Friday, October 10, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (1999)

"I don't have a soul."

Well, I guess I have to say that not all dread can be realized. Sometimes a really pretty decent horror movie can come along and impress me. This movie was the reason I did this stupid Children of the Corn review series. I've always heard about it, heard about one of the worst titles a sequel movie can have, and I wanted to review it. I thought it would be bad. I thought it would be a travesty of film, something so utterly abhorrent that it could be likened to the Necronomicon in what it can do to people who watch it. This was supposed to be that movie. I was looking for so bad that my head would explode from watching it. Instead-

Instead I watched a really decent horror film, on par with the third movie of the franchise, and certainly better than the four other movies by quite a stretch. I actually really enjoyed the movie. Its nuances mixed with its storytelling really worked for me. The horror elements along with the mindscrew moments and the dream-visions made me really get into the plot. Then again I have a thing for dream-visions and mindscrew plots.

I think the cinematography alone puts this above the other Children of the Corn movies. It is extremely stylized at times. And it works on almost every conceivable level. Kari Skogland did a really good job with this movie, having the focus on a young woman, like the fourth movie, but without that movie's meandering plot. While I barely recognize any of the actors of this film besides Nancy Allen, Stacy Keach, and, of course, John Franklin as the titular Isaac, everybody is putting on their game faces in terms of acting. I was actually brought into this movie. I kind of cared. I haven't given a damn for a single character in the course of these films. But I actually kind of found a modicum of actual concern in this film. Bravo, Isaac's Return. Bravo!

The horror here, the gore effects, and the atmosphere are all well done. While never really scary or terrifying, the movie does have its moments of being unsettling. It's also much creepier than the other five films, which in a horror franchise is actually phenomenal. I've never really found any fear in these movies, but this one at least tries really hard to be something more than the others.

One thing that does kind of bother me is that this movie is nearly devoid of children. In a franchise whose title has "Children" in it, there are remarkably few children in this movie. Throughout the last two movies, children had been focused on less and less as well, with much more focus on "teenagers" or adults in some fashion. This movie moves away from the pretense of the actual title of the movie series, and just becomes about "old people of the corn." I kind of wish I were jesting more than I actually am. The "child" possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows (or He Who Walks Behind the Rows himself, we never really get an answer on that) is basically a full grown man in his mid-twenties. And the main character of Hannah is also in her mid-twenties trying her damnedest to pass as a teenager. So, the premise of the "children of the corn" basically dies with this movie. And I don't mind that. The children of the first few movies are now adults. And it seems like there's a restructuring for the future happening. Not enough scary kids, it seems.

I really thought that whole thing of no children (or very, very few) was a good idea. I wasn't expecting "Mid-Twenties People of the Corn." I guess it doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Anyway, so, Hannah is looking for her mother. She meets some weird folks in town. Isaac, who I could have sworn died in the first film, is in a coma and has been for nineteen years. He awakens with Hannah's touch and really wants her to bone his kid. And that's the plot of this movie. Hannah has limited crippling psychic visions as well that give her some plot information. But mostly the plot is about the older people of the corn trying to get Hannah and Matt to bone. Some interesting things happen on that front, like Hannah being led away form the ceremony by Matt's girlfriend, and her getting away because these creepy leather wearing twenty-five year old named Gabriel has decided to save and then bone her. Matt's girlfriend (I think her name is Morgan, although I never really heard it mentioned in the movie) gets killed with an awesome line.

And then Randall Flagg happens.

Okay, if you're not a Stephen King fan, let me explain. It seems a theory on the internet, of all places, is that He Who Walks Behind the Rows and Randall Flagg are the same person. I guess there was a mention of them being POSSIBLY synonymous in The Stand, but it's this movie that cements that somebody certainly thought they were synonymous. Gabriel is Randall Flagg. The writing and character are dead on. There is nothing else even slightly like this in any of the other movies or in any of the other depictions of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Hell, in the third movie, the character was an eldritch corn abomination. This movie goes a very long way to showing the Randall Flagg i've always known and loved. Gabriel joking around, killing Isaac, planning meticulously for what he wants to come to pass, well, it all makes sense. Even impregnating Hannah. If you've ever read (or watched the miniseries of) The Stand, he was a bit obsessed with an offspring of his own.

So, I have no idea what the writing intention was here, but it seemed like a very clear cut Flagg reference from where I was watching. And I loved it. I think every movie should have a Randall Flagg in it.

Anyway, that's the movie for the most part. It's very short and goes pretty quickly. It was a good ride of a flick with some decent horror besides. The scenes felt very authentic and well put together. The sprinklers were a clever device to have the girls fleeing in the rain. I thought it rode up the tension more than a little bit. Mostly this felt like a film of a great deal of good decisions. I mean, the title was a very bad decision, but Nancy Allen and bringing John Franklin back were both good decision. Gabriel's character association with Flagg and the actor of Paul Popowich behind him was also incredibly well done.

This is another movie of this franchise that I recommend. And you really don't need any prerequisites to watch it besides the first film, which wasn't bad either. I actually find it quite interesting how very few of these films line up in continuity with each other. They all feel like completely separate entities with completely separate continuities from each other. I know they are supposed to line up, but the differences in quality and story are very apparent. And with very little bleeding between films, it feels less like a franchise and much more like a bunch of films that share elements and He Who Walks Behind the Rows. This is the only movie that really feels directly connected to any other movie in the franchise, and it works here really well.

I'm kind of heaping praise on this movie, and I wasn't expecting that. I thoroughly and completely enjoyed this film. While there are some boring and stupid moments in the film, specifically the wandering around bits in the beginning of the movie, I really found the pace well done when looking at the film as a whole. Check it out if you have any interest. It's a really decent movie that has a good deal to offer. And it reinvigorated me to get through the rest of these movies. Four and five almost broke me. If six had been badly mediocre, I might have stopped there. Instead I'm going to hope the quality will continue.

(I know it won't.)

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