Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Field of Screams

Year: 1992
Director: David F. Price
Cast: Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer, Ryan Bollman 
Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

I don't like the original Children of the Corn all that much, but of course I assumed that it has to be the peak of the franchise (Why, under this assumption, did I choose to watch all ten of these movies? Only time and an intense psychological evaluation will tell). Considering that Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice received an inauspicious debut nearly a full decade later (already boasting that telltale "final" tag that horror sequels sometimes get and always fail to hold themselves to), I had every right to expect the franchise to scrape the bottom of the barrel, right out of the gate.

All I can say is, don't pull out your barrel repair kit just yet, there ain't no scrapes today.

Always keeping in mind that we grade these things on a curve.

Probably the single most shocking thing about Children of the Corn II is that it actually exists in direct continuity to the first film. Shortly after the murders in Gatlin are discovered (making this film a period piece, I guess?), the surviving children are shipped off to the neighboring town of Hemingford and adopted into new families. Of course they also convert the Hemingford children into worshiping He Who Walks Behind the Rows and slowly begin a reign of terror by murdering the adults one by one. Incidentally, this film is much more of a slasher than the previous entry, which might have a speck or two to do with why I dug it so much.

Anyway, reporter John Garrett (Terence Knox) and his estranged son Danny (Paul Scherrer) are driving across Nebraska for... I don't know, college? That sounds plausible. They stop over in Hemingford to chase down this whole adult-murder story and find themselves smack dab in the middle of everything, with teen leader Micah (Ryan Bollman) - a dime store version of Isaac if there ever was one - attempting to turn Danny against his dad, which he sorta cops to although he mostly just wants to chase after the local hottie Lacey (Christie Clark of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2).

And who WOULDN'T want to hang out with this super chill fun dude?

Certainly, there are areas where The Final Sacrifice is not an active improvement on the original. This is practically a direct-to-video film after all (it received a cursory theatrical release many months after its premiere in Germany of all places). The acting, which was hardly a strong feature in the '84 film, slips down to right around the dotted line of competence. The kids especially, rather than being the best part of the film, are kind of a milquetoast presence. Micah is no Isaac, and Malachai's replacement is some poor chump named Mortdecai who makes literally no impression. 

But maybe the acting could never be great because the characters are weaker too. There are weirdly a lot of moving parts in this film (Danny has his daddy issues and his love interest, but John himself has a love interest in the form of the B&B owner with the Paget Brewster haircut, a burgeoning friendship with a Native American exposition professor, and eventually uses the skills of a reporter - dumb luck - to discover the town's evil corn secret), but it's a movie that will sacrifice everything to better serve its kill sequences. The film's best emotional chess piece, Danny potentially being turned against his dad, is completely forgotten by the end in favor of a heaping ladle of special effects sequences.

Who needs character drama when we've got whatever this is?

However, these types of loose ends would probably be more disappointing if the special effects weren't so freaking great. This is where The Final Sacrifice massively improves upon Children of the Corn. There are no vague ketchup smears here, no sir. The plot is structured more like a slasher, and the kills are beefed up to prove it. Things get weirdly supernatural in the middle, muddying the already weak mythology around He Who Walks Behind the Rows, but if you give a crap about the characterization around the electric corn demon in these movies, you're probably watching the wrong franchise.

All that matters is that the gore is on point. Blood is splattering all over this movie, from the showstopping double death that marks the beginning of this new reign of terror (a throat-slashing-via-corn that is both stupid and disgusting, and a stalk of corn being impaled through a man's neck, which sprays blood like a firehose). Even the non-bloody kills are reminiscent of the creatively bizarre murders in late 80's slashers, back when creativity had to trump blood in order to appease the MPAA. We get old women crushed by their own houses (Toto, we're not in Nebraska anymore), other old women thrown through the windows of bingo parlors, and... well, I guess old women don't fare very well in this movie.

The single freakiest sequence in this whole affair is set during a church service, where Micah employs a voodoo doll against a man in the front row. Every orifice on his face begins to gush blood of its own volition, splashing all over his wife's face Evil Dead 2 style before he stumbles blindly toward the pulpit and crumples in a heap. It's both extremely silly and horribly gut-wrenching stuff, but any way you slice it its an effective bit of slasher movie mayhem.

I don't have a high quality picture of that scene, so here's some assorted creepy kids.

As far as actual filmmaking quality goes, everywhere but the special effects suffers in comparison to the original. But as far as creating a vibe for the audience, The Final Sacrifice is the film I'd most itch to revisit. It's a kooky, twisted, good time that's just begging to build a stronger cult audience. I'll take a heavy dose of gross and weird over a meandering, rudderless narrative that wastes Linda Hamilton any day.

TL;DR: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is a chintzy effort, but has plenty of charm to back it up.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 1039
Reviews In This Series
Children of the Corn (Kiersch, 1984)
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (Price, 1992)
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (Hickox, 1995)
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (Spence, 1996)
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (Wiley, 1998)
Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (Skogland, 1999)
Children of the Corn: Revelation (Magar, 2001)
Children of the Corn (Borchers, 2009)
Children of the Corn: Genesis (Soisson, 2011)
Children of the Corn: Runaway (Gulager, 2018)


  1. "electric corn demon"
    "a stalk of corn being impaled through a man's neck"
    "old women [plural!] thrown through the windows of bingo parlors"

    So, basically, you're saying that Children of the Corn 2 has it all?

    1. It really does, my friend, though I may have commuted a grammatical misdirection. It's just ONE woman, but it's certainly enough.