MARCH 26, 2013
Let the record show that I'll go above and beyond to live up to my word - despite having lots to do at home (I still haven't finished my taxes, which is bad because I'll need the federal refund in my hand so I can pay the state tax I owe) I drove out to the Fry's in Burbank so I could buy a copy of Children Of The Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. Why? Because in one of the reviews for the eight (EIGHT!) other Corn films I promised to see them all before the site was done, and that's just a few days away. So I couldn't put it off any further, and I doubt it will appear on Netflix Instant in the next few days.
So now I own almost all of the damn things, as it was only available on a multipack with parts 3-7. Oddly, part 8 is the only sequel that I'd probably entertain watching again, if only to swoon at actress Kelen Coleman and laugh at the stock footage from Bad Boys II. It also lacks the original and its remake, but I already own those (I think? Maybe I traded em in), so now I have another franchise in my collection that I don't really want (I also have most of the Puppet Masters thanks to another multi-pack, and all but the most recent Resident Evil sequel; a series of movies that are "OK" at best and "slightly less OK" at worst). But the set was a mere 4.99, which is less than the cost of seeing the film theatrically.
Yes, theatrically. This somehow managed to hit theaters in early 1993, presumably because King adaptations were kind of hot again thanks to Sleepwalkers and Lawnmower Man, the latter of which seems to have influenced at least one scene here, when the main Corn kid gets possessed by He Who Walks Behind The Rows via a bunch of laughably bad computer animation. And even more miraculously, it did decent business, selling just under 7 million's worth of tickets - enough to put it ahead of movies like Kalifornia and Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm at the end of the year - not bad for a 900,000 budget. However, it would be the last real release for a Corn film, and probably will stay that way; parts III and 8 got dumped in a couple of theaters each for whatever reason, but I highly doubt we'll ever see it return to our multiplexes under any circumstances.
Anyway, it's no more theatrical or impressive than any of the following installments; if anything it's actually LESS so since unlike parts 3-5 it doesn't offer any future stars (though there's a Michael Hall listed as one of the Children, and Michael C. Hall was from the same area the film was shot - however I assume someone would have pointed this out by now if it was the same guy), and the FX can be pretty atrocious as well. Nothing as bad as Urban Harvest's Barbie doll climax with He Who Walks, but that one Lawnmower Man-y scene is just so goddamn ugly, as is He's "underground mole" effect, where you can clearly see the wrinkles on whatever fabric they are using as "dirt". The dummy old lady is pretty bad too, but that scene is so hilarious (they remote control a lady's wheelchair so that she is hit by a truck and flung through the window of a bingo parlor) that I'll let it slide.
On that note, what's with this movie's strange hatred of the elderly? They barely kill any "parent" age type adults on their own (they knock off a bunch of them in one fire a bit past the halfway point), but there are like four extended scenes of them terrorizing someone on Medicare, including an insane bit where they drop a house on an old lady after killing her cat. And yes, there's an obligatory Wizard of Oz reference; the lady shouts "What a world!" as the house crushes her, with her legs sticking out of the side for good measure. I mean, yeah, we don't watch these movies to see the adults getting away, but the focus on senior citizens gives it an extra layer of mean-spiritedness that doesn't seem in line with the others in the series.
Actually, more than any Corn film it reminded me of A Return to Salem's Lot. Both films are followups to King stories, and start with a father taking his jerk son (who hates him) to an isolated town, which the kid of course hates until he meets a girl. And again, their father-son bond is put to the extreme as the younger man is forced to choose between his monstrous new pals and his own father, a plotline that doesn't really come up too much in the genre which makes me think that it's not just a coincidence. It's like one of the producers wondered how to make a sequel without a King novel to work from and happened upon Return, then instructed his writers to follow its lead but maybe try to make it better. Oh, and they both came along eight years after their original, for the record.
Part 6 is the only film to ever bring back an actor, but for what it's worth they put some effort into making this a proper sequel (unlike say, part IV, which doesn't even have He Who Walks), with the kids from the Gatlin massacre being moved to a new town as no one suspects them of being murderous. And our hero is a reporter who wants to find out more about what happened in that film (I guess the screenwriters forgot that the ending of King's story was changed for the movie? Where did the Horton/Hamilton characters go? They could have cleared things up pretty well, I think). And there are some half-assed attempts to explain their behavior, both with Indian ritual (there's a wise Native American character explaining everything, because that's how horror movies used to do things) and some sort of toxin that was on the corn and possibly causing their mental instability, as opposed to just "crazy cult of kids worshiping a deity with a really dumb name". But alas, it's just not very interesting; hero Terence Knox is a thoroughly boring character, and I spent most of the movie wishing his son would meet the business end of a sickle (or the giant thresher which features prominently in the 3rd act). And the kid playing the main cult guy overacts a bit much for my tastes (he also resembles a punk version of Justin Long, the least threatening actor I can imagine), so there's none of the inherent creepiness that John Franklin provided in the first one. The elaborate kill scenes are kind of fun, but the rest of it is entirely forgettable (indeed, I think I saw this one as a kid but couldn't remember a goddamn thing, even the parts I enjoyed this time).
Yesterday I was talking about mixing things up in horror movies (with In The Spider's Web's mix of spiders and human villains), and this provides another example - there's a tornado scare at one point, something that's provably pretty common in the area where these movies are set (not the original town, for the record, but close enough for the events of the first film to reverberate). Yet I think this is the only time a tornado really came into play for the series, which seems like a giant missed opportunity. They could do it cheap - just have the threat of a tornado scare a bunch of adults and a few Corn-loving psychos into some bunker and let things play out. Yeah, you'd lose the corn, but after nine goddamn movies, do we need to see another endless cornfield? The CHILDREN are the important part here, not the corn, and it worked OK for part III to ditch the fields for interiors. The remake was in 2009; maybe in 2017 they will remake Final Sacrifice and improve upon it!
What say you?