Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode VII

Well, you know we've gotten to the aughts when shit stops getting a number and starts to get the most cliched colon-generic-horror-title treatment! Oh boy! I'm shocked there was/is no Children of the Corn: Resurrection, but I should probably knock on wood. What does the industry have against numbers now, anyway? With horror titles, it's best to wear one's lack of dignity on one's sleeve, but unfortunately Children of the Corn: Revelation wants to be super serial, y'all.

Picking up where no one and nothing left off, we're introduced to sexy Jamie, who I think is the sauciest leading lady we've seen so far. Sorry, NayNay. Jamie's in town (which I'm told is quasi-Omaha) because her granny has gone missing, and she's gonna Nancy Drew like a sexy minx, ooh yeah! Sorry, but I have to find amusement somewhere in this dreck. Granny lived in what is evidently a corn-tenement, what with a cornfield growing next door for no reason. Jamie moves in and befriends a wacky assortment of neighbors: an affable stripper, a brutally-insane man in a wheelchair who screams every word he speaks, a prepper, and a stoner. She is, of course, menaced at every turn by obnoxious children wearing clown-white while being aided by an ineffectual cop with a broad buttchin - man, there have been a lot of buttchins in these movies...that could've been a drinking game. 

Um, I'm actually struggling for plot synopsis on this one. The kids hurl stoner off the roof, and he is eaten by the cornfield and regurgitated as a Mennonite child. Prepper is similarly dispatched and the kids throw wheelchair-Tourrettes-man down a shaft, ha. The corn itself grabs stripper from the bathtub - that was fun. Uh, meanwhile, Jamie learns that this nonsense is happening because, oh lord, another evil boy preacher named Abel self-immolated a tent-full of cult members, of whom Granny was the only survivor. The corn-tenement is built on the site of the fire. Michael Ironside shows up pointlessly as a priest who says cryptic things and intimates that He Who Macarenas Behind the Rows is THE Devil and not just a devil, which is a logical (I guess) but stupid development. Sexy Jamie is very lazily attacked by the corn-kids, all forcibly reincarnated from the previous murders. Jamie burns the building down and is then saved from grabby cornstalks by Detective Buttchin. The end, damnit.

Revelation is definitely not the worst of this lot, but it somehow felt like the most pointless. It lacked the malignantly pointlessness and boredom of its predecessors, but it was still pretty useless. At this point, every single element of the original story has been played out 4 or 5 times. Like most franchise flagships, the last bit of depth has been titrated out through sequels that could just as easily have any other name or modus operandi. Nobody wants to see Children of the Corn anymore - it's a stillborn series whose only staying power is wearied name recognition. I think that after Revelation the atrophy finally started to set in, because it would be a decade before the next "sequel" and eight years before the next installment - wouldn't you know it, a goddamn remake. Blarg.

The Gaffer's Rating: 1.5 White Lightnings out of 4.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode VI

And finally we say goodbye to the 90s. I'm actually fine with that. Once this series took itself exclusively to rental stores, things have been getting darker (in texture, I mean, not edgier or more disturbing) and more boring. I had hoped that Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return was signalling a positive shift (relatively,ok?). We haven't had a strong effort toward continuity (eliding Part II's weak attempt) since now, nor have we had a franchise "player" return, although the revolving door of future-whoms was pretty fun. Let's do this, Part VI.

Then those hopes fizzled out like a fart in the shower. What a grainy, bleak, pointless, boring piece of shit this was. It felt like one of the SciFi Originals you might waste an afternoon on, except maybe with a pair of gory scenes and some swearsies, but not enough to warrant wasting your time when you could be playing Canasta with grandma. With The Howling, I had absolutely no idea what insanity to expect from film to film, but Children of the Corn has offered a grim rebuttal: here's children, here's some corn - now eat it, you prick! It's worth reminding that this is a franchise of nine-and-a-half films that has somehow spawned from one single short story. There wasn't a lot there to begin with: crops, kids, a demon, unwary bystanders. And I refuse to believe the first film was such a runaway success that legions of fans demanded to see more. WTF.

But I digress; let's get this over with. PoutyLips is driving cross-country in a shitty T-Bird to scenic Gatlin, Nebraska (wow, this is our first trip back to that little hamlet). And I swear, she is not two millimeters inside city limits before phantoms, demons, crazy people, and all manner of Bad Foreboding implore her to get the fuck out of there, but she won't. Hooper-Dee-Doo! PoutyLips, you see, is on a mission to find her mama, who we discover is Nancy Allen and an original character from the first film. The knocked-up one, I guess? I don't remember, and neither should you. But seriously, nothing happens in the first 45 minutes here, other than PoutyLips being scared and harassed by local oddjobs, at whom she gapes like an idiot. Gatlin doesn't seem to have any civic infrastructure, but by god they have a fully-housed insane asylum with one doctor and a few other rotting buildings (and cornfields, natch). 

It turns out that, shocker, the original herald of the corn, Isaac, is still alive despite being rocketed through the air and turned into a floury zombie in Numero Uno, though he was comatose until PoutyLips rolled into town. Apparently the corn culties, who are more like twenty-somethings of the corn, have a really confusing issue to deal with: Is Isaac their leader now that he's awake? Or are they putting their efforts into revealing a new corn messiah, the first-born of the original children? I don't know, and neither will you. Isaac apparently had a son while he was comatose (ew), so naturally we assume this is the aforementioned firstborn and not some kind of red herring. Hannah, meanwhile, meets some dude we'll call Hunky Studlove, who pops his leather collar and offers her help, because he's definitely not the real bad guy and we definitely need to keep fiddlefarting in the cornfields and pretend there's a real mystery at hand, right!?

This one was awful. I had prematurely assigned it to the bottom rung of an already-terrible franchise before a pair of amusing moments in the closing half hour almost redeem it - a girl gets scythed completely in half (top-down) by cranky cultists, then the girl's boyfriend self-scythes in an unrelated gesture. Hannah and Hunky Studlove have really inadvisable sex in a horse stall in a barn. A horse stall!! Nothing gets me randy like the smell of offal and the feeling of hay needles poking my bare ass. Woo! He Who Plows Behind the Rows, amirite fellas?? Swish! Oh, and I couldn't make this up, but a cuckoo clock pops out right at the moment of orgasm! I guess this was because of some yada about a prophecy of a child being conceived at midnight, but I think it works better out of context. So, Hunky Studlove IS He Who Hollas Behind the Rows, and he uses telekinesis powers to kill folks, including Isaac before he....deep breath....randomly makes out with an insane man and then blows up. Hannah and her mom escape, although Hannah is knocked up with demonseed...

So, like I said, the last few minutes of this one are quite a ride. But really, what was the point here in returning to Gatlin and Isaac? There was a fight over the cult's leadership, which we've already seen, and the plot revolved around some child of prophecy horseshit. What exactly was this Chosen Corn-One going to do? Use telekinesis and be a crazy prophet-monster, maybe? Exactly like we saw in Parts II, III, IV, AND V ALREADY!? I will say good day to you, movie.

The Gaffer's Rating: 1 Cornbread out of 4.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode V

Eva Mendes!? Ahahahahahahaha. Maybe she heard that Charlize and Naomi got their big breaks in this franchise and signed up! Actually, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror is relatively star-studded compared to its predecessors: Ms. Mendes, David Carradine, and Fred Williamson, the Duke of Blaxploitation and star of such films as....this. (Please do not open that link at work or within earshot of anyone. Actually, don't open it at all.) So, yessiree, we should be in store for some fun.

Eh, sort of. Part V is definitely more upbeat and goofy than the previous installment, but it's still grounded in the same exact subject matter we've seen corn nauseum up until now with almost no variation. This whole series is one of the most repetitive I've seen, with nothing but facile changes from film to film, like whether the monster is a huge toothy worm or Bugs Bunny or just a malevolent spirit. In this installment He Who Laffy Taffies Behind the Rows is a...a green fireball. Ok, no questions, just accept. Said fireball engulfs that ginger kid with the huge ears from "Picket Fences" and voila, he is the new avatar of corn who can use telekinesis to kill some guy once but apparently never again! Go with it.

Next, we're introduced to four characters I'll call Eva, Buttchin, BowlcutBiglips, and Sexy Golf Pants, who are driving cross-country for reasons and end up stranded in Divinity Falls, Nebraska, where they run afoul of Ginger Bigears (or Ezeekial, as they are running out of Bible names) and his corn-crΓΌ, who have already killed one of the Zappa children. Turns out that the kids have seized the cornfields for their cultish machinations and are, we guess, under the supervision of a David Carradine who is himself clearly under the influence of some kind of barbiturates. The kids fail to convince Sheriff Fred Williamson that they did not accidentally liquefy their friends in a thresher but who were instead murdered by the cornies. Then they decide to bed down in an abandoned house just because. Go with it.

In the house, Sexy Golf Pants realizes she has a brother who totally joined the corn-cult, and now she has to find him! Eva realizes she has a Latina stereotype to fulfill and has sex with Buttchin for no reason. The kids learn the corn-cult is centering their rituals on a perma-burning corn silo, which houses the eternal green fire of He Who Sweats to the Oldies Behind the Rows. Periodically the children sacrifice themselves by leaping into the flame/monster. Eva does this for no discernible reason. BowlcutBiglips gratuitously explodes himself battling cultists. Buttchin gets stabbed, or something forgettable. Sexy Golf Pants escapes with her brother's widow after dumping fertilizer in the silo. But in the most WTF-moment of the entire series thus far, Fred Williamson's head is hollowed out by a fireball emitted by a split-asunder David Carradine head...because he was a zombie or something? Go with it.

I really don't understand what is going on at this point. Aside from a noticeable surge in stupid details, the same blueprint is playing out over and over for no real payoff in terms of continuity or story arch. Part V is a decent uptick in amusement over the last one, but I seriously feel like I am slogging through the corn-meal at this point. When will it end?!

The Gaffer's Rating: 1.5 Orvilles out of 4.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode IV

Naomi Watts? Word? First Academy Award winning Charlize Theron is in one of these movies and now NayNay? Well, apparently this franchise is a springboard for imminent success as a young actress. And Naomi is actually the main character in Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering, not to be confused with Highlander but occasionally to be confused with The Gathering of the Juggalos.

I'll be honest, I don't really remember a lot about this one; shit was dull, dreary, and confusing. Naomi is a med student who returns home to Grand Island, Nebraska, in order to help care for her psychologically-whacky mother and her younger siblings. She starts working at the local clinic, and then things start getting corny. This time the bad guy is another possessed kid who acts for He Who Slam Dances Behind the Rows, who I guess wasn't killed in the Chicago throwdown of Part III. The (of course) Biblically-named Josiah emerges from a dry well, decapitates a local cracker, then struts around like an unmasked Kano from Mortal Kombat working some obtuse spell on the kiddies in town. But why? Seems like he can telekinesis all the murder he wants by his damn self. And why are only children subject to the hypnosis? Fuck me for asking questions.

Naomi is vexed when all kids all develop simultaneous flus (as in, they have the same temperature at the exact same time), yet no one informs the news or CDC. Then kablammo, all the kids are pipers in the pied. Exactly what this accomplishes is up to interpretation, but all the kids act creepy as Josiah presumably murders around town some more, including a particularly funny dispatch of the old doctor via gurney-guillotine!

Guess what else I remember about this one? Nothing. It's fucking boring and dreary in that awful direct-to-video way. But I guess NayNay unearths the sooper-secret that Josiah is the bastard son of a local lady who became a popular child-preacher who was then fed mercury in order to keep him from! So Josiah murdered his fellow white-collars and was..."given to the darkness" by locals but for some reason also burned alive. That's his origin?! A deleted scene apparently identifies Josiah as He Who YOLO's Behind the Rows, but I call bullfuck, not that any of this makes enough sense to warrant dispute. NayNay kills him and embraces her own bastard sister-child, or possibly sister-wife. I forget, and so should you.

The Gaffer's Rating: 1 Corn Fritter out of 4.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode III

At this point in the series two things are happening: 1.) The drearier textures of the 90s are starting to push through, meaning a conscientious move away from the "fun" of the first sequel, though this thankfully does not eliminate unintentional fun, and 2.) Stephen King's original premise at this stage is an ounce of cheese trying to be spread over a cracker the size of a Mazda. Some demon lived in corn and created a coven of creepy children who killed people. That's all. But by Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (the last to see a theatrical release, BTW, which I hope prompts a loud, "Seriously!? This shit made it into theaters??") we're left with too few pieces to play with. But worry not, sirs and/or madams, for shitty horror sequels have a trope, particularly if much of their narrative ballast comes from the rural - reverse it! So just as Jason packs off for Manhattan and Babe starts pigging in the city, our killer corn kiddies head for the urban cornfields of the Windy City to spread the gospel know, I don't actually know what the hell they or their malevolent deity want to accomplish anymore, if I ever did. World destruction? World domination? But to what end - just to have a cosmic cornocracy? Feh.

We begin with two brothers, again escapees of the original cult, whose diaspora is apparently wide and constantly connected to He Who Frugs Behind the Rows. Eli and Joshua dress like the Amish, just like their predecessors, and escape Nebraska when Eli, who is apparently another prophet of the corn, murders their abusive Pater. With corn. I don't really know how else to describe these things anymore - this is a film franchise built around a fucking domesticated grain plant and its potential for either theology or murder! Anyway, Eli mummifies and crucifies daddy in a scene that rips off Hellraiser using corn stalks in lieu of chains. I....ok, moving on. The two brothers get placed in the foster home of two Chicago yuppies and start going to a Catholic High School (actually an ordinary public school run by one priest) despite Eli being 14 and Joshua looking to be in his late 20s. Joshua immediately adapts to life in the inner city, shedding his Amish clothing, rolling with the b-ball crew, and gettin' all amorous with his neighbor and classmate.

Eli, meanwhile, being a demon avatar, gets to work, growing evil corn in the abandoned factory next door and converting his classmates via some kind of preaching-induced hypnosis. This brings up an interesting point - although it's ambiguous, in the first film the children were genuine believers who converted to Cornism in cult fashion, which I think is creepier than the hypnotic enslavement showcased in the sequels. I forget what was going on in Part II, but Micah was definitely enslaved by He Who Smokes Dro Behind the Rows. Maybe as the 80s receded the genuine fear of cultish automatons and Jonestown also passed? Who knows, but I believe the further from the original film the more the presence of hypnotic enslavement.

Joshua gets wise to Eli's plan. Somehow he never suspected his adopted brother was actually a century-old preach-monster in the thralls of a plant demon. In the meantime we're treated to a cadre of amusing decapitations via corn, including Joshua's bestie, whose head-avulsion reveals a seven-foot spine. Who writes this shit?
Josh returns to Gatlin to root out Eli's weakness - a Bible inlaid with evil black corn (isdsuhflksdjhfislduhfkjlkjkhl). Thus armed, he returns to Chicago to find Eli's initiates assembled in the factory and ready to do...some things? He pins the corn-Bible to Eli's chest with a hand-scythe, which is cool, but this angers He Who Funky Chickens Behind the Rows, who then....oh sweet!! The demon is actually going to come out! Finally we get a looksie at a nebulous monster who has thus far only manifested as a red fart cloud or Bugs Bunny on his way to Albuquerque! I wonder what He looks like?? Here He comes! Oh man! He's....

A GODDAMN CROSS BETWEEN AUDREY II AND A NAKED CENTIPEDE MOLE RAT. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, MOVIE!? THREE PICTURES TO BUILD UP TO THAT ASS-MONSTER? You know what? That's actually so fucking stupid that it has come back around again to being awesome. You're forgiven. I don't really know what I was expecting...the demon manifesting into anything is actually going to take it down a peg, so it may as well be that revolting pile of nonsense. In Stephen King's multiverse, the demon is heavily intimated to be Randall Flagg, the recurring demigod character that pretty much does everything in his books. So, maybe this is an improvement? Who cares. Oh, the monster eats Josh's girlfriend, but he scythes her out and He dies like a wuss, breaking the hold over the other teens. All is well, except that some evil corn exported to Germany. Maybe this whole thing is an allegory for Monsanto. I'll buy it.

Overall, Part III has some amusing kills and remains gruesome, but the dull dreariness that replaced the manic goofiness of the previous installment takes it down a peg. Oh, and watch for a young, uncredited Charlize Theron in a non-speaking role as a sexy cultist girl. I'm sure she looks back on this project with fondness.

The Gaffer's Rating: 1.5 Monsantos out of 4.