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John’s Horror Corner: Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996), Naomi Watts versus evil kids seeking to resurrect their mediocre Corn Messiah.

April 7, 2023

MY CALL: While far better than anything I’d call unwatchable, this is the CotC movie I could throw away and forget. You might be entertained (at least just enough), but it does disservice to the franchise and fails to deliver the bizonkersly satisfying death scenes of CotC 2-3. MORE MOVIES LIKE Children of the Corn IV: Children of the Corn (1984)spawned many video-era sequels over the years (1992, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2011, 2018) leading to the most recent remake (2020). Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992) was dumber but funner, and Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) seems to follow this yet dumber and yet wildly funner pattern to delightful “bad movie hidden gem” perfection.

TIMELINE: CotC 1 ended with the cornfields of Gatlin burning with the defeat of an ancient Corn God. But of course, many of Isaac’s disciples remained alive remain devout to “He who walks behind the rows.” So yeah, sequels. CotC 2 transpired in the week following Vicky and Bert’s escape from the town. In CotC 2, the evil is defeated with the death of possessed Micah. Similar to CotC 2, CotC 3 ends when Eli and his corn Bible are destroyed. However, his urban harvest would then be spread around the world in the commodities market. Given how CotC 3 ignored the previous two films, I’m guessing this will be of no consequence to whatever sequel plot should follow here in CotC 4.

So here we are in yet another small Nebraska corn town apparently paying no more mind to the previous four movies than a faded husk of the original premise. As such, this film functions very much as a standalone story. We open with some weak zombie gag followed by an “oops, I’m eating bugs” gag. Things feel pretty weak and contrived right away. But the good thing is that there are a lot of these horror gags right away delivered in tandem—so at least the movie is trying and isn’t devoid of budget. A farmer is then impaled by several barn tools by a preachy half-burned zombie kid who conjures fire, telekinesis, and some Old Testament. Perhaps this is the bespoke chosen one that Isaac, Micah and Eli weren’t. But alas, this is the least effective ‘big bad’ of the franchise so far. We are meant to fear his eventual “full” resurrection, but he really doesn’t pass as very menacing.

Meanwhile Grace (Naomi Watts;The Ring 1-2, Dream House, Funny Games, Goodnight Mommy) returns home to help her mentally unwell mother June (Karen Black; Children of the Night, It’s Alive IIIHouse of 1000 CorpsesMirror MirrorNight Angel) just as an outbreak of fever afflicts all the town’s children at once. Just as frighteningly quickly as all the kids fell ill, they are better the next day. Better, but different. The kids identify themselves by the names of kids killed long ago once part of some cult.

Imagery of our preachy leader and child afflictions continue in the form of quite contrived zombie-ish, Satanic and Exorcist (1973) themes. We also have a lot of blood-splattering as possessed kids with bags under their eyes start killing the adults, impaling them with scythes and whatever else they can get their stabby little hands on. Again, I’ve seen better… like at least three times. A squeamish syringe and scythe impaling scene and a cartoonishly silly “gurney death” slicing a doctor in half amount to the highlights of this mediocre sequel. Ranked from most zany bonkers deaths: 3, 2, 4, 1. The child actors in this sequel do a decent enough job being creepy and dire. But the writing and direction are woefully uninspired, readily making this my least favorite sequel. Still, it’s entertaining. Just far less so than CotC 2-3 and doing much disservice to the ever more bonkers franchise.

Like CotC 3 before it, CotC 4 seems to happily ignore that CotC 1-2 ever happened. The backstory is now completely different—that of an amazing boy preacher Josiah who never seemed to age. This could have made for some great scenes cultivating gravity to the premise… but the movie settles on just “telling” us this elaborate back story.

Josiah never amounts to much of a villain. He makes me miss Isaac, Eli and even Micah of the previous films. With the kids more leaderless, this sequel just feels like an ‘evil kids’ movie most of the time. Grace faces off against Josiah in the end. But this finale is reduced to a few shotgun blasts and a messy melty-face scene that’s just okay (but with decent visual effects). The finales of CotC 1 and CotC 3 were far better; 3 especially. I’m inclined to call this the worst of the sequels by far. But I’ll give it this much—it’s really not that bad and it’s much better than its lame movie poster would suggest. Seeing this makes me more appreciative of the solid gold B-movie that is CotC 3.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2023 6:28 pm

    Hmm, Naomi Watts was in the Ring too, is she the go-to evil kid fighter? Was she also the mom in the Bad Seed and the remark of the Omen? I’m going to pretend she was.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 7, 2023 6:35 pm

      Well she was recently in the remake of Goodnight Mommy. And I’d love to see her as the mom in a re-remake of The Good Son.

    • April 8, 2023 8:31 am

      I’ve never seen Bad Seed but don’t remember her in The Omen (2006 one?)

      • John Leavengood permalink
        April 8, 2023 9:24 am

        That was Julia Stiles.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      April 8, 2023 9:28 am

      Which remake of the Bad Seed are we talking about? The TV movie?

  2. April 8, 2023 8:32 am

    Fun review John! Loved reading these.

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