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

Review- The Art of Getting By

Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts in The Art of Getting By (Fox Searchlight)

When I first saw a trailer for The Art of Getting By my initial reaction was that Freddie Highmore is back with a vengeance. This film, and the previously reviewed Toast, definitely bear that out. Highmore does some pretty difficult work in this film as he’s asked to make a character likable who is not very likable at a distance and who a lesser actor may make detestable.

However, the film establishes his philosophy on life and why he approaches it the way he does right off the bat through voice-over. The voice-over is used sparingly afterward but the “We’re going to die, so what’s the point?” attitude is not hard to wrap one’s head around it’s just that he takes it to an extreme level. However, I have no qualms with it because part of cinema is about living vicariously through others.

Of course, what does snap him out of that in part is a girl played by Emma Roberts. Hers is a task that’s also not very easy because in this film she plays perhaps the most enigmatic female lead I’ve seen since Emily Blunt in Wild Target. I believe I have cracked her as her behavior does seem strange and I think a lot of her subconscious motivation is that she really is a carbon copy of her mother but she fears admitting it and thus a lot of the irrational behavior you’ll see form her is explained.

While George (Highmore) is getting to know and like Sally (Roberts) the tension at home starts to bubble to the surface and he also is forced to come to grips with his slacking off at school and either make his work up or he’ll be expelled. Slowly and perceptibly he starts to change and the straw breaks the camel’s back you know he’ll make it up. A lot of the unexpected comes in his relationship.

What this film does well is that it manages intertwine several uncertain outcomes towards the end such that your focus isn’t entirely on one so even though things, to an extent, work out as expected there’s still that tension about which will be resolved when and how. One thing it keeps you waiting on is to see his one art project. It should also be noted that due to Sally’s enigmatic nature what she does at the end is by no means a sure thing.

While much of what you need resolved to have what can typically be considered a full filmic experience does get resolved there are a few things that are left open to interpretation. This openness was something I realized afterward where some events were viewed differently by myself and a friend.

For the most part this film does a fine job of carving out its universe and establishing who these people are and how their world functions. What never did jibe was the drinking. The leads are portraying high school seniors, eighteen-year-olds, yet they seem to be able to get alcohol by simply buying it (18 obviously being underage in New York City). This isn’t a prudish complaint, kids drink, if that factors in the story; fine. However, something as incongruous as getting served in a bar is something that cannot go unmentioned in the dialogue.

Despite a few unfortunate enigmas in the storytelling I believe that this film effectively created a narrative of the modern slacker and how he is snapped out of it and finds things to live for. The larger (or smaller) the world grows the more we can feel isolated at times so an occasional reminder about what makes it worth it is welcome.

7/10