Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chapter 4: "Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice"

Taking place shortly after the original film, the law enforcement in the neighboring town to Gatlin - Hemingford - try to figure out what exactly has happened other than the advice that Burt and Vicky (mentioned incorrectly as a couple passing by for vacation) gave them. To get a scoop on the matter is struggling journalist John Garrett with his argumentative son, Danny. However, all seems to go crazy again when John’s rivals at journalism get killed by the corn itself - He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

The townsfolk of Hemingford decide to take in and adopt the children from Gatlin, even though they have been warned by ex-Gatlin elementary teacher Mrs. Burke about the events that happened in Gatlin back in 1981. John Garret finds a woman who rents out her house to travelers. The woman adopts one of the children - Micha. His reason for what happened? "I saw the corn."

Later that night, all of the children meet in a clearing in the nearest cornfield to decide what are they to do with what has happened to them for the past three years, keep their corn religion or start life anew in forever want for redemption? Little do they know that while walking into the corn, Micha has become possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Under Micha’s banner, the children are persuaded to fallow their ways of old and start up again their murderous antics.

Nothing seems to stop these children. In one twenty four hour period, they kill Mrs. Burke, a church going man, and the town doctor. John decides to go out and look at what Gatlin has to offer. He stops by a deserted elementary school. He finds the place littered with corn stalks, spray painted works calling adults defilers of the corn, and drawing of the killings. It is here that John - through a scare - meets Anthropologist Dr. Frank Read Bear. Read Bear, when asked about it, he said that what happened was "Koyaanisqatsi", an ancient Native American belief that we need to be one with the Earth, but that modern civilization does not fallow this and does not treat the Earth properly - leading to the end of the world. When asked why the children, Red Bear goes to say an Amish saying, "We do not inherit the land from our parents, we only borrow it from our children."

Meanwhile, Danny is taking up a love interest in one of the orphaned late teenage girls - Lacy Hellerstat. She takes Danny through a tour of Hemingford. A corn field and a waterfall is all included. But interesting enough, then they are about to have intercourse in a cornfield, they find where most of the bodies of the adults were placed in Gatlin - in the corn. Meanwhile, Danny is also attracted to the evil in the town. Durring a night which the children of the corn are inducting a new member into the cult, they also induct Danny into the cult, using his disdain with his father as leverage.

Upon call, John meets back up with Red Bear. Turns out that my a creek, there is a spiritual boulder with Native American paintings on it. The paintings symbolize that the children killed all the adults because they became lazy and abused the land. There is at the top of the rock a painting of a cornfield in front of the sun. The cornfield has no pathway in it, meaning that man has not found a way to be one with the Earth. Later on, they go by a corn silo and they find molding corn where the new harvested corn should be. The duo conclude that the harvest from last year is being brought in along with this year’s harvest as to bring in more profit. The sheriff drives up and cocks his gun. Red Bear claims that there is something wrong, and the Sherriff says there is. The sheriff ties up John and Frank up and starts up an automated corn harvesting machine, "it will be part of the folklore of the valley".

That night, the rest of the town has a meeting. The subject is about the adoption of the children of Gatlin. One woman mentions that half of the town is actually missing. Soon afterwards, the children come and chain the doors to the building. Afterwards, the burn down the building, killing the rest of the adults in Hemingford.

Later that night, Micha gives Danny his first task: the first two new sacrifices of the union between Hemingford and Gatlin. The people being sacrificed: love interest Lacey and the woman who was adopting Micha. While chanting "We Are One" and Danny having to make an impossible decision - fallow God or save Lacey - a light comes from the corn. Turns out that it is the corn silo machine. Red Bear and John survived. After some killing and chasing, a dieing Red Bear (I am not going to say how he dies) starts the corn silo and kills Micha - with He Who Walks Behind the Rows escaping his body just in the nick of time.

The fallowing morning, John, Danny, Lacy, and the woman drive off in the sunset after giving Red Bear a true Native American cremation. In spirit form, Red Bear goes on and paints an opening in the corn on the giant boulder, with the defeat of the children somehow constituting that man has made peace with the Earth.

"I think we have a much tighter story this time. I think there is a lot more explanation to it. I think there’s a lot more suspense to it." - David Price

"Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice" is the second film in the series. That automatically calls that this film is going to be better than the ones after this since the material is still fresh. And the film has become my second favorite in the franchise.

First, the continuity factors with this film and the original are good enough. There are mentions with Isaac and tons of mentioning’s of the Gatlin massacre. Though this can also be a negative, since all stock footage taken from the first film are used out of context, meaning that they are used just because they were too lazy to make their owns scenes with He Who Walks Behind the Rows and just because they do not want to replay their own explosion scene, play the one from the last film. Honestly effortless.

The acting for the film is pretty good. We got award winner and actor who does his own stunts Terence Knox (who was hired on by producer Scott Stone) playing John Garret and character actor Ned Romero playing Red Bear. May it be noted that one of Ned Romero’s bit parts was as in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. We even have Christie Clark playing Lacey Hellerstat. Miss Clark is best known for her 53 episode appearance in the well known soap opera "Days of Our Lives". We got a nice cast and it helps move the film along. Though no one can be given more credit than Ryan Bollman, who plays Micha. He is without a doubt the best actors to portray one of the boy preachers in the series. Maybe it is because he is in his early teens. He is not too old (16-19) but yet not too young (9-11), so he knows how to act the part. This is defiantly a plus and it is sad that his career has not blossomed as much as one would hope for.

The script was written by A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler, and the unaccredited Bill Froehlich. The script for the film is good, but faulty. We get Isaac’s last name (Chroner), though if they wanted to stay true to the Stephen King material, wouldn’t it be "Renfrew"? Another offence would be calling Burt and Vicky a couple passing by for vacation. There’s another sin. But one of the biggest sins would be the use of the word, "Koyaanisqatsi". That isn’t even a real word. It is the name of an art film! And the meaning of the word, given by Frank Red Bear, is the tagline from the poster for the film. This is lazy. And the ending doesn’t make much sense either. Apparently, just the defeat of the Children of the Corn is justifiable enough to show that John Garret and company have learned to not to abuse the Earth. John and company learning that value is not acknowledged in the film at all, so this doesn’t make sense.

Though there is some credit which this screenplay should be awarded with. Apparently, I like the way which they approached the boy preacher character (in this case, Micha) in this film. He Who Walks Behind The Rows has to possess him. Looks like as if He Who Walks Behind The Rows believes in the old saying, "if you want something done right, do it yourself" (Except that in this film, it doesn’t go that way - or at least not in the original screenplay). Another thing to credit the screenplay with is the thickening of the Children of the Corn’s rituals. We now see how you become a member of the corn. Your palm is cut with a current member’s and put the injured palms together and let the blood fall into the Earth where corn is present. Pretty good. Plus we got some creative killings with this film. Much is good when it comes to seeing a lady in a wheel chair getting hit with a semi and crashing through a window when some poor dude is about to yell "bingo".

When it comes to any underlying theme with the film, it is somewhat like finding a needle in a haystack. The "abuse of faith" theme which the original had was forsaken in this film. Producer Scott Stone told a news station one time though that the film does have a message. "It is a very almost metaphysical story about how we have to take care of ourselves and take care of our land and take care of our families in order to survive the things that are happening in the world today."

The special effects with the film are pretty good, especially compared to the original film’s special effects. We see the face of He Who Walks Behind The Rows, though it is not exactly the green, bulking mass with red eyes the size of footballs but rather a regular demon face. The possession scene is also pretty good with the computer graphics. And the more practical effects are also good, especial the burning down of the Hemingford Town Hall. There are accouple of more scenes needing praise, but I am not going to ruin them all right here. But I will say that while the special effects are well done, they are not worthy of the praise which Bob Healy of "Satellite News Network" said, "Terrifying! Filled with mind-bending special effects not seen since Terminator 2!"

The last thing to comment on is the score by David Litch. Though it is sad that Jonathan Elias’s score for the original film is not used again for this installment, David Litch does bring back memories through his work copying the Latin or Latin-esque chanting that was prominent in Elias’s original composition. In most ways, it works. And the composition at the beginning of the film, a song set to the tune of "London Bridge Is Falling Down" is especially creepy and effective. And it is nice that there is more variation in Litch’s score than Elias’s, since we finally get a light hearted piece for some of the scenes which Danny and Lacey are together, and even some moody tunes for when Angela and John get busy.

"Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice" is a film dangerously close, in my opinion, of breaking the old saying that the original film in a franchise is always the best. The only thing missing is a more built up ending. I mean, one sacrifice on a corn bed is good, but the other needed to be on a corn cross. All in all, I recommend this film to COTC fans.

Production Notes:
It took a full nine years just to make a sequel to the original "Children of the Corn". It is known that New World Pictures was finally put into bankruptcy not until 1997, so it is safe to assume that Stephen King had the rights to film adaptations and sequels, sold them to New World, who after the original film sold the rights to Trans Atlantic Entertainment. Their plan for 1993 was to make sequels with the two main horror franchises which they owned at the time: "Children of the Corn" and "Hellraiser". And at the end of spring 1992, Paramount and the Weinstein Company were brought on board to make "Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice", or as it was known in the beginning stages and on early drafts of the screenplay and even principle photography as , "Children of the Corn II: Deadly Harvest". It should be known that the "Deadly Harvest" subtitle for the film was not used for the final product, was used in the international trailer for the film and was even used for the German title for the film, "Tödliche Ernte - Kinder Des Zorns II" ("Deadly Harvest: Children of the Corn II").

Shooting for the film would begin in the summer of the same year - August - 1992, in Liberty, North Carolina. Shooting lasted for four weeks. This includes the burning of Hemingford’s town hall, which was filmed in a home at the corner of Asheboro St. and Luther Ave. to be more specific. Currently, an empty lot is all to be found at the site. However, the scene depicting Ms. Burke’s sister being killed was instead filmed in Ramseur, North Carolina. To save cash, most of the children were locals with the exception of Ryan Bollman and Xeno Yuzna, who is the son of Brian Yuzna, who had a background directing horror films. The headquarters for filming was set up in a local parsonage at the corner of Fayetteville and Raleigh Sts. in Liberty. This location was chosen by executive producer Lawrence Mortoff, who was also chosen to make this film at the lowest cost he can. The reason why North Carolina was chosen was because it was a "right to work" state. "It’s a gorgeous setting… we got gorgeous sets, we got a gorgeous backdrop North Carolina - specifically Liberty, Ramseur - and the surrounding area" says director David Price. He would go on to say that the film crew was, "very close to gypsies."

However, not everything was smooth sailing with production. The Christian community of Liberty had accouple of low-key protest rallies at their local church. It even went so far as someone putting a dead rodent on the door step of director David Price’s doorstep. So, even though it would have eaten up the film’s $900,000, the production crew built it’s own church for the scene in which Micha, through a little voodoo, gives someone a massive hemorrhage bleeding through all the openings in his head - something which British SFX make-up coordinator Bob Keen and his team at Image Animation though was one of the first times that a death that gruesome has been on the screen. "They got cornstalks all across the street." Complained one of the locals. "I think the townspeople are getting tired of it. They can't drive where they want. Merchants say they're loosing business."

However, there was one deleted scene which was not filmed due to budgetary restraints. Originally, after all that has happened to John, he goes up to a phone booth to call his editor-in-chief about the amazing feats he has been put through. However, while the phone would be ringing, He Who Walks Behind The Rows (in moving mound form) would pull the phone booth under ground, killing John. To replace it was the tacked on ending of Frank Red Bear - in spirit form - painting an opening in the corn on the boulder by the creek. It really does clear up a lot of the confusion which the final film leaves.

The score for the film was developed by blossoming composer Daniel Litch. Litch, who would go on to also score "Children of the Corn 3: Urban Harvest", differentiated from Johnathan Elias’ score for the first film substantialy. While there is no difference to the beginner’s ear, the score for "Children of the Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice" is inspired heavily by Indonesian music. Litch, in an interview promoting his rise to score the popular Shotime television series "Dexter" said, "I actually studied gamelan music for years. My parents had actually moved to Jakarta when I was already in my 20s. My stepfather was an aid to the Minister of Technology who ended up becoming the President of Indonesia. So they spent seven years in Jakarta and I would visit them where I could study in Bali, because I became really fascinated with the music. It is so rich texturally, very complex classical music. It had improvisational elements as well, just like jazz. It had a kind of metered ostinato, its forms worked actually quite well in the films. Some of the chanting in "Children of Corn II: The Final Sacrifice" were actually in Indonesian. I wanted to use a choir, but I felt the whole Latin chanting has been overused. Once you have chanting in Latin, everybody immediately thinks of "The Omen". I wanted to create a different feel by these Indonesian vocals, than I ended up singing part of it, because studio singers didn't really know how to produce these sounds." Not everything was good for Litch though. Originally, the theme used for the beginning credits was an elongated version of the romance theme of the film - which would also play over the end credits. However, it was replaced with what Daniel called, "typical slasher sounding music". Licht would go on to claim, " I thought it was a bit of a tragedy. Than years later I head Bob Weinstein who said "You know, that was kind of a waste." The theme wasn’t exchanged in the European cut though.

Originally supposed to be out Halloween 1992, the film would be released theatrically in America January 29, 1993 with a total box office turnout of $7,000,000 (though IMDB claims that it was over $10,000,000). Like I have said, this was a joint production between Paramount and Dimension. So Dimension handled the theatrical distribution while Paramount got the domestic home video rights. In October 1993, the VHS released shipped over 80,000 units with most of it being sold - adding $4,000,000 to the overall profit of the film (this information is originating from IMDB, so make of it as you will). The VHS’s second pressing would come out in 1995. As of date, due to copyright confusion since the Weinstein Company broke up with Disney, no official DVD release of "Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice" has been released. Two waves of bootlegs have been released though.

When it came to overseas distribution, future "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest" company participant Trans Atlantic Entertainment got to handle home video rights. Unfortunately, just like the original film, "Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice" was not lucky enough to be released in it’s original uncut 92 variation of the film. According to IMDB, "The American version has additional effects and different music than the European and Canadian releases." Most variations of "Children of the Corn II" in European countries have a running time ranging from 83-89 minutes. The scenes usually cut from these European prints of the film are:

15 seconds are cut from the finding of the bodies in the basement scene
12 Seconds cut for the bloody parts of Bobby and Wayde’s death caused by He Who Walks Behind The Rows
3 seconds cut out of Danny and John’s argument after supper
30 seconds cut from the initial meet in the cornfield - from "What was that Mordechi" to "Isaac’s dead."
20 seconds are cut from Mrs. Burke’s death scene (mostly the impact)
56 seconds taken out of the gory parts of David Simpson’s church death
16 seconds cut when Ms. Burke’s sister says, "It’s Ruby" and also cut was a shot of the two men digging out Mrs. Burke’s corpse
46 seconds taken out of the end of Dr. Appleby’s death
8 seconds taken out of the palm cutting scene
11 seconds worth of "We are One" chanting taken out
24 seconds taken out of Lacey freaking out due to the dead bodies in the cornfield
45 seconds are taken out of Mrs. Burke’s sister’s death
52 seconds are taken out durring the burning down of town hall
3 seconds taken out on the close up of where Red Bear gets injured (I am still not saying too much)
11 seconds cut when Mordechi has a spear thrown through him
6 seconds cut when Micha is going all out and discharging electricity from his body
31 seconds deleted from Micha’s death scene

The film, at least in the UK, would get a decent release when Anchor Bay’s UK division would end up buying the rights to the first three films from Cinema Club and release all 3 films separately and in a box set. All of them in their US theatrical cuts and special features produced for the first two films, including an audio commentary for this film.

In the critical league, "Children of the Corn II" had modest success. The film got such raving as "…better acted and directed than the original" by Variety. LA Times said "Director Price doesn’t flinch." "Price has the right stuff" claims Playboy. At the Portugal SciFi Film Festival, "Children of the Corn II" was nominated for best Horror film and Best Director. The film was nominated again for Best Film at the Fantasporto Film Awards in 1993. Sadly, to my knowledge, no wins.

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