Monthly Archives: January 2020

You’re Next (2011)

*. I don’t think anyone involved in this film thought they were doing something radically new. Rather, they were trying, as with any good genre piece, to put a slightly different spin on familiar tropes, playing mainly by the rules but along the way making something, in screenwriter Simon Barrett’s word, a little “weird.”
*. Even weirdness, however, is hard to pull off in the present age. On their commentary track Barrett and director Adam Wingard spend a lot of time discussing this, and the difficultiy of doing a genre piece at a time when genres are so much in flux. I see their point, and sympathize. But to their credit, while I don’t think You’re Next is wholly successful, and mostly feels just awkward, at least it’s not dull.
*. I didn’t go into it with high hopes. Home invasion is probably my least favourite horror sub-genre. Wingard and Barrett would seem to agree, calling such films depressing. How then to make a home invation film that’s less depressing, without going the postmodern, parody route of Haneke’s Funny Games? Funny Games being a movie that I still found more than depressing enough.
*. I’m talking quite a bit about the thinking behind the film because it’s important to judge You’re Next on its own terms, so we should understand what those terms are, as best we can. I might also add here that in the following notes I’ll be giving away the ending, so consider yourself warned.
*. There are two main angles I want to take on the question of what You’re Next is trying to do. The first has to do with its status as comedy. As I understand it, Wingard and Barrett wanted to make it a tonal experiment, starting out as horror but gradually becoming more comic as things went along. I think then it’s proper to consider it a horror-comedy and not just a horror film with some moments of comic relief. However, Barrett also insists that the humour was indirect. He didn’t write any jokes, and thought the humour would arise naturally from the absurdity of the situation.
*. I can’t go along with this, at least entirely. For starters, the set-up is comic right from the start. The plot is so preposterous it’s not even worth getting into. The killers have been paid to do a job, so why don’t they just do it as quickly and simply as possible? Would using guns have been too easy? Why the silly masks and trying to act scary? How could they be so sloppy as to be caught in the house when the parents arrive, leaving all their junk behind? It’s like they think they’re in a horror movie or something.
*. To this we can add characters that behave like caricatures of bickering siblings and grasping heirs, and violent scenes that are, repeatedly, played as gags. The long set-up to the girl being clotheslined by the razor wire. The brother being stabbed repeatedly with screwdrivers. The other brother having a blender shoved into his head. Are these not meant as jokes?
*. A footnote: That use of the blender reminded me of the totally unrealistic way the microwave is employed at the end of the remake of The Last House on the Left. I don’t think it’s wise to use everyday objects this way in movies, as I think most people in the audience will recognize that this isn’t how they work.
*. As an example of how to read the movie, I had thought (as did at least one other reviewer) that the boards with nails in them lying under the window was a reference to Death Wish 3. Instead, it was drawn from Home Alone. That might give you a clearer idea of where You’re Next is coming from.
*. In playing it straight what was really being aimed at was the default setting for a lot of TV and film comedy at this time: putting a bunch of comic types in a weird situation — like, for example, a dysfunctional office setting — and then seeing how they interact with each other and react to what’s going on. The problem here is that the movie feels stranded between not going for laughs and not being serious. So it ends up feeling awkward.

*. The other genre or tonal angle I’d mention, because Wingard and Barrett bring it up, is that of mumblecore. Or, as its horror branch is called, mumblegore.
*. If you haven’t heard of these labels you shouldn’t feel like you’re missing anything. I find them indistinct and unhelpful, especially when it comes to horror films. Wingard and Barrett see some value in them though, and helpfully define mumblecore as describing a realistic style of acting and a naturalistic use of dialogue (hence the mumble part).
*. But does this describe You’re Next? As I’ve said, the premise is ridiculous and the characters, even when improvising, come across as caricatures. I have a hard time seeing anything naturalistic in the presentation at all. The dialogue, in particular, seems highly artificial to me.
*. So I don’t, as I’ve said, find the label helpful. Another movie I’ve made notes on that is often considered to be mumblegore is Adam Green’s Frozen. It also has very bad, unrealistic dialogue, delivered without mumbling or gore. It’s just the usual young people we’ve been seeing in horror movies since the 1970s, speaking in much the same way. Which is also what we have here.
*. I don’t have much else to add. A handheld camera is used a lot, and the violence is edited to a point just above incoherence. Splatter fans may feel cheated but I think it’s done pretty well. Meanwhile, I thought the resourceful last girl (Sharni Vinson) might have been a nod to Don Coscarelli’s segment in the Masters of Horror series, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road” (2005). Women have been getting tougher in horror movies. Grace in Ready or Not would be a more recent example of the same figure, though you can find early examples of the type in figures like Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street, booby-trapping her house to kill Freddy.
*. In sum, there seems to have been some confusion as to where they were going with this, which is why I think they spend so much time dwelling on these matters on the commentary. It’s like they’re still trying to figure it out. Apparently even the cast were confused as to what kind of film they were making. I’ll confess to changing my mind about it a couple of times just while I was watching, and perhaps a couple of times since. In the end I’m content to say they ended up with a cute bit of fun. I was disappointed they couldn’t advance the social satire a little more (something Ready or Not also fumbled), since the premise certainly invited it, but all-in-all I can say I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than a contemporary “straight” home invasion flick like The Strangers. At least I didn’t come away from it feeling more depressed.

The Leech Woman (1960)

*. The Leech Woman is a terrible movie. In its own ridiculous way, however, it is kind of interesting.
*. The premise derives from a timeless archetype. Dr. Paul Talbot is sick of his alcoholic, aging wife June (Coleen Gray). While he despises her boozing, one gets the sense that what he really can’t abide is her getting old on him. “Old women give me the creeps!” he explains to his assistant when a withered crone named Malla appears at his endocrinology clinic.
*. Malla, as chance would have it, knows the secret of eternal youth. Intrigued, Dr. Talbot heads off to Africa to check it out, taking June along as a guinea pig. She is appalled, but then figures she will get even with him by using the hormones from his pineal gland to make herself young (this, being mixed with a powder called nipe that comes from the pollen of a rare orchid, is the elixir of youth). Hard cheese for Paul, as he dies in the process of being tapped. But as for June, she “will have beauty and revenge at the same time.”
*. So we have the woman who loses her looks and is scorned then getting her own back thanks to some weird magic before becoming totally undone at the end. As Malla observes, it’s the old double standard at work: “For a man old age has rewards. If he is wise his grey hairs bring dignity and he’s treated with honour and respect. But for the aged woman there is nothing. At best she’s pitied. More often, her lot is of contempt and neglect.”
*. Also archetypal is the idea that June can only rejuvenate herself with the essence of people (men exclusively) whom she kills. This goes back to Elizabeth Bathory bathing in blood, not to mention most vampire stories. Calling June a leech is a little strong (she might have been a black widow or man-eating mantis, and leeches are never mentioned at any point in the film), but I guess it makes the point. Meanwhile, something in the set-up, and the pineal pin on the ring, reminded me of Marilyn Chambers’ appendage in Rabid. So things could have been worse for June.
*. All of this is interesting enough, and I also really like the extra twist in tying June’s alcoholism in with her need to get her next nipe fix later in the film. She’s just an addictive personality. But if we look into the matter a little more closely we can see that what she’s really addicted to is love. She even wants to love Paul. And so it’s hard not have sympathy for her. Especially, I would add, as all the men we meet are heels.
*. So it’s a promising story, and Coleen Gray does what she can with the part. But yes, it’s a terrible movie. Even at only 77 minutes it feels much too long, spending half that time just getting us to Africa, the Land of Stock Footage. So much more might have been done with the premise. But it was 1960 and there were limits on where movies were going to go when dealing with an empowered woman like June. In the end she is destroyed by her own vanity as much as by society’s double standards. But what does the survival of the odious Neil tell us? I guess if all men are jerks then it’s inevitable that a jerk would be left alive at the end.

Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)

*. Not as bad as I was expecting. Of course, given the previous Children of the Corn movies and the few reviews I’d seen of this one I was expecting something really, really bad. But at least it’s better than that.
*. Once again what we’re offered is pretty much a standalone venture that has little connection to the other films in the series (which were also standalone stories). A young couple’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, which happens to be where a reclusive figure called the Preacher (Billy Drago) lives with his mail-order Ukrainian supermodel bride (Barbara Nedeljakova from Hostel).
*. As many critical reviews pointed out, there aren’t many children in this movie and there’s very little corn. Instead we’re introduced to the (novel) idea of He Who Walks Behind the Rows being a kind of parasitical evil force that needs to inhabit human hosts, and the younger the better. This actually makes a bit of sense since as the children keep getting older it follows that they would need to be constantly replaced.
*. It’s not a bad idea, and it leads to a movie that’s tonally quite a bit different from the other films in the series. It’s quieter and a bit slower, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. It isn’t, however, very well done.
*. For some reason the Children of the Corn movies have always had a thing for creepy dream/vision sequences that aren’t scary because we know they’re dreams. The cast are just adequate, with Drago turning in a particularly somnolent performance. There’s no gore. The idea of mutual doubt and who to trust had potential but nothing much was done with it. Instead people just behave like idiots.
*. Apparently the sequence where the cars go tumbling off the back of the trailer on the highway was stock footage that writer-director Joel Soisson picked up and then wrote the script around. I actually thought it looked really good, though the way it was intercut with shots of Tim and Allie swerving to avoid the wreckage wasn’t convincing. My main problem with it though is that it leads us into some pretty extreme improbabilities. Was there no chance Allie would be killed? How did the delivery man just scoop her up and take her back to the ranch without anyone noticing?
*. During the interview with Soisson included with the DVD Soisson mentions how the location they shot at was in the middle of nowhere, requiring two hours of travel time to get to. Why? Given the way it’s filmed and the nature of the buildings, it could have all been built and then shot in someone’s backyard. On such a low budget film it seems weird they’d have gone to so much trouble for no reason.
*. So, it’s a bit different and not all bad. Still, unless you’re intent on seeing every film in the franchise just so you can say you’ve run the gauntlet, as I have, then I don’t think it’s worth bothering with.

Children of the Corn VII: Revelation (2001)

*. As I’ve noted before, the films in the Children of the Corn franchise are all basically standalone features, with no narrative continuity. Despite this, the credits always state that the films are “based on the story by Stephen King.” Which is nonsense. In this one, however, they change the credit to “based on characters created by Stephen King.” This, however, is even worse. What characters? None of the characters in the original story are even referred to in this film. So what does this mean?
*. As with the previous film, Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return, there are hints of potential. I like the surreal Hampton Arms hotel, which is plopped down right in the middle of a corn field. The set design is nice, conjuring up a Twin Peaks atmosphere. But after a few minutes you realize the director, Guy Magar, has shot his bolt. His bag of tricks consists of (1) a lot of Dutch tilts, even when they make no sense (as when they’re presented as being from a character’s point of view); (2) crazy Bava lighting, splashing reds and blues and greens on the screen; and (3) some dreadful CGI. None of this is scary, or in any way effective, and its overuse becomes tiresome.
*. Almost as tiresome as the heroine’s screams. I know screaming is what the final girl is supposed to do a lot of, but at the end of this movie I was yelling at Jaimie (Claudette Mink) to shut up. She was giving me a headache.
*. There aren’t even any good kills. One guy is thrown from the top of a building but we never see him land, or are even shown his body afterwards. A cranky guy in a wheelchair is thrown down a stairwell. Again we never see the impact or the splat shot. Compare the wheelchair kill in Children of the Corn II, which was a highlight for this series. And finally another guy simply has a heart attack when seeing the kids scares him to death. This is all very dull.
*. Since the hotel is surrounded by corn fields, why do the children have to grow the magic corn in a basement lab? And why is the psycho guy only growing tomatoes down there? I was expecting a somewhat greener crop.
*. I always try to find something nice to say about even the worst movies, so I’ll give a nod here to Michael Ironside. It was great to see him again. But . . . playing a priest? That is some insane casting. He’s also a totally superfluous character who simply disappears after reciting a bit of unnecessary exposition. A point which leads me to add that even at only 82 minutes there isn’t a lot of substance here.
*. Why Revelation? I guess every mystery story has something that ends up being revealed, but I think they just picked it because it was in the Bible and it sounded cool.
*. It really is a mystery to me how this franchise kept going for so long. This entry only had a budget of $2.5 million, but that’s still something and it rates a better movie than this. I don’t know if this is the worst film in the series — that would be a very hard call, in my opinion — but even fans of such dreck should take a hard pass.

Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999)

*. Actually, this should be Children of the Corn 6 or VI (as they’re usually put in Roman numerals). But how could they resist 666? Or DCLXVI? Or (just to be pedantic) χξϛ? Well, they could have resisted. But they didn’t.
*. However, as I’ve made note of before, none of the films in this series follows any of the previous entries. I thought perhaps this one might be different because it marks the return of Isaac (John Franklin, who also co-wrote the script) from the first Children of the Corn. But he doesn’t appear to be the same Isaac and there doesn’t seem to be much continuity with that film.
*. Instead of continuity there’s an entirely new plotline introduced about somehow keeping a prophetic bloodline going. I’d explain more but I had a hard time following it and didn’t care much anyway. Most curious of all is the fact that despite introducing a character with supernatural powers it’s questioned whether or not such an entity as He Who Walks Behind the Rows even exists. Which is a very big break from all the previous instalments.
*. This confusion is a shame because Kari Skogland actually seems to be trying, even injecting a few notes of style into the proceedings. But the script makes nothing out of its potential to follow up the story of “the children of the children.” In fact, children don’t play much of a role here at all. I guess that’s what you get when a franchise runs this long. It’s not just the concept that gets old. Meanwhile, there aren’t even any good kills to pass the time. Just shots of the heroine driving around dusty roads and corn fields.
*. If there were any justice in the world this franchise would have never made it this far, but in fact it had further still to go. A depressing testament to the power not of formula (as there isn’t much of a formula being followed in these movies) but of brand alone.

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)

*. Woof. How do these terrible franchises keep going?
*. Part V of the (at least to me) inexplicably long-lived Children of the Corn franchise heads off in yet another new direction. As I’ve mentioned before, there is no coherent Children of the Corn mythology or narrative presented in these films. Despite being numbered they’re not really sequels to each other, and indeed have almost nothing in common except (1) children and (2) corn.
*. Take the matter of the Bible they use. In Stephen King’s story (still being credited as what this film is “based on,” though it isn’t) it’s a standard Bible with some of the pages in the New Testament ripped out. That seems to be what it is in the original film as well. In Urban Harvest, however, the Bible has become a kind of Necronomicon, a source of power for He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Now, in this film, the sacred text is something called the Book of Divine Enlightenment, and from what we may gather it doesn’t have anything to do with the Christian Bible at all but instead lays out the basic rules and rituals of the corn cult. I was left wondering who printed the thing.
*. Then there is the nature of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. At times he’s like a kind of super gopher, burrowing away underground. In Urban Harvest he was a giant . . . thing, all tentacles and eyeballs and teeth. Here he’s an eternally burning corn silo that human sacrifices dive into. Which, among other things, means he isn’t walking behind any corn rows.
*. I know I’ve been watching too many horror films from this period when I actually recognized Kane Hodder, who was also the stunt coordinator, playing the bartender. Hodder, as many people will know, played Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th VII through X, but his filmography is . . . extensive.
*. Part III gave us Charlize Theron, however briefly. Part IV gave us Naomi Watts, before she was a star. In this movie we’re introduced to Eva Mendes, who struggles heroically in an absolutely hopeless part.
*. The series also has a thing for roping in fading veterans. Karen Black in the previous film. David Carradine here. Yes, David Carradine. Who, somehow, is the leader of the cult despite being an adult. His noggin splits apart and turns into a flamethrower that torches a hole straight through Fred Williamson’s head. I am not kidding.
*. That’s all the fun stuff. The rest of the movie is quite bad. It might have at least played out as an entertaining slasher flick — the group of young people who end up in a town full of psychos — but it’s not scary and the gore effects are garbage. So there’s nothing at all to see here. And yet the franchise was still far from over.

Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996)

*. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest was a bit of stupid fun that I’ll admit to being fond of. But that’s the only mulligan I’ll give this franchise. Now, back to our usual programming.
*. The Gathering is the fourth film in the series, or IVth, but the number doesn’t appear as part of the title on screen. The thing is, these movies don’t present any kind of a through narrative, no matter how incoherent, so it’s hard to think of them as sequels (and thus in need of numbers). They have certain similarities — a cult of homicidal kids who worship some kind of pagan corn god — but they’re more like separate episodes riffing on a theme. Which, I would add, starts to make the credit “Based on the story by Stephen King” quite a stretch. This movie is not based on King’s story, even at several layers of remove.
*. Oh, Karen Black. To have gone from Five Easy Pieces and Nashville to this (and House of 1000 Corpses still to come). But at least she’s kept working. I salute her.
*. And hello Naomi Watts. She was still doing hard time here, waiting for her big break. She says she only got paid $5,000, which must have been in violation of some kind of minimum-wage law given that she carries the whole film. In any event, if you’re looking for a bright spot in the proceedings, she’s it.
*. I don’t think I want to add anything more. This isn’t even interesting. Ideas and plot points are introduced in a clumsy way that just screams at you that they’re going to be used later. The evil wizard, for example, is allergic to mercury. And the one kid is hemophilic. And Karen Black is agoraphobic. Though this last point, curiously, doesn’t play much of a role in the story. I think something got left out.
*. One guy gets cut in half but that’s the only semi-interesting bit of gore. The rest of it is just tedious. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Don’t bother, unless you’re a die-hard Naomi Watts fan.

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

*. We’re not in Nebraska anymore, cornhuskers. We’ve moved to Chicago. But while you can take the boy out of the corn patch . . .
*. This is not a movie that gets a lot of love (to put it mildly), but on the whole I prefer it to The Final Sacrifice (which was Children of the Corn II). There are some imaginative practical effects that are actually pretty good, at least until He Who Walks Behind the Rows finally puts in an appearance.
*. Or maybe that’s not He himself but just some garden variety corn demon that He summons at the end. I have to say I find the One Who Walks Behind the Rows to still be a pretty vague concept. Some fans complained that this film made a mess of the series’ “mythology” but I can’t figure out what that mythology consisted of in the first place. Is He the anti-Christ? Why would He have any relation to Christianity at all? In the original (and Stephen King’s story) the children use a Christian Bible, albeit one that leans heavily on the Old Testament. But the Bible here, despite being decorated with a cross, seems more like the Necronomicon. Is He Who Walks etc. supernatural, or uber-natural, being some kind of pagan fertility spirit? I don’t know.
*. The connection to Native American mythology, introduced in the previous film, isn’t mentioned. They still hold on to the idea though that the cult is a sort of youth Green movement, fighting against pesticides and pollution. This may be demonic corn, but at least it will be organic too. But such a message also sends mixed signals. Shouldn’t we appreciate the youthful idealism of this children’s crusade? Don’t we nod our heads a bit when Eli tells them that blindness comes with age and that children represent the purity of the land? I have to say, I’m with the kids on this one.
*. Charlize Theron’s film debut. I didn’t know that when I was watching. She’s one of the followers and gets attacked by killer corn vines in a rather suggestive way. Give the woman credit, she paid her dues.
*. Corn plants, by the way, do not have vines. I kept wondering where they were coming from.
*. As someone who has worked with corn a bit I feel the need to point this out. You don’t use scythes or sickles to harvest corn. They won’t cut the stalks, which are far too tough. You use a scythe to cut grass or grains. You also can’t cut a corn stalk with garden shears. If they really wanted to get rid of that urban corn patch I’m afraid they’d have to pull the plants up by the roots. Which is hard work even when the roots don’t go all the way to hell.
*. The premise here is pretty silly and, as discussed, the mythology (if we must use that word) is all over the map. It does have a kind of kitschy charm to it though, with the evil corn playing a similar role to the troll food in Troll 2. And even though I find the giant demon at the end ridiculous, it’s kind of fun as well. How could it not be when it’s credited to “Screaming Mad George”? Since there’s no way anyone coming to this movie could possibly expect it to be any good I don’t have to tell you to keep your expectations low. If you do you might find it worth your while.

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

*. This is a terrible movie, made nearly a decade after the original Children of the Corn in what was simply a cash grab. It would be the last film in the franchise that would have a theatrical release, and while I was watching it I had a hard time believing it ever made its way into theatres. Pretty much everything about it is bad: poor direction, awful acting, a worthless script. So let’s put all that aside and mention a few things that at least make it amusing. Just remember I’m not saying it’s worth watching, even once.
*. John Franklin and Courtney Gains (Isaac and Malachai in the original) are sorely missed. There’s nobody here who captures our interest, aside perhaps from Ned Romero as the Wise Old Indian Man. But his presence further complicates the nature of the evil deity (He Who Walks Behind the Rows). Is he (or He) a Native American harvest deity? There’s an interesting idea raised that the children are under the influence of some kind of corn mold, but nothing further is done with this. There’s also a suggestion that the children are perhaps eco-warriors, taking their revenge on adults who have polluted the earth. But again, this is only suggested.
*. So is He Who etc., even a physical being? If he isn’t, why do we keep getting shots from his Wolfen-style thermal vision? And if he can control adults too, like the sheriff here, why doesn’t He?
*. There’s an attractive teen lead, so of course he meets up with a sexy girl with a corn-fed body she doesn’t mind putting prominently on display. To the extent that we see her taking a shower in a waterfall while wearing a bikini and shoes and socks! Every truly garbage movie needs a moment or two you can laugh out loud at like that.
*. Apparently the children aren’t as steadfastly puritan as in the earlier movie. Could you imagine Isaac or Malachi killing someone with a remote-controlled toy car?
*. The toy car does give the film one of its signature scenes though, of the old woman in the wheelchair being tossed through the window of the bingo parlour. I also liked the guy getting a corn stalk speared through his throat, the old doctor being needled to death, and Micah’s psychadelic transformation (what was going on there?). Using the combine harvester as a way of doing people in was also a plus. They had some good ideas here. They just couldn’t weave them together into an interesting movie.
*. Apparently it was originally called Deadly Harvest. I wonder why they changed it, as I don’t think they had any intention of stopping at II and making this The Final Sacrifice. This sort of thing was typical of horror franchises at the time though. We were equally assured that Jason wouldn’t be coming back after The Final Chapter and The Final Friday.
*. I’d like to say this one is worth watching just for a laugh, but it isn’t. And the glimmers of potential only make it worse. But worst of all is the fact that there were many more children to come.

Children of the Corn (1984)

*. Technically, it’s Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. I’m not sure what King thought of it though or how much he was involved. He isn’t interviewed in the documentary on the Anchor Bay DVD release and his name is only mentioned once, indirectly, on the commentary track (with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains).
*. The story (which was first published in Penthouse) is expanded on quite a bit and has a completely different ending. Burt and Vicky aren’t an attractive young couple just starting out their lives together but are instead on their way to breaking up. They are taking a cross-country road trip to save their marriage but they both seem to know that isn’t going to work. This was probably changed because movies prefer happy people. It’s hard to like characters who don’t even like each other.
*. Movies also prefer happy endings, so the ending of the story, with both Burt and Vicky murdered and the cult going on its merry way, is jettisoned. Again, I don’t know how involved King was with any of this. He apparently did write a script but it was rejected for an adaptation he didn’t approve of. They still really wanted King in the credits though, as by this time his was a name to conjure with.
*. One thing you might turn to the story for is some explanation of how the children have managed to stay hidden away in the town of Gatlin for three years. Presumably they are harvesting all that corn themselves. And turning it into ethanol. Meanwhile, just by changing some road signs the town has vanished so completely that nobody can find it. Not government services or utilities. Not family members wondering whatever happened to in-laws or cousins. It’s just gone.
*. Well, reading the story won’t help clear this matter up. The children there have been in control of the town for twelve years without anyone noticing. As Burt reflects at one point, “What seemed to have happened in Gatlin was impossible.” “How could such a thing be kept secret?” he wonders. “How could it go on?” Answer: He Who Walks Behind the Rows works in mysterious ways. This is one of those things that’s just a given in order for there to be a story.

*. I remember not liking this movie much when it came out. And I’ve always wondered why it was turned into such a long-running franchise when even the original wasn’t a blockbuster. It did take a while for the first sequel to appear (Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice in 1992). Suffice it to say that the studio (which was also driving the Hellraiser franchise into the ground) was taking the low road to a bit of easy money. But that’s another story.
*. Watching it again now, I like it a bit more than I did at the time. It actually gets a fair bit of mileage out of its tiny budget (Kiersch says $1.3 million, $500K of which went to King, so less than $800K, which is nothing). It’s well directed, keeping most of the violence off screen, and it holds our interest. For such a cheap movie most of it looks surprisingly good. Still, I think it would be largely forgotten today if not for the fact that they rolled aces in the casting of Franklin and Gains as the odd couple of teenage psychopathy, Isaac and Malachai. Who can forget these two? Franklin (who was actually 23 at the time) with his Vulcan haircut (courtesy of a commercial he was shooting for a Star Trek video game) and Gaines as the ginger Mick Jagger. Is it any wonder they’re the only members of the cast on the commentary and in the “making of” documentary? They’re the stars.

*. Ah, yes. Once again the city people have left the highway to travel the back roads, and end up getting lost out in the country. Not the wilds, or a forest somewhere, but just the country. A small town. That’s terrifying enough.
*. Kiersch says he thought of it as a B-horror, which it is, but then says his models were Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Day of the Triffids. Hm. Can’t say I see it. And I’m not sure why I’d want to see it. How flattering a comparison is Plan 9?
*. The DVD box declares this to be “The original that started it all.” Well, that’s what originals do. And I like the noncommittal “it.” I take it that this refers to the long string of sequels, which almost nobody saw and few people remember today. King himself didn’t keep track of their number. Blame “it” all on this movie, people!
*. The basic idea is nothing new. The children of the corn are the children of the Village of the Damned. Because ankle-biters are rarely that scary in themselves they have to hunt in packs. It takes a village. Or at least a gang. Hence the Midwich Cuckoos. Or the kids in Devil Times Five, the psycho-spawn in The Brood, the bloodthirsty brats in the Sinister movies, or the whole island of pubescent maenads in Who Can Kill a Child? (remade as Come Out and Play). The premise is, however, an inversion of the usual King starting point, which is terrorized tots. I guess the revived Gage in Pet Sematary is another outlier, but more often in King it’s children who are threatened by adults.
*. I guess Jonathan Elias, who did the score, was listening to The Omen and liked that chanting business. I don’t think it fits. King has a major hate on for organized religion, but I found the evil force here a confusing thing. Why does it adopt so much Christian imagery, ritual, and language? Is there a connection between He Who Walks Behind the Rows and the God of the Old Testament? Why does the gopher demon care if the kids are listening to music or playing games? I didn’t think pagan cults were such puritans.
*. The ending has been much ridiculed. I don’t know. It was a microbudget movie so how surprised can we be that the ending looks cheap? I think they probably did the best they could under the circumstances. I wish it made more sense, but I wouldn’t make fun of the execution.
*. I won’t go so far as to say this is a cult favourite of mine, but watching it again today I appreciate it a lot more and can see why it’s stuck around. As a franchise, however, it went downhill fast and stayed there.