Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chapter 5: "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest"

In Gatlin, a geneticist named Earl has been working on a new genetic strain to help corn grow more efficiently. One night, when the suitcase holding the corn cobs containing the seeds of this genetic strain goes missing, Earl under the influence of alcohol blames his biological son, Joshua, of stealing the suitcase and ventures into the corn at night with a scythe. In the corn, Joseph is running around looking for his younger - adopted - brother, Eli. Eli gets Joseph to run away while their father comes. Turns out that Eli had the suitcase all along and along with hiding Eli’s copy of the Corn Bible, lets the corn crucify his father.

Soon afterwards, a social worker gets a Chicago stock broker who sells perishables (specifically corn) and his wife to take in Joshua and Eli. While getting accustomed to the new urban lifestyle, Joshua tries to fit in while Eli holds on to the ways of the corn and discourages most of the new customs. One of the more outrageous happenings on the first day is Eli saying grace. After having to remind his new parents to say grace before supper, he prays a rather disturbing prayer - one that involves He Who Walks Behind The Rows. The new adoptive parents do not think anything of it.

At school, Eli is still causing ripples. He quickly makes enemies with the African American population of the school and makes mortal enemies with the school’s head priest and principal - Father Nolan. While processing the school’s population to fallow He Who Walks Behind The Rows, Eli gives the good Father nightmares of the 1984 and 1992 massacres along with Eli killing his own parents durring a Harvest Moon. Joshua - along with his friend Malcolm - find out about Eli. Eli is much more than just another boy preacher here to spread the word of He Who Walks Behind The Rows - Eli is an immortal being. He has been around since the early 1960’s, being behind the scenes of all of Gatlin’s massacres. So while Eli and his followers start killing people - including a priest and a social worker - Malcolm and Joshua drive to Gatlin, Nebraska to find Eli’s Corn Bible.

In the pursuit of the searching of Eli’s Corn Bible, the crucified corpse of Earl turns into a demonic scarecrow. Eli defeats the humanoid monster with ease, but Malcolm - while getting the Corn Bible, is subject for the corn itself attaches itself to Malcolm’s body and kills him by ripping out his spine. Eli gets the Corn Bible and heads back to Chicago, where he achieves in stabbing with a sickle both the Corn Bible and Eli. Though little do our protagonists know that Eli is in fact a giant monster, who is ultimately defeated when Joshua has to cut Malcolm’s sister Maria out of the beast, basically cutting all the way through the part of "Kaiju Eli’s" body which connects him to the corn. The body of the massive beast liquidates and then turns into a gas while all of the people hurt in the killing of Eli come back to life.

Little do they know however, Eli’s adoptive father from Chicago found out about the corn and had already sold it for international profit (though he gets killed before the climax). But with the spreading of the new batch of corn, the terror can and will at any time lash out with it’s terrible reign of terror anywhere else in the world for the greater glory of He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

The last of the "trilogy" section of the films (I say this since in some European countries - including Brittan and Germany - the companies that buy the home vide rights to the original "Children of the Corn" also bought the rights to "The Final Sacrifice" and "Urban Harvest") is a quagmire and really is a mix of good and bad - though the bad may for the general movie going audience out weigh the good. So, what is up with this film?

The good needs to be stated. First, the stereotypical use of stock footage. Except that unlike "The Final Sacrifice", "Urban Harvest" actually used the footage for more than just footage of He Who Walks Behind the Rows as a mole him and a replay of the explosion from the original to be cooped with the explosion from the second. No, with "Urban Harvest", stock footage from the previous two films are put into here - altered a little bit to help the plot device that behind Isaac and Micha, Eli was always there.

Second, the corn and the religious habits of the corn cult itself are more defined with this film. Unlike the second film, the corn is shown to be alive in this film. The corn itself kills Earl, Eli’s adoptive father, a homeless person, and last but not least attempted to kill Mrs. Porter. And then we see the corn cult get into more ritualistic happenings - such as how Eli kills the social worker. We see a black candle being used in a black steel holder. Very nice.

Now we come to the mediocre. Coming back as the first person to work on two "Children of the Corn" films, Daniel Litch comes back as composer. Some of the new material he writes for the film is pretty good. For example, the beginning theme song is pretty eerie. And a lot of music from the second film is brought back. Though then some of the more original material ruins it all. Mostly because it just sounds weird and some pieces sound like as if they were done with an church organ. It brings up images of cheesiness.

One more subject of mediocre origin is the acting. Eli gives a good performance when he is not talking in unison with a bad demonic force and his voice gets too high. Also we a good performance get Oscar-nominated Jim Metzler who plays the second adoptive father of Eli. Obviously he does give off a good impression of a father figure and a hungry stock broker. The last performance that must be hailed is the Award Winning Michael Ensign doing the part of Father Nolan. Certainly one of the best supporting roles we are going to get till Stacy Keach stared in "Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return". It should also be mentioned that this film marked the first film Carmen Diaz played in - though only as an extra who is playing one of the children of the corn. Also as an extra is Nicholas Brendon, the Saturn Award Nominee.

Now, onto the bad. The biggest problem with this film is the ever-so noticeable racist overtones - especially the portrayal of African Americans. All we got are people who cuss continuously and insult one another. This is the biggest issue of the film and leaves a rather gargantuan but bad blemish on the film series.

Something else that should be crucified is the special effects by "Screaming Mad George". Most of it is pretty cheesy stuff - especially the ending. The giant monster is executed poorly (special effects via miniatures should be kept to the Japanese - they are the only ones who can truly pull it off and make the advent of CGI look like crap). Plus it actually pretty confusing, since is Eli "He Who Walks Behind The Rows", since that is how we see the stock footage of the moving mole film from the original being used as. It is just dreadful. Certainly one of the worse endings.

Though "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest" marks a milestone with the rights switch for the Children of the Corn film series and Dimension‘s work with the horror genre of films in the 1990‘s. Obviously, unlike "The Final Sacrifice", this film was the first film to be totally made by Miramax/Dimension. And it is obvious that this is a Dimension horror film, especially considering the re-use of stock special effects sounds which would carry onto "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers".

On a side note, Stephen King did let out his opinion on this film - saying, ""Mitch [Garris] and I were talking about this the other night. He asked if I've ever seen Larry Cohen's Return to Salem's Lot, and I told him that I've missed two of the Children of the Corn movies - and I like the genre, you know. There was one of those Children of the Corn movies, Urban Harvest, that I actually liked."

Production Notes
Production on "Urban Harvest" is not really known, though the first draft of the screenplay - turned in to Miramax and Dimension on September 27, 1993 (about eight months after the second film was released into theatres) was written by Matt Greenburg (who would actually become Horror film genre royalty after also working on "The Crow: Salvation", "Halloween: H20", "The Prophecy 2", and another Stephen King related property - "1408"). Though for reasons unknown, he was not given credit for his work on this film’s screenplay. Another screenplay was turned in by Dobe B. Levenson, which was re-written by James Hickox. It is interesting to point out that co-producer for this film Gary DePew actually turned down a change the production assistant job on the original, "Children of the Corn".

Four months later, the film would begin principle photography in December, 1994 in Los Angeles, California (though isn‘t the film supposed to take place in Chicago?). Two weeks prior to shooting however, James Hickox was hit by a car. Because of this, he was on crutches for most of principle photography. But according to the excellent book, "Creepshow: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide", this did not stop James’ excitement for this film. "It’s a movie that stands completely on it’s own, though it is a continuation of a previous story, only now set in the big city." Helping James Hickox was brother Anthony Hickox, who worked as executive producer and unaccredited second unit director. When commenting on the fact that him and his brother worked together on this film, "I thought our styles would be more similar, but we’re pretty much different." Filming ended the fallowing month.

Against regular speculation, this film did indeed get a theatrical release in North America - if only in the United States. The film got minimal promotion - just posters and a giant inflatable ear of corn that claimed that this film was going to be "coming soon". The film would open up in theatres in September 12, 1995. The exact box office draw is not known at this time, but it was so low that the film series would for ever be strait to video.

On the matter of the film’s SFX, James Hickox said, "There’s some blood in the film, but the effects are more part of the plot." But Eli’s kaiju form was completely something from the mind of SFX director, "Screaming Mad George". "I wanted to put every disgusting element into the monster that I could." Though the beast was not that scary. It’s resemblance to a peanut garnered the monster to be named "Jiffy the Corn Beast". Additional makeup effects were created and designed by Kevin Yagher.

Against what is normally told to the fans, film actually did garner a limited theatrical release after being shown at the American Film Market. A poster and a cheap but large inflatable corn cob claiming that this film was "coming soon" was produced. A wide spread theatrical release was thought to be possible durring September 1994. But the film was instead released straight to video on Sep. 12, 1995 with a second printing of the VHS coming out July 2, 1996. Something interesting about the home video release is that with the critical acclaim points on the back of the VHS tape, Freddy Krueger’s name is spelt "Freddie" on the back of the VHS box while "Freddy" is spelt correctly on the DVD.

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