As a horror franchise CHILDREN OF THE CORN hit the ground stumbling. Even though the first film was a financial success, and a frequently admitted traumitizer, it didn't exactly wow critics or fans of STEPHEN KING's short story. Its follow up took nearly a decade to reach the screen, an eternity in the world of sequels and was received with a similar level of initial excitement followed by apathetic shoulder shrugging. The mid-nineties found Dimension films steering the plow and a new straight-to-DVD installment was delivered to video shelves on a nearly yearly basis. Considering the series' humble origins, the fact that these films were even remotely watchable would be a badge of honor in my book. I have to admit to having a soft spot for some of these low budget cash-ins; case in point, CHILDREN OF THE CORN 4: THE GATHERING which can be viewed as a stand alone film or as an offshoot of the saga. Dropped is the big bad "He who walks behind the rows" (a scene that mentions the notorious "He" was apparently edited out) but c'mon, you still got killer kids, a creepy preacher tot and loads of corn, so I say close enough. This installment does a pretty good job of creating likable characters and workable scare scenarios, and I give it additional props for providing some old school gore to boot. As far as heroines go, you're not going to do much better then a pre-fame NAOMI WATTS as Grace Roads, a med student who returns home to look after her mother who is having a hard time in the not going crazy department. The fact that the agoraphobic, nightmare-haunted mother is played by the one and only KAREN BLACK doesn't hurt one bit either. Sure, you're sort of going through the motions with some of this but, hey, when those motions include flying scythes and hypodermic needles I don't complain. One scene that involves two elderly women explaining the origins of the evil preacher kid is genuinely unsettling. Filmed in near candle light, the crusty ladies' faces disappear into blackness as they regale their tale in witchy tones and I don't know what to tell ya, but it works for me. We may not be talking unheralded classic here, but I was surprised by how wrapped up I got in this simple but entertaining killer-kid flick. I say grab a couch and give it a whirl, like a good made-for-television flick or a campfire ghost story, it doesn't waste time babbling about non essentials or trying to reinvent the wheel. It might not be NAOMI WATTS' finest hour and twenty-three minutes, but I'll take it over THE RING 2 any day of the week.
- The murder of the drunk in the barn, an early sign that the film is willing to go further than you think
- I have to admit there are too many false nightmare scares in this movie, but the one that involves a flash of the killer kid walking in on some kind of crazy stilt legs is all sorts of startling
- The Doctor's demise by the demonic twins
- The bloody scythe coming out of the floor
- The two old broads and their old-timey photo that cried blood are creepy as hell…