Children of the Corn isn’t quite as much fun as its set-up would lead you to think. After an exemplary prologue that sees children brutally murdering members of the town, the film slows and ambles along to an obvious third act. Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton are passable as our leads but they really need more to do before this finale. There are some solid performances amongst the younger members of the cast and John Franklin’s Isaac is a fabulous villain, with Franklin’s voice resonating out and chilling the audience.
This is a cheap and cheerful 80s horror, occasional undone by poor special effects but an entirely watchable affair. It helps that at the film’s core is a concept that no matter how passable the adaptation is will chill viewers. The empty town is an unnerving setting and Kiersch shoots it well, even if the rest of his work feels formulaic. It even feels like there is something to watching children as the antagonist here, our natural sympathies challenged by the fact that these horrid pint-sized demons really do deserve to die. There’s fun to be had with this horror, even if this adaptation of King lacks the humanity that marks the best of the works based on his books.
Without offering spoilers it must be said that the end of Children of the Corn feels pretty definitive. But when a film makes $14.6 million on a budget of $800,000 sequels were sure to follow. And so, some nine years later, we got Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, the second of eleven works to bare the eponymous title. These asshole children are back and they’re still talking about corn, mystic god-like figures and murdering adults.
This time we follow a journalist and his son as they investigate (poorly) a spate of mysterious deaths in a small town in Nebraska, all while a gang of pesky young adults get up to mischief. It’s interesting that this is less of a straight repeat of what came before but there is less to distinguish this one, with it more acting like a middle-tier slasher.
There are hints of The Omen in this sequel’s DNA, with the film periodically killing off its cast in lavish set pieces (when it is at its best). This is where director David Price appears to be having the most fun and some of this sequences are wonderfully ridiculous. But if the original was a decidedly 80s affair then this one has all the hallmarks of American horror in the early 90s. And by that it’s all a bit hokey and melodramatic, with characters given an abundance of soap opera-like drama to distract us from the horror we’ve all come here to watch. But where Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice properly falls down is in spending much of the narrative lacking the clarity of the original. Even though there are pacing issues to it, the first at least firmly establishes what the threat is and the extent that it is supernatural or otherwise. This is never quite achieved here, and the film suffers because of it, with generic horror tropes filling the void created by the absence of a compelling story.
Certainly Children of the Corn II is a more out-and-out enjoyable affair, absent much of the dourness that prevents its forebearer from being properly entertaining. The concept at the heart of this series is suitably ridiculous and you just wish everyone would get on-board with that and amp everything up a bit. The arrival of an absurd combine harvester in the second half and Ryan Bollman’s delightful scene-chewing as the villainous Micah makes this film just about worth your time.
On the one hand Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is the inferior film, with weaker direction, acting and world building. But it feels a more enjoyable affair then the original, which benefits from an ace villain but lacks the necessary pace and willingness to take its concept to the full horrifying conclusion it really needs to be taken. Maybe one day this series will go the distance.