Judge Patrick Naugle can shuck like there's no tomorrow.
The chilling true story of where your movie popcorn really comes from.
I don't know for sure, but I would venture to guess that Stephen King is one of the most frequently adapted authors in history. Dozens of films have been made from King's stories, none quite so bafflingly popular as the seemingly ubiquitous Children of the Corn series. Based on one of King's short stories, Children of the Corn went on to spawn not only a remake but also six (!) sequels. Echo Bridge Entertainment has unleashed Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror and Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return on Blu-ray…so start your screamin'!
Facts of the Case
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror
Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return
Considering my horror pedigree (my father was Vincent Price, my mother was Betsy Palmer and my sister is Carrie), I've never been much of a fan of the Children of the Corn series. The original 1984 cheapie—a critically maligned mess but profitable to whatever producers made their deal with the Devil—lacks any interesting characters and had a budget only slightly bigger than a Pirates of the Caribbean craft services lunch table on any random Tuesday. Why did people flock to a movie starring two C-grade stars (Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton) and as much suspense as paying my bills online? Your guess is as good as mine. I'd bet the name Stephen King helped sell tickets while the idea of children stalking adults in a rural setting tapped into some weird deep-seated fear about rural yokels and city folk fearing they'd be forced to "squeal like a pig." Because of this, the Children of the Corn series starts to read like a dry Biblical list of terrible straight-to-video titles: Children of the Corn begat Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice which begat Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest which begat Children of the Corn: The Gathering which begat our movie of the moment, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror. Amen.
If that felt like quite a bore to read you may have a hard time sitting through the fifth entry of the Children of the Corn series, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, which would give Orville Redenbacher chills (and for all the wrong reasons.) You really won't need a lot of background history going into this sequel; all you need to know is right there in the title—there are children (natch), they live in the corn, end of story. In what must be the umpteenth version of the "out-of-towners get stranded in a strange town" routine, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror lumbers forth without much going for it, save for a few famous and semi-famous faces and a fair amount of chintzy gore (care of writer/director Ethan Wiley, who helmed the much better sequel House II: The Second Story).
Star Eva Mendes (going under the spelling "Eva Mendez") appears in her first major film role and does little except look pretty and emote in ways that make a John Deere wood chipper look like a Shakespearean actor. David Arquette's brother, Alexis, who would later go on to become a woman in real life, uses some goofy shtick that gets old fairly quickly. The late David Carradine (Kill Bill: Volume 2) shows up as a weird old prophet while ex-footballer Fred Williamson (From Dusk Till Dawn) pops up as a town sheriff who looks like a football player playing a town sheriff in a bad horror movie. Again, I list these things because the movie doesn't provide me with enough worthwhile action or dialogue to comment on. Generally speaking characters walk on screen, recite some stale dialogue then get dispatched as quickly as they entered. Wash, rinse, repeat.
In the pantheon of terrible, unwarranted sequels, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror can stand proud and tall knowing it's hovering somewhere near first place, right next to Darkman II: The Return of Durant and any of the Hellraiser movies made in the past fifteen years. As I sit here writing this review I'm racking my brain trying to think of anything that happened in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror that was interesting or unique. I can think of almost nothing to recommend in this film—no standout performances and a lousy story.
Which brings us to…
Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return. Well, now. I didn't think things could get worse. How very, very wrong I was. Fans of this series (clearly consisting of the mentally deranged, emotionally stunted and sewer dwelling lizard people) will be happy to note that John Franklin's Isaac returns for this sixth installment. As you'll remember, or maybe you won't or just don't care, Isaac was one of the lead antagonists in the original film. Almost two decades later Franklin returns to the same role with even less impact than the first film—the man just isn't scary. Looking like a grown up Hobbit with a voice that sounds like he was sucking helium before each take, Franklin has all the menace of a kid named Dennis (Rhyming, the key component in any reviewer's arsenal). He makes a terrible villain and spends most of the movie smirking, which is at the top of my list of "Facial Expressions Least Likely to Instill Fear and Trembling." There's the requisite gore here (mostly in the form of lots of red Karo syrup), but it's all sound and fury signifying nothing. Nancy Allen (the Robocop trilogy) and Stacey Keach both show up in minor roles but it's an obvious ploy for marquee value only. Everything about Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return is downright bad—the production values ("Bob, we don't have enough for effects work…flickering hallway lights are always scary, right?"), the horrendous 'for a paycheck' acting and the lackluster direction and writing (co-scripted by Franklin) all point towards a rushed production to recoup their budget.
For those wondering what either of these movies have to do with Stephen King's original "Children of the Corn" story, the answer is almost nothing. Except for the idea of kids living in cornrows, these movies have little in common with King's short story. In fact, it's a bit of a surprise the author didn't fight to have his name removed from the credits of each of these films ala the Lawnmower Man films. Both Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror and Children of the Corn IV: Isaac's Return are exceptionally bad movies. Unfortunately, they don't fall under the 'so bad they're good' category; these are bottom of the barrel cheapies that will be long forgotten to the folds of time.
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen in 1080p hi-def resolution while Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen in a slightly less 1080i resolution. Frankly, it doesn't really matter that these two films are presented in two different resolutions—they both look mediocre at best. Yes, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror is the slightly better looking of the two films (the colors seem brighter and there is a notable lack of imperfection in the overall image), but this is like saying McDonalds has a slight edge over Burger King…you're still getting middle of the road fast food. The biggest issue with both of these transfers is a lack of clarity and depth in the image. Considering thee are the fifth and sixth entries in a mostly straight to video series, it's not very surprising that these transfers are only about a quarter of a step up from the original DVD releases.
The soundtracks are both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. If you thought the picture quality was pretty iffy wait until you get a load of these paltry soundtracks. Ugh. While serviceable for the material, there isn't anything of interest here for audiophiles to enjoy. The soundtrack is front heavy and blandly reproduced, even a bit tinny. Considering this is a high-def format, this is a real disappointment even if these are just Z grade bottom feeder movies. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this release.
Not surprisingly, there are no extra features included on this disc. I would be lying if I didn't say that made me really, really happy.
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror and Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return make the cardinal mistake of being exceptionally boring, one of the twelve deadly sins of horror movies (a list that includes "not enough gore" and "no boobies"). Neither of these movies are worth casual viewer's time, though the consummate horror collector may feel this double feature is a worthwhile buy.
Both of these straight-to-video horror movies are found guilty of being shameless cash-ins.
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