Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)

Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)Starring Barbara Nedeljakova, Billy Drago, Kelen Coleman, Duane Whitaker

Directed by Joel Soisson

What do the fate of Atlantis, the Cambrian explosion, and the Children of the Corn franchise all have in common? No one knows how they happened.

I’ve studied horror for decades, attended conventions all over the world, and interacted with fans daily, and not once has anyone excitedly mentioned Children of the Corn. Search all you like; you won’t find a single fan brandishing a Malachai action figure or proudly displaying a t-shirt/poster/key-chain for Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror.

So why has a property with a non-existent fan base banged out more sequels than almost every horror series? I get that the original was a moderate success back in 1984 ,and the fact that it’s a Stephen King movie keeps it circulating in our collective unconscious, but it’s not exactly remembered fondly (King himself once compared it to seeing your daughter “raped at a frat party“). It’s more like one of those movies people jokingly recall by the title, not by any real memory – and that goes double for the sequels.

Children of the Corn: Genesis formerly (Children of the Corn: The Dweller) is the eighth or ninth movie to date (who’s counting?). I’m still not sure exactly where in the vast mythology this takes place, and I don’t think it really matters. The only major connection it has with the series is a 1970’s-set opening sequence, which sees a Vietnam vet returning to his hometown outside of Gatlin to find it overrun by those creepy homicidal kiddies.

The story then jumps forward to modern day, where we find pregnant couple Allie and Tim lost on a deserted California road after their car breaks down. Since this is a horror film, the only thing around is a dilapidated farm shack owned by a super-creepy preacher (Drago) and his Russian mail order bride (Nedeljakova). They decorate the inside of their home with crucifixes and have no modern conveniences, save for a giant flat screen TV and digital camera that’s ominously set up in front of the couch. If that wasn’t weird enough, there are strange noises coming from a small compound by the outhouse and the housewife immediately starts making sexual advances. Against their better judgment, Tim and Allie shack up for the night and waste no time in disobeying the preacher’s orders not to go snooping around. A few morbid discoveries later and the couple find themselves stuck in the house, trying to survive the night, when they’re assaulted by vague psychic forces.

The film is written and directed by low-budget sequel king Joel Soisson, whose previous films include Pulse 2 and 3 and some Prophecy entries (he also produced Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which grants him life-long immunity from criticism). And while his script relies on the oldest of horror formulas, the biggest surprise is how this installment actually held my attention from beginning to end.

It’s fairly unambitious story-wise, and the script flirts with several ideas that are barely explored in the end, but Soisson gets credit for going for the minimalist approach and moving things along at a pretty decent clip. The performances are all solid across the board, and better-than-average production values keep this from sinking into the pit with most cheap DTV sequels. There are even some genuinely tense moments where Genesis turns into a tight, confined little thriller. Only during a few action moments, where the editing and geography get wildly confusing, does the shoestring budget really show. For example, there’s a sequence towards the end involving vehicular mayhem that makes obvious use of stock footage. I’m not sure exactly where the editors got it, but it looks like they lifted the shots straight out of Bad Boys II.

Other than the opening and a brief dream sequence, the film is largely absent of children or corn and actually comes off more like an old “Twilight Zone” episode. Its biggest handicap is that it’s saddled with the name of such a piss-poor franchise. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an original script that they simply slapped with the brand name when the Dimension brass ordered another sequel (something that has become pretty common with their DTV sequel line).

While it isn’t anything spectacular, Genesis is one of those low-budget movies you could come across on late night television and easily kill a guiltless 80 minutes with. Aside from catching the occasional snippet on cable, I haven’t sat through any of the sequels, but I imagine this is the best Children of the Corn film to date. At the very least, it runs circles around the god-awful Syfy channel remake that hit last summer. That may be faint praise – almost like a two-legged man winning a one-legged man ass-kicking contest – but it’s praise nonetheless.

One last side note: This is the only film I’ve ever seen that was dedicated to the memory of a chicken. I’m not sure if it died naturally or if the crew just ate him for lunch, but the Oscar memoriam-level send-off to the little guy earns this movie an extra half-knife.

3 out of 5

Discuss Children of the Corn: Genesis in our comments section below!

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Steve Barton

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  • DaWickerMan

    Very good review but I do want to point out some things. I don’t work in the film industry currently but in my teenage years I worked in a small-town store (even managed right before I went off to college), and the Children of the Corn sequels (2-4 which were available when I worked) were always top rentals. Kids knew of the brand name which I think contributes to the fact that sequels keep getting made and on video these things seem to make money. Maybe in the grand scheme of things I could be way off but this is just an observation I wanted to make.

    Now also, as a huge horror buff I’ll go on record and say some of the sequels are very good. Part II has some wonderful effects for its time and Part 3 (‘Urban Harvest’), despite a shitty ending with a doll (anyone who’s seen it knows what I’m talking about), has so many wicked gross out makeup effects and an awesome creepy atmosphere that it easily ranks as one of the best DTV sequels I have ever seen. Plus, 4 had Naomi Watts, and 5 had Kane Hodder AND Eva Mendes in the same movie.

    Anyways, all I’m saying is that the franchise has its’ crappy moments but there are also some overlooked things that most horror fans wouldn’t give a chance, which is a shame because there are some decent films in there.

    Also, great review, I’m looking forward to this film and it was really cool for the director to comment on the film on this site (now that’s what I call integrity).

  • Katsumi

    I enjoyed the first Children of The Corn movie cant say I liked the sequels but I actually really liked the first one and would prolly have an action figure just for shits and giggles if they made them….

    I think Demension might be a little weird though for calling a film that doesnt involve Children or corn, a children of the movie but what ever floats their boat I guess…

    I’d really like to see some new horror movies though something original would be nice, I wonder why film companies think we want to keep seeing the same stuff over and over again, I mean I get that this is a whole new genarartion but come one give us something new instead of all this freaking re-hashing and DTV shit

  • Joel Soisson

    While not exactly a rave review, I have to say that Andrew was pretty spot on in his analysis. I usually don’t respond to reviews good or bad (this is actually my first time doing so) but this one deserves a nod.

    First off, the film was in fact inspired by a Twilight Zone episode called The Howling Man. And though I wrote it as a COTC sequel, I am like Andrew no big fan of the franchise so I did not sweat the backstory. This film was made for a quarter of what was formerly my lowest budgeted sequel. So I basically grabbed a bunch of really talented actors and made a movie that I would enjoy watching. Which is an opportunity I rarely get. And yes, the seams show a bit. Guilty as charged. But one thing I am not guilty of. The chicken died several weeks after we wrapped. There is no credible evidence linking me to the death.

    • Vanvance1

      As a DC reader and avid horror fan it’s always fascinating to hear the back stories and motivations of the people making the films I watch.

      Here’s hoping your next budget is bigger.

    • Sirand

      Good to hear from you, Joel.

      I knew the film was low-budget, but I didn’t know it was THAT low. Kudos for making something that looks as polished as it is given the limited resources.

      I also feel I owe the cinematographer a shout-out. He did some damn fine work.

  • Vanvance1

    I think I’ve seen 2, maybe 2 and a half COTC movies and they were all outright abysmal. Based on the review this film could be the best of the series.

  • shaneg

    I, and my circle of horror loving friends, have always liked the original Children of the Corn. I even have a T-Shirt with the original poster art. It’s one of those movies I saw as a kid and has stayed with me for almost 30 years. Maybe it is just nostalgia, but I still watch it at least once a year. So, there is at least one person out there that finds some enjoyment out a Children of the Corn movie. That said, any of the sequels I have viewed are awful in my opinion. I gave up after the third one, and thought the SyFy remake was also awful. I’ll likely be skipping this one.

    • Cinemascribe

      You’re not alone on that Shaneg (Props on your profile picture, by the way. Creature from the Black Lagoon is hands down my favorite of the Universal monster flicks and I own a full sized replica of that poster). I enjoy the original CotC as a fun,creepy B-movie. I was thirteen when it bowed and it was one of those movies that all of the kids in my neighborhood/at school HAD to see. It just sort of stayed with me over the years and I still watch it from time to time.
      I also have a soft spot for the second film, which I have fond memories of watching at the local drive in (which is still in operation to this day, thank God) as the second half of a horror double feature, having been paired with Hellraiser III:Hell on Earth. Good times.

      That’s where it screeches to halt for me though. The first two are fun in their unique, cheesy, the-kids-are-NOT-all-right kind of way. The rest? No thanks.

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