Friday, October 31, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode IX

It's always a surreal moment when we finally catch up to the almost-present in a long series of horror films. How have things changed in the 28 years (sheesh!) that this series has been active? Apparently there is rumor of another Children of the Corn remake, although there's rightful doubt it will get off the ground. To me, that sums up this whole enterprise: there's no direction this series can go, just the replaying of its most basic elements over and over in diluted sequels or pointless retreads.

Anyway, let's get this over with. Children of the Corn: Genesis. Wow, thanks for the 2nd most-generic horror subtitle ever. We start in 1973, where a Nam vet returns home to Gatlin right after the kids have arisen to kill their adult overlords. Ambiguous things happen. Cut to the present, where a couple is stranded on the side of the road in the hot, hot sun, their car broken down. Another couple, another fear-of-the-rural trope. Tim is an ineffectual weenis constantly belittled by his preggers wife, Allie, who has the temperament of a rabies-bloated rat terrier with added condescension. Man, what lovable guys! Why do shitty horror movies try to build tension around the most unlikable people? At least Allie has some sweet boobs.

The bickering couple arrive at the home of....*snicker*...oh goodie....Billy Drago. Despite their establishing very quickly that he is criminally insane because he's Billy Drago, they accept his leering, creepy, languid, disturbing hospitality. Oh, and he has a 20-something wife freshly imported from The Ukraine who is also creepy and likes grabbing Tim's wiener. Firmly established in a weird, stupid situation, the couple experiences even weirder things. Allie explores the surrounding farm to find a weird place a worship and what appears to be an imprisoned child in a shed. They manage to call the police, but the cop who investigates flies comically up into the air and won't fall down until the credits. Um...that's actually kind of hilarious. Stupid, but hilarious. Oh, and some telekinetic force that may be the kid is trapping Allie and Tim in the house.

I'd cut the story short, but I'm actually not sure what the plot is. Drago says something about the corny cult needing baby-mamas...the kid may be He Who Pop-n-Locks Behind the Rows...but who knows, or wants to know? The couple escape, but the kid uses his evil-kinesis to crash their car using...oh fuck...stock footage from Bad Boys II!?!? Now that's a travesty. Allie is brought back to the kid. Roll credits. Cop falls hilariously to the ground. Roll more credits. What a pointless pile of dicks.

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

Jesus. This was rough. In trying to pin down why exactly why I hated this series, I think it comes down to a basic element: none of this was particularly fun. Children of the Corn is stern, bleary, dull, and repetitive. While the umpteen films of other horror franchises like The Howling or Hellraiser certainly have worse films than anything in CotC, many of those films still maintain a sense of outrageousness or camp that temper their poor quality. Except for Part II and a handful of moments in Parts III and V, there wasn't any fun to be had here, certainly none worth slogging through the boredom and ineptitude of these 9½ clunkers. It's far better to be bad than ordinary, which this franchise was every step of the way.

There's also a noticeable lack of familiar tropes that kept other flagships afloat, like a main villain. I mean, yeah, we had He Who Dougies Behind the Rows, which began as a neat archetypal concept, but it was so inconsistently portrayed or stupidly elaborated upon that it hardly counts. Other tropes? Uh, murder-kids with farm equipment. And a grain crop. There was almost no attempt at establishing a series mythology, save for the paltry efforts of Part VI, which was like sprinkling corn into a turd that already has corn in it. Boo.

Ultimately, the most we can critique from this series are some familiar elements of American horror: we are scared of the rural and the religious. Fair point, moving on. That's it for Franchise Follies this year. Let's hope next year brings us a better crop. Yeeaaah.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode VIII

The era of the remake - oh boy! Around this time, executives and producers decided hitting the reset button was way easier than trying to create a new idea, and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes was recasting horror flagships with amped up violence and even more amped up editing (to pointless effect, usually). Meanwhile, Stephen King franchises were getting their own person do-overs as Made-for-TV flotsam. The time was sort-of...kinda-not-really ripe for some corn on the SyFy Channel!

Well, apparently even Stephen King didn't want anything to do with this bullshit (although who is he to be high and mighty re: "The Langoliers"?), so it was up to 1984 film producer Donald Borchers to bring this project together as the public so desperately craved. And the results? Sigh. Maybe I'm shell-shocked at this point, but Children of the Corn (2009) wasn't that bad. Was it good? Oh my no, but by going back to the beginning we've managed to slough off all the peripheral nonsense that ever glommed to the premise by the time of the first sequel. When there's nowhere to go but backward, your franchise really sucks.

One smart move was altering and/or specifying the time period: the film begins in 1960s Gatlin, where the chillins are starting their revolt - and hey, this time they're actually children! Ok, good. Then we cut to 12 years later, 1975. This version of Burt and Vicky follows the original story - they're attempting a second honeymoon even though they hate one another with the most bitter and vile acrimony in an onscreen couple this side of Martha and George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They spend the first half of the film (in which nothing happens) bickering to the point that it's a logical disconnect when neither just murders the other.  We never get a good context for where the tension is coming from, so we don't really care. Burt is a Nam vet, another sensible change in the story, but it doesn't really establish much either except his inevitable ability to beat cultist children to death; I guess it also provides for some interesting flashback sequences when he's running through corn, confusing Vietcong foot soldiers with Mennonite children...

Anyway, we've seen this before. B & V run over a kid, discover the kid had already been gutted, bicker, then roll into the mysteriously deserted Gatlin to find all sorts of creepy mischief and no townsfolk. This part played out decently, again, because of its resemblance to those 14 "Twilight Zone" episodes with abandoned landscapes, but it unfurled at the speed of erosion and was punctuated by Vicki's pointless rancor towards Burt. It's a relief when a kiddie mob shows up and Isaac's ginger enforcer does away with her. Burt comes to grips with what's going on and uses his soldierly skills to murder a few of the children in one of those uncomfortable when-the-worm-turns moments. Isaac toes a fine line between creepy (being an actual child) and annoying. Burt gets chased into the corn, where he is lost for approximately 30 minutes in another unforgivable plot lag while the kids wander off and have some weird ceremony ending with the surprisingly graphic coitus of two teenagers on an altar. Damn, SyFy! Must've been for the uncut DVD release. Burt finds Vicki's body and then gets gobbled up by an unseen force anticlimactically.

This was a surprisingly lean remake that sticks closer to the original source than the 1984 version and, I'd say, is probably better for it. The short story (short, damnit) King provided can ultimately only sustain a 45-or-so minute narrative unless you make clunky changes (as with the original), so this flick really dragged its ass from start to finish. Ultimately the small tweaks to the story gave this Children of the Corn an interesting twist, shifting the focus from a coven of religious zealots hiding out in the midst of a developed nation (and reminding us of our roots as a fringe wilderness society) to the would-be victims. In other words, the film seems less concerned with the existence of a supernatural cult of children than Burt's ability to butcher them, even if in self-defense. Frankly, I've always felt like this franchise never took advantage of depicting comical violence to 8-year-olds. We also never really get to see He Who Planks Behind the Rows, although His presence is implicit in the denouement. A distancing from the supernatural in artistry is usually a smart move, but who are you kidding, Children of the Corn? Ingmar Bergman you ain't, and I wanted to see a damn demon! Anyway, there are positive things to say about this entry, strangely, but ultimately there's not enough material in the inception here to warrant the effort. Not that it more, dear god.

The Gaffer's Rating: 2 Cornholios out of 4.

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.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode II

Now that's what I'm talkin' about! That's the shit right there! Now we're back on track. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (something tells me that title will end up being ironic) perversely gets the party started again by doing exactly what cheap, throwaway sequels usually do - dumb things down and gore things up. Given that the first Children of the Corn didn't have a lot to offer, I think this was a delightful turn of events. As a side note: fuck anybody who hates the 90s, especially contrasted to a blanket approval of the 80s. I think this dumbass sequel is a great rebuttal to claims that the 80s were fun and unselfconscious while the 90s were too steeped in dull seriousness and irony. CotC2 was a blast of lurid goofiness, and I do enjoy when movies are good at being stupid.

He Who Twerks Behind the Rows gets a lot more proactive in this installment, offing a couple of newshounds in the first few minutes exclusively via corn - a brotha gets his throat slit by shuck and a douchey anchorman gets impaled via high-velocity cornstalk! To reiterate: that's what I'm talkin' 'bout. The plot follows where #1 left off, with time seemingly compressed (or ignored). After the death of Isaac and Malachi, erstwhile leader of the kiddie cult, the surviving Gatlin children are ported over to neighboring Hemingford, which has a saucy B&B owner with a Bridget Fonda bowlcut and two identical, histrionic old ladies. But anyway, in lieu of Burt and Vicky, we now have Dipshit and Dipshit Jr., bickering idiots traveling to Hemingford so Dipshit can write for his tabloid about the strange events.

About 1.3 minutes in, He Who Gets Jiggy Behind the Rows possesses one of the kids, Micah, who'll astute viewers will remember is Donovan from Only the Strong (or not), and bades him commit hilarious murders around town with the aid of the best Dimension Films CGI 1992 had to offer. Oooooh yeah. The Dipshit gang battles Micah and his corn-minions, who start dispatching the residents of the town, including both old ladies via inspired references to The Wizard of Oz and Gremlins (wheelchair-rocket through a window). Dipshit, with the help of a Magic Indian named Professor Red Bear (can't make it up), turns the tables on Micah's gang and runs over him with a thresher, although not before the demon un-possesses him, which means our heroes murdered an innocent kid. Uh...

All in all, this was a good time. Most of the profundity the first film tried to push is either abandoned or taken to comical extremes in this sequel, and it gives me hope for the next thirty films I have to sit through.

The Gaffer's Rating: 2 Corn Totals out of 4.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode I

And here we are, finally, at the start of things. Numero Uno. That poster art always did creep me out as a little kid, although I don't think I ever saw this movie until recently (not counting the review). And, actually, I came to appreciate Disciples of the Crow a bit more after watching this first official installment - I think it played its cards right with regard to King's original story, as the changes made in Children of the Corn made the ambiance less spooky. The main characters walking into town without a huge grasp of what was happening would've been the smart choice - just like in those "Twilight Zone" episodes. We were never really told what the hell was happening in Disciples, but in this first Corny - we get a backstory narrated by that kid from Monster Squad: in Gatlin, Nebraska (relocated from the original South [although not in King's story]...I guess in order to facilitate corn a bit better?) a bunch of creepy kids decided they had an in with some demon they call He Who Walks Behind the Rows, killed every adult in town (like 7 of them), and set up a boring theocracy ruled by alleged corn-daddy prophet Isaac (whose creepiness owes itself largely to the fact that actor John Franklin suffers from growth hormone deficiency). Everybody over age 19 goes into the corn to be consumed by a corn-wumpus.

Burt and Vicky (Linda Hamilton, who was having a pretty big year in 1984) are a happy couple in this tale; Burt is a vigorous young doctor headed for a sweet new residency in Somewhere Populated, but there's no inherent mystery or intrigue involved in what they're doing, because we already got the lowdown on the murderous children and their demon-daddy. So things play out more as a diluted novelty - there's a really annoying ginger (Malachi) trying to take over from Isaac and he yells "Outlander!!" like a dong several times. There's surprisingly little here to talk about - Burt and Vicky finally figure out the backstory we've already been privy to, then run away from kids who should've been hilariously outmatched by them, even wielding farm equipment. Lots of goofy faux-Christian imagery (but with corn), and a pretty hamfisted scene wherein Burt takes the kids to task for their religious zealotry, giving this film its completely gratuitous "critique" of evangelical Christianity. Anyway, highlights include HWWBtR showing up as some kind of entity that burrows hilariously like Bugs Bunny...and a poorly FX'd red cloud. Huh.

This was disappointing. Usually the real horror of Franchise Follies is discovering what a piece of shit the franchise's maiden voyage is, but Children of the Corn isn't really bad, it's just dull as hell. I don't think creepy children were all that uncommon by 1984, so I don't really understand the staying power this thing had that would propel it to umpteen sequels - except that the whole demon masquerading as regla' god and a sacrificial kid-cult bring to mind Lovecraft and Village of the Damned, respectively, but that Nutella is thinly-spread across some corn toast, my friend!

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


Gu-Gone Girl

Back in action for a minute or two, The Gaffer takes a break from the cornfields to help out, helping to review Gone Girl and pitch a movie about deadly butt electrocutions. You heard me.

We heard music from:

Cannibal Holocaust, 1980 - Riz Orlani
The Fearless Vampire Killers, 1967 - Krzysztof Komeda


Thursday, October 02, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode 0

We actually get to start this series with a prequel of sorts, Disciples of the Crow, which sounds like a pretty terrible metal band. This 1983 short film (brought to my attention by Travis - thanks, asshole) has around 20 minutes in its running time and $45 in its budget. The film sounds like it was boom mic'd through a handful of tube socks and you can almost see the magnetic strips peeling off the film as it spools. Still, it lends Disciples of the Crow a nice little aura of eerie low-fi charm.

Disciples was produced when Stephen King adaptations were arching toward their long-lasting pinnacle, and had already been graced by a few big-budget stinkbombs, but there's an essence to this quiet little (attempted) spooker that I much prefer - an aesthetic of grainy film and tattered paperback covers is much more forgiving to Mr. King and his dimestore horror mien.

The story: We begin in small-town Oklahoma, and already this tale is too scary for anyone to ever watch. A little kid with an amusingly-large herp on his face is worshiping some creepy shit (it's some corn, not just the cross/grave/whatever) with an entire crucifix made of either husks or hemp, which is impressive but also stupid. Then he leaves and goes to church, which reduces him to such an alienable state of boredom (I been there, kid, I been there) that he whacks his mother with a hatchet. It's unclear what happens next, due to either obfuscatory skill or the fact that this film was seriously shot for a couple of a twenties and a Hardee's Best Value Meal coupon, but I guess the kids go wild just like in that Babylon A.D. song, and rid the town of its adult menace. Mkay.

Next we cut to what is easily the most obnoxious couple this side of a Kardashian, named Vicky and Burt, who are driving through the flat, barren wastes of Oklahoma on some indiscernible trip. Throughout the remainder these two make the most bitter and hate-drenched bickering, even when they are being assaulted by scythe-wielding cultists. Marriage! Anyway, these two idiots can't stop railing one another with venom-coated invectives, so Burt ends up running over a child. When they inspect the body, they find one of those sweet ceremonial daggers they sometimes sell at carnivals or behind the glass at the counter of old video rental stores - you know, the ones with the bigass ruby-jeweled hilts and stuff? At this point, Burt advises they comically hurl the child's body aside and go into town so that they can bicker with one another in a less infanticidal capacity. The town appears to be vacated however, except for some creepy Burma-Shave signs/graffiti that say nonsense like "Repent the Atonement" or something.
"Give Daddy a hug!"
After some cursory sightseeing, Burt and Vicky decide to get the fuck out of Oklahoma (amirite y'all?), fuck this "Cherokee Nation" business, but are thwarted by several 20-somethings (aka crew members who weren't getting paid for two roles) who attack the couple with staves and pitchforks and scythes, lead by King Herp himself (I also considered Bubba Herptep). What happened to Children of the Corn? These m'fuckers are in their prime! I guess the titular children had to grow up, but then that changes your title to Coming of Age in the Corn, and, ew? Whatever. Burt and Vicky (sadly) fight the adult-children off and drive away, making cryptically-shitty musings about...whatever the fuck just happened and how profound it was. Roll credits.

If I have learned something thus far from this series, it's two things: Everyone is scared of smalltown U.S.A. and everyone is scared of southern religion. As someone who has some familiarity with both of those things, I can give you an ironic amen but also offer a counter, because seriously, American horror is ludicrously scared of both of those things to the point that it's almost a metanarrative (we are also disproportionately scared of weenies and ho-hos). I actually think most of American horror is informed by the fear offered by driving a car cross-country: endless stretches of nothing containing Cthulhu knows what out there in the vast, barren nothingness. If I were to drop some postdoc wankery on you I would relate this to the Frontier Experience and the founding of America, but lucky for both of us I ain't got the time or inclination.

The Gaffer's Rating: 2 out of 4 Del Montes.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Gaffer Presents: Halloween Franchise Follies Part II: The Bloodening

October is upon us again! Seasonal pumpkin ales are polluting our liquor stores and the leaves are getting crunchy. Halloween reigns supremeMore importantly, it's time to dust off the Gaffer's blogging skills for another heinous episode of Franchise Follies! Last year's takedown of The Howling films proved pretty amusing for everyone (and...mostly me). This year I'm again sticking with a franchise I have little if any extant familiarity with: Children of the Corn. Coming in at 9½ films, this corn should prove nice and nutritious! And given how many of these films are direct-to-video, I should be afraid, and you should be pleased, because I'll soon be vomiting invectives after subjecting myself to this pointless spectacle.