Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time 07.05.12: Children of the Corn Franchise Breakdown

July 5, 2012 | Posted by Joseph Lee

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.

Last week I looked at the top ten episodes of Angel. Let’s see what you had to say.

Crate said: My next column idea would be to do either a top 10 or just rank the 12 total seasons of the buffyverse from worst to best

I could rank all twelve seasons at some point. That actually kind of sounds fun.

AnakinFlair replied: You’re right about Not Fade Away. It should have been a 2 parter. Maybe if they hadn’t devoted an entire episode to HARMONY, they could have done it. I HATED that episode.

I didn’t think “Harm’s Way” was that bad, but it definitely wore out its welcome by the end. Harmony is best suited as a side character.

Guest#8335 added: i knew a hole in the world would be #1. episode starts out so freaking hilarious with angel/spike arguing and then turns into the best acted most heart breaking episode of tv i have ever seen. completely and totally crushed every time i watch it.

The episode itself is such a mood whiplash considering “Smile Time” happened right before it. But I do love the “Astronauts vs Cavemen” debate, especially the fact that before Wesley finds them, they had been arguing about it for an hour.

Jed said: My personal favorites are “Reunion” and “Redefinition”. Seeing Angel fall into a hellish despair, turning evil without turning into Angelus … especially the scene where he locks Wolfram & Hart in the room with a hungry Darla & Drusilla … SO chilling. In a way, he’s more evil than Angelus at this point.

Oddly enough, while I do like the darker Angel arc in season two, I *really* like the side story of Cordy, Gunn and Wesley bonding with their own investigation group.

Guest#7703 complained: Man, that’s a lot of character death. I mean to each their own, but Freddie’s ultra-depressing death number one? Really? At least Hero is poignant and a bearable rewatch. Again love me some Faith. Five By Five is definitely worth mentioning as at least a honourable mention with the only thing holding it down being it, and the following episode, should have had a lot more episodes to play out.

I picked “A Hole in the World” as my #1 because of how it emotionally affected me. From the sounds of your comment, it did the same for you. The fact you found it depressing means it did its job.

This week, I plan to do a franchise breakdown of Children of the Corn. Now I should go ahead and say up front that I do not like this series. I didn’t like the first film and I didn’t like the sequels. I don’t even like the short story, as wrong as some of you may find that. Not everything Stephen King writes is a winner! But like the Amityville Horror series (which is better, but not by much), this is one of those franchises that runs under the radar and keeps going. That means eventually I would have to look at it.

Did you even know this series had nine entries? I didn’t know you could get that much mileage out of a short story. How come The Night Flier wasn’t the one to get a ton of sequels? Even if I don’t like this series, I do like certain aspects to it. There will be an occasional kill or moment that works in spite of the overall badness of whatever movie it’s in. Actually, I think you can probably find that about most bad movies. Instead of ripping the entire series, I’m going to try to be more positive and point out what I do enjoy about the films.

The original story was written in 1977 and appears in Stephen King’s Night Shift collection of stories (great book, by the way). The story is far better than the film, even if I didn’t care for either. It’s much darker and ends in a way that a story like this probably should end. Another way to end the first film would have been like Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (and if you haven’t seen that movie, you should for the end alone).

Let’s get into exactly why I don’t like the film. For one, it’s a very flawed execution of a great idea, that being a town of children goes crazy and murders all of the parents. That is a disturbing story idea. The fact they do it under the influence of a powerful demon is even scarier. But there’s something lost in the translation. Maybe it’s the fact that the acting is bad or maybe it’s the fact that the film ends with a lazy “everyone goes home happy” Hollywood ending. That ending works in some cases and a story like this is not one of them.

I definitely don’t like the dialogue in this film, which is so ridiculous it was ripe for parody (and South Park did so gloriously). The acting is especially bad, as they managed to find every bad child actor they could and put them all into one cast. Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton try hard, but they’re limited by the script. I’ve grown to appreciate John Franklin more over the years (he was 25 playing a little kid at the time), but this movie is just a big disappointment to me.

The film itself was actually a financial success, as it earned $14 million on a budget of only $800,000. That guarantees a sequel, even back then.

Here’s something I like about the sequel to Children of the Corn (called The Final Sacrifice, which is a lie). It tries to establish some continuity. It moves out of the town of Nebraska and sees the children from the original film being adopted by a neighboring town to give them normal lives after what happened before. Of course it’s a dumb idea, and it just leaves the town vulnerable for the same thing happening.

Another thing I did enjoy about this film were some of the deaths. While there are a few that are ridiculous (death by corn!), I did enjoy Ruby being crushed by a house. You don’t see that too often in horror films. However it suffers from many of the same problems that has always plagued this series. I will say that even though this is not that great on it’s own, it’s probably the best in the franchise due to some inventive kills and less silly dialogue. Financially, the series was still a success as The Final Sacrifice earned $6.9 million on a budget of $900,000. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not mentioning critic reviews because there is no point. They hate these movies too.

I should say that while I personally do not enjoy these films, I can see why there are people who do. As I’ve said, there are aspects of the series, especially the early entries, that I like, if not the films as a whole. The early movies were actually going to theaters and as a result there seemed to be an incentive to actually try to make something halfway decent. This was the last film of the series to go to theaters and it’s probably the last to try anything more than “kids go into cornfield, kids turn evil, mayhem ensues”.

This one has two of the Children of the Corn being adopted by a family in Chicago. Already you’re trying something different because you’ve moved them from the country to the city. Sure, the corn is still there, but at least they had to bring it in. It also ends with an apocalyptic scenario that is never followed up on (that would have meant doing something new). This film bombed at the box office which meant the series was doomed to stay in the direct-to-video realm. Not even the remake could get anything more than a premiere on Syfy. Oh yeah, blink and you’ll miss Charlize Theron in her film debut.

Naomi Watts, of all people, stars in this sequel which doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the series. The main points you need are that kids are evil and there may be a cornfield involved at some point. When your series is direct to video, you have less motivation to do anything more than what is required. I’ll be honest, at a certain point here the films begin to more or less blend together and it’s hard to differentiate them.

At least this does benefit from Watts, who shows why she went on to become a star and no one else did. Okay that’s not entirely fair, Karen Black was already a cult favorite before being in this film. The entire series usually suffers from bad acting and worse scripts, and while this is no exception, casting both a veteran in Black and someone like Watts (who isn’t perfect but better than most in the franchise) does help things tremendously. I also enjoy the subplot about the child having the condition where his blood doesn’t clot (I want to say it’s hemophilia, but it’s been a while) and so it adds suspense when it’s revealed that all of the children are giving blood to their leader. Little things like that can help a movie.

Just what the series needed: A group of teens who end up involved with the evil children. Actually, it’s not just the children of the town but even an adult or two seem like they are in on it. This probably has the most interesting cast of the series, with Eva Mendes, Alexis Arquette, David Carradine, Fred Williamson and even Kane Hodder. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good cast but it is a varied one.

Once again this film ends like the normally do. Crazy kids in a cult, people die, eventually the “corn god” reveals itself and is seemingly destroyed. I’m not knocking the franchise for being repetitive, but even the Friday the 13th series has parts that differentiate each film. It may be something as basic as “in this one Jason goes to space”, but it’s there. The bulk of the direct-to-video series all feel the same to me.

John Franklin returns to ham it up in what is actually an enjoyable performance. It’s not necessarily good, but it is fun because he just doesn’t care how much scenery he chews up. For those who have always wondered what became of Isaac, this is the time to find out. I actually kind of wanted to see Malachai too, resurrected as some big dumb lackey as he was in life. Isaac and Gaitlin, Nebraska are both back in attempt to return the series to its roots.

I’ll give this film credit for trying to not only bring the series back to how it started, but it attempts to give the series some closure with a more epic ending than other sequels. It still has the same twists and turns for the most part, but it does have an effort that had been missing in the last two films. Plus, John Franklin is entertaining, which is all you can ask for. Definitely one of the better sequels and if you’re a fan of this series at all, you may enjoy this one.

I don’t believe the last three films had any effort at all, including the remake. It’s hard to find anything memorable or enjoyable in any of them, and it’s going to be even harder to write short summaries of the three films. But I’ll try. This one already is off to a bad start when you realize that it’s set in Omaha, Nebraska, but the apartment complex is said to take place where the original film happened. Problem #1: The original film is set in Gaitlin. This film mentions that fact but never really establishes a connection between the two.

Problem #2: This is definitely the worst of the series. I mean, hands down it is the worst acted, the worst direct and the worst written of all the films. There is just nothing to like about it at all. I’ve tried to sit through it and while I did finish, I can’t tell you a thing that happened. It’s uninspired, dull, and an obvious cash-in on a franchise name that wasn’t that successful to begin with. The original film was only a minor hit, remember?

I don’t remember anyone getting in up in arms about a remake of Children of the Corn, which probably says all that needs to be said about the relevance and love for the first film right there. Of course it’s also entirely possible that most people weren’t even aware that there was a remake, as it was made for television and released on video without any hype whatsoever.

But if you’re going to remake Children of the Corn, you should at least attempt to make it closer to the original story, right? That’s exactly what the filmmakers were thinking and that’s why the remake ends up being better than the original in that department. The darkness is there, the downer of an ending is there and it’s a much more faithful adaptation than the 1980s attempt. While I do not like the original story all that much, it is a well-written story and one that should easily translate to a film. So when you stick to it, you’re able to make a better film than the original could do. The purpose of a remake should be to surpass the source material, and this one does just that.

Did you even know that Children of the Corn: Genesis was coming before it was released last year? I did, but only because it was casually mentioned in a post about Hellraiser: Revelations. I would have been more excited about this one had I known that it actually resembles a film and doesn’t completely ruin it’s title character (I think someone else can play Pinhead, but the guy they picked was not that person).

Anyway, this is a prequel, telling the story of how He-Who-Walks-Behind-The-Rows came to power and infected the children of Gaitlin. Well, in theory. In actuality it has very little to do with the original story outside of the opening sequence and is mostly set in California. There’s your first problem with this “prequel”. As for the other problems, well it’s mostly just boring. There’s not much else I can add to that. It’s a completely dull and pointless movie that is really a sequel in name only.

That’s it for me. What do you think of this series? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. When Prometheus came out, I thought about doing a list of the best sci-fi horror films. Instead I did the month devoted to TV horror. So next week I’m going to start that list, the twenty best films that combine the two genres.

Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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Joseph Lee

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