Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993) Dimension/Horror RT: 92 minutes Rated R (violence and gore, language) Director: David Price Screenplay: A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler Music: Daniel Licht Cinematography: Barry Zetlin Release date: January 29, 1993 (US) Cast: Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer, Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Rosalind Allen, Ned Romero, Ed Grady, John Bennes, Wallace Merck, Joe Inscoe, Kelly Bennett, Rob Trevelier, Leon Pridgen, Marty Terry, Ted Travelstead, Sean Bridgers, Aubrey Dollar, Kristy Angell. Box Office: $6.9 million (US)
I thought it was a joke the first time I saw the poster. It wasn’t. After nine years, somebody went ahead and made Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, a sequel to the low budget 1984 horror movie adapted from the Stephen King short story of the same name. At 25, I should have been past the stage where I looked forward to horror sequels with devilish glee and anticipation. You’re talking to a guy who religiously showed up to see all the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween sequels on their respective opening weekends (opening day when I could). I should have outgrown that but I didn’t.
So it was that I had mixed feelings about Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (there was NEVER any doubt I’d go to see it). On the one hand, I wanted to see where they took the story. On the other hand, I expected it to suck. Come on, it’s a sequel almost a decade after the fact. None of the original actors were in it. It came out with virtually no prerelease marketing. It had all the classic signs of a bona fide cinematic stinker. While the plot offered no surprises, the movie itself did. That I actually liked it was an even bigger shock than the final scene of Basic Instinct.
It picks up right after the events of the first movie. The authorities have discovered the bodies of all the slain adults in Gatlin. The surviving children are being sent to the neighboring town of Hemingford where they’re to be adopted by generous, well-meaning families. Not everybody is on board with this idea. As per usual in movies like this, a crazy old person shows up ranting about how bad an idea this is. As usual, nobody listens.
What happened in Gatlin is big news; it attracts journalists and reporters from around the country. Yet somehow it escapes the attention of tabloid reporter John Garret (Knox, St. Elsewhere) who’s travelling cross country with his estranged teenage son Danny (Scherrer). He decides to stick around and get the full story in hopes that it will revive his once-promising career. He used to write for Newsweek but he had problems with the editor that ended up wrecking his career. Danny doesn’t like his father very much and he resents having to stay in a place as boring as Hemingford. That is, until he meets a hot local girl named Lacey (Clark, Nightmare on Elm Street 2).
It seems that the children of Gatlin didn’t leave old habits behind. They’re still loyal to He Who Walks Behind the Rows who managed to survive being blown up at the end of the first movie. In Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, he takes possession of a cult member named Micah (Bollman, Only the Strong) who’s living with inn owner Angela (Allen, Dangerously Close) who becomes John’s love interest. Once that happens, the adults in Hemingford start dying in gruesome ways.
Sequels are famous (or notorious) for resolving unanswered questions from the original movie. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is no different. The one with the answers is Frank Red Bear (Romero, House IV), a Native American anthropology professor from a nearby university. From him, we learn what He Who Walks Behind the Rows is (one of earth’s gods angry over humanity’s mistreatment of nature) and why the kids killed the adults (toxic sludge on rotting corn made them delusional). He actually uses the term “koyaanisqatsi” (a Hopi word for “life out of balance”) to describe what’s going on. Maybe a better subtitle for this sequel world be Dances with Cornstalks?
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is as goofy as horror sequels get without completely sucking. It’s actually funny at times. It also has some pretty cool kill scenes. One fellow gets impaled by a corn stalk. Another guy bleeds to death in a church when Micah uses a voodoo doll on him (?!). Somebody gets stabbed to death with hypodermic needles. Another person gets chopped up by a corn harvester. People burn to death in a fire started by the evil children. Two kill scenes really stand out though. First, the aforementioned crazy old lady gets crushed to death by a house (shades of Wizard of Oz?). Second, her wheelchair-bound sister gets hit by a car (naturally, the kids cause it) and flies through the window of the town bingo hall. Yes, somebody holds up their card and hesitantly says “bingo” right after it happens.
I honestly don’t know what to say about the acting in Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice other than it’s no better or worse than most horror sequels. The cast seems to know that the movie is all in fun and never take their characters or anything else too seriously. Clark has grown into an attractive young woman; it’s hard to believe she was the little sister in Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Bollman resembles Christian Slater without the Jack Nicholson mannerisms. Marty Terry is a riot in her dual role as the elderly sisters. The first sister says “What a world, what a world.” right before being crushed to death by her house. You just have to laugh at the addition of Romero’s character. The Native American slant was goofy in Poltergeist II and it’s just as goofy here.
All in all, I really enjoyed Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice. I guess I’ll never be too old to enjoy horror sequels. To be honest, I still look forward to future Friday the 13th installments. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice could have been really awful and I’m sure many will argue that it is. I say it’s pretty damn good for what it is. It’s better than it has a right to be. The special effects are really good, especially when you consider that it was made for only $900,000. I try to give movies like this a lot of slack. Sometimes, like now, it pays off. It’s a true guilty pleasure.