61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering

Naomi Watts and Mark Salling in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (Dimension)

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering is an absolute dud. If it wasn’t for some of the performances this film might rank lower in the annals of the franchise than it does. It is seriously sluggish throughout and never gets anywhere fast.

The most notable thing about this film is that two of its more prominent players have gone on to bigger and better things and you can see why Naomi Watts and Mark Salling (Glee) are so much better than the parts they play and the film they’re in that they scarcely lift it up but merely make their portions of the film somewhat tolerable.

To get a sense of the issues that this film faces there is yet another noteworthy performance in this film and it is that of Karen Black. It’s actually a shame to see someone like Karen Black in a film like this and it made me think of the Family Guy joke about her just a little bit different, not as an obscure reference but in an obscure film.

This also one of the films in the series wherein the child prophet (Josiah played by Brandon Klayla) is missing through a large majority of the film. Rather than write him scarier he’s disfigured with bad prostheses and doesn’t invoke as much fear as he should, however, he is behind the eight ball due to his screen time.

This film also suffers from the fact that it’s the one that does the most to try and absolve the children of being evil. The corn and its disease plays a major role in this film and though some of the hospital scenes are the better ones in the film it’s a perpetuation of an unfortunate development in the series that thankfully dies after this film.

While this film does only somewhat better in juggling a blossoming romance and a horror story it misses the boat. The problem is romances are exciting and new and you “have” to watch the courtship and have it detract from the reason you’re watching the film, to be scared. Yes, it could help you connect to these characters and raise the stakes but it also introduces a lot of artifice and room for easy exposition, life stories as exchanges and so forth. Whereas in the original, the remake and the latest installment one of the stronger elements in all of them is that the couples have an existing relationship. They have a history they talk, debate, bicker and fight and you learn about them in a more subtle way and have a better chance of rooting for them because they are together and want to get out go on a honeymoon, have kids and what have you. Marriages, and/or committed relationships have more permutations, interest and conflicts than star-crossed love stories.

The other huge issue with this film is indicated by the subtitle, The Gathering. There’s not much more to it than that. It’s likely if not the most, one of the most anticlimactic films in the series. In the other ones, even those that aren’t good, at least deliver a compelling climax, in conception anyway.

I frequently write about the last image, shot and/or scene of a film being very important. After a film such as this one you want that scene to something quick and simple and hopefully not open, I’ll grant it that this one wasn’t an open end but still kind of a gimmicky one but unfortunately fitting considering what preceded it.

3/10

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61 Days of Halloween- Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest

Daniel Cerny in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (Dimension)

After having watched Children of the Corn II:The Final Sacrifice I was considering devising a system wherein I gauged the painfulness of these films by which body part I’d rather punch repeatedly for 90 minutes than having sat through that film. Thankfully, I never got around to hatching those plans because along came Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest.

One thing I will say right off the bat is that this film unquestionably wins the award for the worst subtitle of any of the Children of the Corn sequels, while it is accurate it is also terrible and makes you think this film will be a lot worse than it is.

The fact of the matter is I love this film. I might even go so far as to use the annoying variant “lurve” if I could distinguish the difference in usage. Anyway, that is not to say that this one is perfect or better than the first but there’s a spark of creativity here, a flair and embracing of the concept in this one you don’t get in other films in the series. It’s also a little out there and in that way it is to an extent the Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (Yes, that review will be re-posted here) equivalent in this series.

The connection to the original film is really a chronological one, a narrative one. This film uses the same scenario as two; orphaned children in need of care and handles it so much better than the previous film it’s not even funny. Here you get a focused situation: Eli (Daniel Cerny) and his brother Joshua (Ron Melendez) come to the big city from Gatlin. The religion and the cult are on the road in a big city and are about to get a big foothold.

What also sets this sequel apart is that it features its antagonist prominently makes him someone you can understand when you hear him preach and speak but also makes him vile enough that you aren’t upset if he’s defeated. Stories from the Bible and quoting of scripture is used very effectively in the film through Eli making the cult seem like something that makes sense. If the children seem justified in their ritual of killing adults and sacrificing themselves it makes them that much more frightening. Understanding a killer’s mind can be a terrifying thing. If a horror film makes you understand that it’s a winner.

The conveyor of the message in this tale, that is more religious than most, is equally important. Daniel Cerny may not have had the longest or most prolific career as a child actor but he did find two roles he was very well suited for that are quite memorable: Eli and the Demon in Demonic Toys (Which I also want to write about). There’s something intangible about his performance. He’s just scary. He doesn’t have the widest range or convey them all emotions equally well, however, at least he can handle dialogue and he can get angry and headstrong. It’s the kind of performance that might best be labeled as great yet inconsistent.

Kills are not something you’ll hear me discuss too much in this series. The Children of the Corn series as a whole isn’t filled with creative deaths it doesn’t really fit the slasher mold. Not only does this film have some jaw-droppingly effective and creative kills but quite a few of them. Which leads to another element of a successful horror film: no one seems safe.

The tone is set early on in the teaser scene. It reveals how they were orphaned and Eli’s true nature and we know it all along and his brother doesn’t. The film carries that secret for a while but then it also is keeping from us, which it spills later on.

Another way in which this film kind of reminded me of the 3rd Halloween film is in the handling of the corn itself. Now the subplot of the corn being somewhat supernatural and malevolent. It seemingly selectively can take down the infidels. The visuals of those deaths paired with the tag at the end make it very similar but it’s also the best handling of this development in the story. After the next film this notion vanishes entirely.

In short, this is the one direct sequel (as opposed to the remake), that as soon as I was done watching it I could see myself gladly viewing again. It also proves how bad a place to watch a film basic cable is because I’ve seen parts of many of these films and the Halloweeen films there before getting the DVDs and they make the experience so much worse. This sequel truly is one worthy of its predecessor and is a blast to watch.

8/10