Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996) Dimension/Horror RT: 82 minutes Rated R (strong horror violence and gore, some language) Director: Greg Spence Screenplay: Stephen Berger and Greg Spence Music: David C. Williams Cinematography: Richard Clabaugh Release date: October 8, 1996 (US, DTV) Cast: Naomi Watts, Karen Black, Jamie Renee Smith, Mark Salling, Brent Jennings, Samaria Graham, William Windom, Lewis Flanagan III, Toni Marsh, Brandon Kleyla, Salle Ellis, Marietta Marich, Jonathan Patterson, Joshua Patterson, Kay Bower.
A one-star rating indicates the movie being reviewed is a bad one and that’s certainly the case with Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering, yet another chapter in the saga of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. It’s a bad movie on many levels, the most obvious being it has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the first three movies. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. It has children driven to kill adults by a creepy little guy dressed like an Amish preacher. It also has a cornfield. That’s it. There’s not a single mention of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. That alone doesn’t make Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering a bad movie. At least not for me. I’m a big fan of Halloween III: Season of the Witch and it has nothing to do with Michael Myers. It certainly doesn’t help either.
Getting back to my original point about the movie’s one-star rating, Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering is bad. But I look at it like a Friday the 13th movie; even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. It may sound like I’m contradicting myself but I’m really not. It’s my way of saying that I kind of enjoy these movies but am willing to acknowledge they don’t represent cinema at its finest. Some would even say that the mere association of cinema and the Children of the Corn movies is blasphemous. I wouldn’t go that far but like I said, none of them will ever pass as quality films.
In this movie, med student Grace Rhodes (Watts, Mulholland Drive) returns to her hometown (Grand Island, Nebraska)* to care for her agoraphobic mother June (Black, Burnt Offerings) and younger siblings Margaret (Smith, Dante’s Peak) and James (Salling, Glee). Mom has been experiencing recurring nightmares of being attacked by children. Not all dreams should come true, least of all this one, but some serious you-know-what is about to go down in Grand Island.
An evil spirit has been freed and proceeds to infect all the children in town. It starts off as a fever that spikes through the roof and comes down just as quickly. Shortly thereafter, the kids start behaving strangely. They stop answering to their own names, claiming to be someone else. They also start murdering people. It all has to do with this apparition of a boy preacher who was killed many years before by the townspeople. Now he wants his revenge.
There’s plenty wrong with Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering but the thing that first comes to mind is how bad the lighting is. It’s so dark in many scenes, it’s hard to see what’s going on. Even in daylight, the movie has a dreary, gloomy look to it. The acting is terrible. Black shamelessly overacts as the delusional mother. Her character is such a nut job, it’s a wonder Family Services didn’t intervene at some point. William Windom (The Mephisto Waltz) as the town doctor also overacts. Watts does okay with what little she has to work with. The script is a confused mess. It has too many plot elements that don’t tie together all that neatly. When we finally get the backstory of the boy preacher (from a pair of elderly women who seem to know an awful lot about what’s going on), some of the dialogue is difficult to hear.
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering is poorly made, badly written and lazily directed (Spence, The Prophecy II), but it does have a few cool kill scenes which is the real reason any of us watches movies like this. Many people are killed with farm tools of varying kinds. One woman is nailed to the wall of the local clinic with syringes before having a scythe embedded in her skull. Another person is cut in half. It has a decent body count going for it. But here’s the thing about Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering. It’s too unintentionally funny to dismiss outright as crap. The characters behave like idiots most of the time. The dialogue is mostly awful. I’m just going to go ahead and say it. This movie is D-U-M-B, DUMB! It’s also kind of fun depending on your tolerance for dopey horror sequels. Mine is very high. I can’t, in all good consciousness, recommend Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering. I can’t, in truth, say that I hate it either. It is what it is, I suppose. Take it or leave it. Just know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.
*= At first, I thought the writers were going crazy in naming the town Grand Island. Nebraska is in the Midwest. It’s not a coastal state. It turns out there IS a town called Grand Island in Nebraska. It’s a real place. Okay, at least the makers did their geography homework.