Full disclosure: I haven’t enjoyed a “Children of the Corn” movie since 1995. That’s the year director James D.R. Hickox’s “Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest” first hit home video, a film that I feel is severely –and unfairly — ignored by most people. After that much-maligned entry, the series really went downhill, each sequel more unwatchable than the last. I know I’ve seen all of the them, but I can’t remember a single detail about any of them. Since the series had lain dormant for so long, I figured nobody really gave two purple pimples about the franchise, the recent remake notwithstanding. So imagine my surprise when rumblings of yet another installment started surfacing earlier this year. More surprising still is the fact that “Children of the Corn: Genesis” really isn’t that bad. It’s certainly a notch or two above the straight-to-video fungus that grows across retails shelves each and every month. I was kind of surprised.
Of course, it helps matters considerably that badass character actor Billy Drago plays a significant role in the storyline. His inclusion in anything automatically kicks up the cool factor by several impressive degrees. Here he portrays the uber-creepy Preacher, a suitably awkward and deeply creepy recluse who, along with his Russian bride, live in seclusion in the middle of the California desert. When a young married couple, who just so happen to be expecting their first child, wander into their foreboding abode in search of a telephone, they have absolutely no idea what’s in store for them. Since a mechanic won’t arrive to fix their car until the following morning, Preacher and his seductive wife invite the youngsters to spend the night. As long as they keep to themselves, that is. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for them to break that one important rule.
To make a long story short, there’s a creepy little kid locked in a shed, and, depending upon who you ask, he’s either evil incarnate or the unfortunate byproduct of a mad man’s demented dream. Our young couple isn’t really too concerned about the welfare of this peculiar child; they just want to survive until morning, get their car fixed, and hit the road. Will they survive to see the birth of their baby, or will something happen during the last half of the movie that will alter their lives forever? Take one guess which one will happen. Go on — I think you can do it. If you’ve seen any horror flick in the past fifty years, chances are you can figure out this cinematic puzzle without breaking a mental sweat. I guess it’s supposed to be more about the journey. Maybe.
As generic as “Children of the Corn: Genesis” may be — all fingers point to kick-ass producer-turned-mediocre writer/director Joel Soisson for that particular crime — the cast is surprisingly strong. Soisson apparently called in a few favors to make this happen, as I’m sure Billy Drago and Duane Whitaker have better things to do with their respective careers. Even stars Barbara Nedeljakova (“Hostel”) and Tim Rock do a fine job keeping things interesting, even when the script is working hard to make you fall asleep. It’s these performances that ultimately support the film, as there’s really nothing else to sink your teeth into. The ending is cheap, the scares are few and far between, and, besides a few flashbacks and a handful of references to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”, there’s really no connection to the “Children of the Corn” series. With a few clever rewrites, this thing could have been a completely separate, moderately enjoyable film.
Is “Children of the Corn: Genesis” a “good” movie? Not by a long shot. However, powered by a weirdly effective performance from Billy Drago and a handful of notable turns from its leads, the flick is actually much better than I had anticipated. Keep in mind, however, that my expectations were impossibly low, and I was honestly expecting the worst. It’s not something you would ever want to purchase, mind you, though if you can’t fall asleep and it’s on Netflix, it might help ease you into the wonderful world of slumber. As strange as it might sound, I still think there’s life in the franchise yet. With the right script and a director who respects the mythos, we might still get a decent “‘Children of the Corn” sequel by the end of days. Assuming, of course, that someone is willing to give “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” another opportunity to scare us.
Joel Soisson (director) / Joel Soisson (screenplay)
CAST: Kelen Coleman … Allie
Billy Drago … Preacher
Barbara Nedeljakova … Helen
Tim Rock … Tim
Duane Whitaker … Pritchett