How the hell does one even begin to review a film like Children Of The Corn IV?
Do I roll up my sleeves and tear it limb from limb for its awfulness despite the fact that its badness stems chiefly on it bland as hell and thus uninteresting to roast, or do I go the hopeful route and try to pick out the crumbs of goodness in a futile attempt to be positive? Neither, I feel, would do the experience of watching the fourth excursion of the Stephen King’s tale of murderous snipers turning on the adults of a quiet, country town, so I guess I’m just going to have to call thing like I see ’em – so here goes.
This movie is so nondescript it is neither bad enough to hate or decent enough it do anything other than ignore it even exists at all. It’s just… sort of there. Lurking quietly on the rosters of free streaming sites or in dvd bargin bins, it is a film that silently waits until someone watches it by accident – or until a moron like me feels the need to review it.
Grace Rhodes is your usual, cookie cutter, small town girl who has returned to her hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska to take time out from being a medical student in order to take care of her nightmare wracked, agoraphobia mother, June. Rocked nightly by vicious visions of murderous children, June would be struggling even under normal conditions, but she’s also trying to juggle her gargantuan mental issues with raising Grace’s younger siblings, James and Margret.
Accepting a job at Dr Larson’s local clinic, Grace’s limited medical experience is quickly put to the test when the town’s kids, her brother and sister included, are all struck down by brutal fevers that has their temperatures run as hot as cheese on a microwave pizza but just as suddenly as this epidemic starts, it then simply just stops and everyone seems fine..
Ah-ha! I said they only seem fine, because all the local rugrats actually are now under the murderous thrall of a zombified child preacher named Josiah who’s typically twisted back story involves a bunch of fellow bible bashers wanting to milk this child prodigy for all that they could and so gave the kid over to dark powers in order to stunt his growth and slow his aging – much like those rumours of the growth of child stars being stunted by unscrupulous parents that turn up in the trash rags. After killing the preachers responsible, Josiah was burned alive by angry townsfolk and dumped in a well, but he’s now risen again to claim his bloody vengeance at the prongs of a pitchfork or the blade of a well placed scythe.
As various adults fall before the supernaturally controlled kids, Grace has to figure out what’s going on while weathering a metric-ton of lazy jump scares and confront a huge secret from her past if she has any hope of saving her siblings from an evil force who noticably dresses like a dork.
Essentially a prime example of the kind of forgettable dreck Dimension Films flooded the direct to DVD scene with back in the 90’s, Children Of The Corn IV is not only cursed with a noticably amateurish style that dives straight into beating you about the head and neck with countless Dutch angles, empty jump scares and nerve testing flash cuts, but it also had to follow up the refreshingly bonkers Part III that featured some rockin’ gore to cover over the cracks.
It’s actually a shame, because if you can manage to push through that initial, paralyzing wave of indifference that the movie emits, you’ll notice that the filmmakers have tried something slightly different. Skipping the notion of the kids worshiping the farming-based deity He Who Walks Behind The Rows, this fourth installment actually switches up the lore and even streamlining it by dropping the corn-obsessed spirit completely and giving us the Freddy Krueger faced Josiah instead. Also, the force that influences the kids to become rabid little maniacs is now less of a mixture of being under a spell and suffering peer pressure from the bigger kids and now is a sort of full blown possession brought on by a mass sickness. However, despite mixing up the rules a bit, director Greg Spence (who went on to pull the same trick with The Prophecy II and eventually went on to be a producer on Game Of Thrones) still manages to dissolve any and all interest with his gloomy style and lack of genuine scares.
However, if Children Of The Corn IV scores high at anything, it’s at nailing a blinder in the “Before They Were Famous” category as a shockingly young Naomi Watts appears the movie’s lead and gives it a solid, if unmemorable, shot – hey, considering she allegedly got $5000 for her troubles I guess you get what you pay for. Joining her is cult actress Karen Black who chews the scenery as she portrays her agoraphobia as one long, massive freak out with all the subtlety of an 80’s professional wrestler.
Adding to the mild interest of a Acadamy Award nominated actress turning up in a horror series that Stephen King had long since washed his hands of, is some slightly spritely gore which, I have to say, is usually the last bastille of hope in movies like this. While it can’t possibly hope to match up to Screaming Mad George’s work from the previous movie which took death by corn stalk to a ridiculously surreal degree, there’s still some decent offerings of bloodletting that helps to pass the time. One guy gets bisected by an illogically razor sharp hospital gurney while another poor wretch is pinned to the group by farming tools for the sin of awkwardly trying to recover his bottle of hooch – but the best of all is undoubtedly the character who is pinned to a door by numerous, flying syringes so a twirling scythe can whoosh down the corridor and bury itself in the back of her head as the blade erupts rudely from her face.
Still they’re minor “high” points in a movie that stubbonly proves to have incredibly little impact and the dingy climax (involving the adolescent villain of the piece vanquished by a demon-proofed sprinkler system) does nothing to send this pointless excursion out on a high.
However, even though a scythe waving devil-child may be the obvious antagonist here, the true bad guy of the piece proves to be Miramax’s head of Dimension who greenlit this and other hopeless attempts to scrape a buck from the bottom of a bone-dry barrel.
Sorry folks, these kids have resulted in yet another poor harvest.