What I Knew Going In / What I Was Expecting
Confession time: I actually have seen the prequel. One of them, anyway.
It was a good ten years ago, so my memory's a bit hazy, but I did see the original Children of the Corn back in college. As I recall, I thought it was dumb fun and one of the better Stephen King adaptations. (Especially when you consider slogs like last week's debacle.) But I don't actually remember it having much of a story that lends itself to serialized entries.
There was a turd named Isaac, right? And he was the ringleader of a kid revolution in some backwater town? But then his red-headed goon started getting defiant and disobeyed orders and their lame revolution got cut short? And I guess a couple of them died or something... anyway, my point is, I don't remember the finer details, but it wasn't a very complicated plot: creepy kids kill adults and create a terrifying Children's Town. I'm not really sure where you go from there.
So that leads me to believe the sequels can only go in one of two ways. Either A) each one is about a different, unrelated group of kids who kill people and take control of a small midwestern town only to end up getting dispatched themselves, or B) the kids from the first one have to fight to keep their Kid Revolution alive, which leads them to do battle with various other small towns in order to set up new strongholds of strategic importance. I sure hope it's B, because A sounds boring as hell.
The Plot Summary
We open with some little dude named Ezekiel while he's wandering around in a cornfield at night and he stumbles across an unattended campfire. The fire shoots out a magic green light, and this apparently fills Ezekiel with blood lust, as he and a couple of his creepy friends immediately go and murder his parents.
Cut to a couple of loudmouth Reckless Teens driving on a rural highway some time later. For reasons unknown, they are inflating a series of blow-up sex dolls as they speed along only so that they can occasionally stop and tie one of the dolls to a random sign or mailbox. This comes to nothing except that both of these nobodies are almost immediately murdered by the Children of the Corn.
Then we cut to some other Reckless Teens. There's four in total: Allison, the headstrong, calm type who is obviously going to be our protagonist, Kir, the sexpot (played by a young Eva Mendes, who I normally think is the best part of any movie she's in, but whose performance here is sadly lacking), and two guys whose names I didn't catch, but who I'll call Handsome Dan and Average Joe.
It seems that Kir's boyfriend, Kurt, recently died in a freak bungee jumping accident, so they're all on a road trip to Kurt's home town so they can pour his ashes there and honor his memory. The two Reckless Teens who got killed a few minutes ago are part of their group, but are going ahead of the rest to... navigate, I guess?
Anyway, they wreck their car in the cornfields and walk into a nearby town to try to get help. Along the way they notice a pungent burnt popcorn odor in the air, and the townies inform them that the smell is coming from a nearby farm operated by a cult of some sort. The cult worships "He Who Walks Behind the Rows," a term that Allison immediately recognizes - her brother, Jacob, wrote to her about that exact term before, and she thinks he might be part of their cult.
Unfortunately, the townies are of no other help - they can't say any more about the cult, they don't have a tow truck, and they don't seem to have a hotel.
The teens wander off to spend the night in their car, but upon returning, they find that somebody has set it on fire. With no options, they wander aimlessly and find an abandoned country house - probably Ezekiel's former home. While staying the night, Kir and Handsome Dan have sex, and in their post-coital moments, Kir thinks she sees somebody stalking them outside the bedroom window. Average Joe and Allison run out into a cornfield to track them down and end up stumbling across the corpses of their friends from the opening scenes.
They call the cops, but instead of opening an investigation or being helpful in anyway, the police just harass the Reckless Teens and tell them to get out of town. Everybody's okay with that idea except for Allison, who wants to investigate that cult and see if she can track down her brother. So they stick around.
At the cult's farm, we find out they have a leader played sleepily by David Carradine. Carradine talks for a long time without saying anything, but allows Allison to talk to Jacob. Jacob says he's fine and doesn't want to be bothered, but gives Allison a coded "Help Me" message. In the meantime, Kir fawns over some beefcake who works on the farm, and starts reading some promotional material about how great their cult is.
The teens again think about leaving town and again decide not to, and that's when things finally goes back to being a horror movie. We find out that Jacob's 18th birthday is tomorrow, and per the cult's custom, he must now sacrifice himself to He Who Walks by climbing up a giant silo and jumping into a magic fire inside of it. Jacob isn't feeling it, though, so he quits the cult. Strangely, they make no attempt to actually stop him from leaving. But then they have second thoughts and try to kill him. Jacob is wounded and hides out in a barn.
Kir steps in at this time and, having been brainwashed - by reading a book, apparently, which is ridiculous because that's not how actual cults work, but whatever - wants to offer herself to He Who Walks instead. So... she does. That's a wrap on Kir, everyone.
Allison, Average Joe, and Handsome Dan go to the cult farm with the police to have David Carradine arrested. This leads to my favorite moment of the movie, which is when Ezekiel gets all pissy and tells a cop, "You can't come in!" And then the cop just goes, "We have a warrant" and shoves Ezekiel out of the way. Take that, turd kid!
Anyway, then Carradine's body melts away and demon magic comes out of him and kills the police officer. Whoops.
The Children of the Corn immediately go into Slasher mode and try to kill the rest of the teens. Average Joe gets a pretty good death where he blows up a car and takes a couple of kids out with him, Handsome Dan just kinda dies boringly. And Jacob dies from his previous injuries.
Allison shoves Ezekiel into He Who Walks's silo and then destroys it, apparently rendering He Who Walks impotent, and all the rest of the Children who haven't been killed yet just seem directionless and confused. Then Allison leaves.
In the last scene, Allison is adopting the illegitimate love child that Jacob had before he left to join the cult (this was apparently a plot point they came up with at the last minute), and as she pulls the baby up close to her, the camera zooms in on its eyes. They are burning with magic He Who Walks fire. I couldn't begin to tell you why.
What I Liked and Didn't Like
Ordinarily I split what I liked out into it's own heading, separate from the part where I talk about how stupid it was, but this is one of those cases where I kinda only liked the movie because it's so stupid. You pretty much have to watch it ironically because if you try watching it any other way, you'll just be bored the whole time.
It's not bad on a technical level - just really average. The movie brings nothing new or inventive to the table. The kills aren't terribly creative (with one or two exceptions), the characters are all stock, cardboard types, and there aren't any terribly interesting effects. The acting's passable for the most part, but unmemorable, and the plot, music, setting, and everything else are just very plain.
About the only distinguishing feature this movie has is that it's script is an onion of stupid. At first you just don't really think about it and you're like, "Okay, cult kids kill teenagers." But once you start peeling layers back, it all starts to get more and more confusing and contradictory and stupid, until eventually you realize you're having a better time figuring out all the plot holes than you are watching the actual movie.
For example: Kir says she's about to turn 18 and offers herself in sacrifice, but the Reckless Teens are supposed to be in college. Is she actually a couple years younger than them? And why the hell does she convert? Even accepting the stupidity of "I read this awesome pamphlet and now I subscribe to your religion," she's supposed to be the one who enjoys casual sex and flirting with everybody, and the cult specifically forbids that because it's something that sinful adults do. What was so appealing about He Who Walks that she decided to kill herself?
Or maybe let's think about the reason they were traveling the countryside in the first place: to spread Kurt's ashes. Why is it that an arbitrary group of Kurt's dickhead buddies from school is tasked with such a solemn quest? Did Kurt not trust his parents and he specifically forbade them from doing it in his will? Did he not have any siblings or aunts or uncles or anybody who would be better trusted to carry his ashes around? (Inevitably, they end up just dumping the ashes in a cornfield by accident, which is just further proof that you shouldn't give your dead kid's urn to his frat brothers.)
What about the baby's eyes at the end? How did He Who Walks get in there? Did HWW jump into Allison during her confrontation with Ezekiel, and then HWW jumped out of Allison and into the baby? And if so... why the baby? Why not stay in Allison's body? She's an adult. She can actually do things.
And how does the magic fire work, anyway? At the beginning of the movie, the fire is hanging out in the middle of the cornfield, but at the end, it's burning inside a silo. Did they move the fire? Was it an unrelated fire? Can HWW just summon random campfires wherever He wants? Did they build the silo around the fire? And if so... how quickly can these fuckers build a silo? It's only been like a week since Ezekiel killed his parents... right?
Speaking of which, where the flying crap did all these other kids come from? And where did Carradine come from? Why does anything happen?
Would I Recommend It?
Kinda. If you're into nitpicking movies or just watching generic slashers while drinking, then definitely. But not if you want an actual horror movie.
What Do I Think the Prequels Were About
I'm virtually certain at this point that each movie in the franchise is basically just a crappy remake of the first one. But since there's that demon fire and the He Who Walks cult, that means there's possibly a through-line besides just the name. So here's my guess:
Part 1: Isaac leads the original Cornies on a Kid Revolution and takes over a small town. Some outsiders show up and screw up his plans, which leads to infighting between Isaac and his followers. The outsiders get away.
Part 2: Isaac is arrested after the events of Part 1, but his followers have not quenched their blood lust and want to keep his vision of a Kid Revolution alive. So they try again with a different small town under the leadership of some new asshole. Let's call him Tommy. This time, their plot works out just fine. They call their town New Kidville and the movie ends on a dark note.
Part 3: Tommy trains another disciple to go forth and conquer a new town, but there's a problem: any time the kids leave New Kidville, they tend to get put in a headlock by the less tolerant adults of the world. Tommy decides the only way they can truly achieve Isaac's vision of a new world is to summon a demon called "He Who Walks," who will trick children into rising up and killing their parents, and then He Who Walks can go around infecting the spirit of Kid Revolution on Tommy's behalf. One of the other kids thinks that's a terrible idea since summoning demons never ends well, so they get into a fight and kill Tommy. New Kidville is thrown into chaos and disbands.
Part 4: Although the Kid Revolution has generally been shattered following the demise of New Kidville, there are seeds of rebellion still scattered in the wind. One of Tommy's disciples, Jimmy, breaks Isaac free from Juvenile Detention and lets him know about Tommy's plan to summon He Who Walks. Isaac gets on board and the two work together to carry out the ritual. This ritual involves methodically stalking and killing certain key people and using their body parts to assemble a disgusting pentagram in a cornfield. For awhile they get away with it, but then a hotshot detective figures out there's a link between the recent spate of murders. The detective chases them to the cornfield just before they can complete their ritual and shoots Jimmy. Then Isaac and the detective do battle. The detective is hurt, but survives long enough to kill Isaac. Just before he can call for backup, Jimmy runs a scythe through the detective's neck and spills his blood, which it turns out was the last thing they had to do to complete the ritual. The pentagram catches on fire, He Who Walks laughs demonically in voiceover, and the movie ends.
My Pitch for the Next One
Let's be serious. The Children of the Corn franchise doesn't really need a pitch to keep going, does it? Unless I'm wrong and all the little bastards actually have an intricate web of back stories and interpersonal relationships, I think you can just have any arbitrary group of kids killing any arbitrary group of slightly older kids.
Have they been on a boat yet? Put 'em on a boat.