesn’t work and kills some of the movie’s already minor goodwill. Basically, it’s the sort of OK movie that can be elevated to “Good” with a knockout ending, but instead it just sort of trails off (though there’s a pretty hilarious epilogue after the first few credits).
Also, longtime fans (why?) might balk at the change to the mythology established in the previous movies. In addition to changing the timeline (Gatlin is seen being overrun in the early 70s, whereas the original took place in the present day which would make this event in the early 80s instead), we’re also told that He Who Walks is a sort of virus and needs a host, or something (word of advice to filmmakers – never leave it to Billy Drago to explain your plot). At any rate, he’s not a giant monster that lives under the ground, like he was in the other movies. I actually think this sounds more interesting, and a kid with telekinesis is scarier than a kid with a sickle, but with a series as long-running and fractured as this (some folks assumed this was a followup to the remake – but that one wasn’t Dimension, so this is part of the original series), it’s a bit odd to be completely changing the nature of the only thing that ties them together.
The disc’s only extra is an interview with Soisson, in which he explains that the movie only had two weeks to shoot and also talks about the stock footage (doesn’t name the movie though), explaining that he wrote the scene around the footage that he found in order to add some production value/action to a movie that couldn’t afford any. Very Ed Wood of him! But I kid Soisson; I’ve actually come to like the guy after listening to him on a bunch of these DTV movies, and he clearly has a good sense of humor about what he does for a living. I don’t know if he could ever make it as a big screen director, but I defy anyone to stack his film up against the Hellraiser one and claim that HE’S the lazy hack. Hell he even shot the movie 2.35:1 (or at least cropped it down in post production), giving the movie just that much extra bit of professionalism, whereas in Hellraiser 9 I’m almost surprised that they remembered to turn the camera on.
In short: Best Children of the Corn sequel in years!
What say you?