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.

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