Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chapter 8: "Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return"

Hannah Martin is a girl with a troubled past. She has never known her mother, but she plans to find out. That is why she is driving to a place which many people don’t like to even drive through: Gatlin, Nebraska. When driving, she sees a man asking for her help. His name is Zachariah Johnson. While driving, Zachariah tells Hannah about her name’s Biblical meaning and history, how that the Hannah, in the Bible, asked God for a son and that once she had one, she gave him to the Lord for all the days of his life. Hannah claims that she doesn’t see any children in her future, but Zachariah protests, saying that it isn’t her choice. But before she can argue back, Zachariah disappears. All of a sudden, Hannah has a vision of a preacher’s silhouette in the corn and slammed on the breaks, driving over some corn.

Checking out what was happening was Officer Cora. Hannah blamed the incident on a Cheshire cat. When Cora takes her license to check, she notices something about her. Turns out that there is a prophecy of the first born male and female children of the corn would conceive a son in which would become the new prophet of the corn. Cora decides to take her to Gatlin County Hospital - who has another patient - Isaac, who was actually put into a coma after He Who Walks Behind The Rows let him have enough life to kill Malachai in the original film.

Once at the hospital, Hannah meets all of the people who have been basically running Gatlin since the first film. Cora, her mentally handicapped brother Jake, Dr. Michaels, and the young Gabriel. While visiting Dr. Michaels, she finds out that the accident just left a bump on her head and she was not charged of anything. However, when looking around the hospital, she is chased down by Jake. He warns her that, "Only you can stop Isaac." Hannah touches Isaac’s hand and he becomes conscious for a second. That is when she meets Gabriel. But they let Hannah go to the local hotel, with this happening because she has to find out about the prophecy herself. At the hotel she meets Matt and Morgan, both who hate living in Gatlin.

The next day, Isaac has re-awakened fully. It turns out to be a full 19 years since the original film, and Isaac has a son - Matt. Matt is thought to be "the born child". Also that day - with Gabriel’s help, Hannah tries to find her birth certificate to help her kind her mother. Almost being killed by Jake, Hannah finds that someone took her birth certificate and paperwork and stuck it against a filing cabinet with a sickle. Later that night, about to take a shower, Hannah find in the shower a message drawn in blood: "GET OUT OR DIE!" She sees the perpetrator get into a truck and tries to follower her with no prevail.

The next day, we find out that Isaac has taken residence in the local church. Here, we find out about the prophecy and we also see that Hannah is actually the daughter of Rachel (the girl who stabs Burt and gets knocked out at the end of the first film and wife of Amos). Rachel is keeping a cover though that her baby is dead. But people question it since if that were true, then why are events in the prophecy coming true? Once everyone is gone, Isaac puts out a candle. But accouple of seconds later, it has mysteriously relit itself…

Hannah decides to look for the grave site where she is supposedly buried under the pseudonym "Baby Colby". After having another vision of Zachariah’s blood dripping her all over her. After the vision, Hannah and Rachel meet. Hannah asks why she, Rachel, forsaken her. Rachel did not want her to have anything to do with this and wanted to spare her from a life with Isaac - who Rachel now admits ruined everyone’s who related to the cult’s lives. But this is not stopping Isaac from doing much, including killing Dr. Michael by electrocution…

In the cornfield, Isaac and Gabriel meet and have a brief quarrel. Evidently Gabriel has his own set of values and starts toying with Isaac. Later that night, the ceremony begins with Matt being marked as being the first of the born. But this means that while Rachel had a son, it was not Amos’ son but rather Isaac’s! Plus, if he is to be with Hannah, the first born daughter, then Morgan is going to be jealous. So later that night, when the children try to get Hannah, Morgan helps Hannah get away (and Gabriel helps too later on the line). For her arrogance, Isaac executes Morgan, saying "In the name of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, I will execute judgment upon her."

Gabriel takes Hannah to a barn in which he has a collection of something: all the weapons that helped kill the adults in the original film. But not soon enough does a drunk Matt scare the hell out of Hannah. He is drunk because his girlfriend is killed, who he is to have a child with is predetermined by destiny, and since it is his 19th birthday, he will have to go into the corn and walk with He Who Walks Behind The Rows. Gabriel makes Matt go away (later kills him) and gives Hanna something she has been wanting: a shower. This would lead to Gabriel also being sprayed down with a hose and both of them submitting themselves to intercourse.

It is now midnight and Isaac’s prophecy from 19 years ago has not come to pass. This is pointed out by Rachel. For her insolence, Isaac and Cora take Rachel to the boiler room at Gatlin County Hospital for punishment - and to make Hannah have visions (since it is concluded that Hannah’s vision is born of pain). So Cora breaks a chair and with one of the legs beats Rachel - each one giving Hannah a vision of what is happening. So she goes to Gatlin County Hospital and sees what is happening. Gabriel comes also. Though the closer he gets, the more people he encounters that want to kill him, "for Isaac".

Just as soon Hannah comes into the boiler room, Gabriel also. Gabriel that Isaac stole his birthright from him. Gabriel is claiming that he was the first born male child of the children and that Isaac wanted it for his own son only. But through the earlier intercourse scene, the prophecy was fulfilled with Gabriel doing all of the work. But who else would know this except that Gabriel IS HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS! Gabriel rises up to the air and uses a metal pole to kill Isaac. Afterwards, he lets Hannah and Rachel go out to start a new breed of children as Gabriel basically kills himself since after being stabbed with a sickle by Rachel, he pulls the sickle down his stomach and after Rachel and Hanna got out, burned Gatlin County Hospital. Hannah will now birth the child that shall lead us all. "And a child will lead them."

With "Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return", we now enter a third continuity in the Children of the Corn franchise. The first would be films one through three, the second could be accounted as an "Alternate reality" series in which all of the films are unrelated to each other. But this film starts a third series since it ignores all but the original film. This could have been something good. There was so much potential in this film, especially with the thick ties to the original and John Franklin not only is coming pack playing the role that made him famous - Isaac- but was also writing. But what went wrong?

Through out the film seems to be in continuity with the first film, the dating what happened in the film is more in line with the original short story by Stephen King. I make this observation by taking in consideration that the film takes place in the year it was made, 1999, and then take into consideration that the event of the original took place 19 years earlier. That would have made it 1978; which makes what happens in the film more of a sequel to the short story more than the original film (the short story was published in 1978 in the Stephen King Compilation novel, "Night Shift").

It is actually nice, all of the subtle connections that are in this film that connect it with the original. There’s Isaac. John Franklin being back for his signature role so that is a major plus. Second, the cover art for the DVD/VHS release has the silhouette of the hand holding the sickle on it. Third we have more returning characters, most notably Rachel, who was Amos’s wife from the original (and the girl which Burt knocked out and was stabbed by in the original).

But, what about the cast? There are only two people who I can actually respect in the cast. First would be John Franklin for reasons all to predictable and Stacey Keach. Stacey Keach, for those of you who are fans of cult cinema like I am, would notice him as Sarge Stadenko from "Cheech and Chong’s ‘Up In Smoke’" and as an army official in "John Carpenter’s Escape From LA". The rest, while good actors, are not people which I can like. And is more of the script’s fault than anything.

The major problem with the script - other than obviously seeing what influence John Franklin had on it (Isaac’s dialogue and the mannerisms of the corn cult) is that there is barely any killing of the adult characters except for Stacey Keach’s character (Dr. Michaels) and that most of the people are older than 19 years. Shouldn’t they have at one of the ceremonies in the film (there are two) given themselves to He Who Walks Behind the Rows? And then comes the biggest offence in the film: the depiction of the God of the Corn, the God of the Old Testament: He Who Walks Behind the Rows. He Who Walks Behind The Rows is Gabriel. This is just bad. The way he does things is bad because that is not what the He Who Walks Behind the Rows we all know and love would do things. And why do things like that? It would have been better if we had some children (which this film is short of) become possessed like Micha and force Isaac to be - like Amos - sacrificed to He Who Walks Behind The Rows. But just to make things easier - they made him human and make him a punk of a teenager. And the ending, Hannah having his baby, is just brainless and leaves room for a sequel (which will never be fulfilled) even though the marketing for this film claimed that this was going to be the last film in the series.

Plus, and this is something which I deem mandatory in my opinion, where is the stock footage? That would have been to great help with this film. Though the film would clash with the film of the new film. Which comes to another question: why is the film annoyingly filmed with almost everything looking corn stalk yellow? No, I did not just answer my own question, especially since it looks horrible. It may have looked good when Ryuhei Kitamura did it when he directed, "Versus", but not here.

The soundtrack just isn’t there. But then again, the soundtrack for the films since "Urban Harvest" has never been released so we can just skip that. Though what we do hear in the film is - all except the scene where Cora says "As if it ever stopped" - is all tasteless. It does not fit well with the mood of a Children of the Corn film and the two songs used in the film make no sense. As if two artists asked Dimension to include their songs in a film just for advertisement or just for the hell of it. This is some brain whacking reasons.

Overall, the film is just a poor excuse for another film in the series. It is not as bad as the last two entries in the series, but it is not as good as the original continuity. Just a really poor release. But what can you expect from direct-to-video films like this? It’s an ok film. It must be given credit for what it sets out to do but never truly accomplishes. 2/5

Production Notes:
"Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return" was chosen as the sixth installment to the series and was for a time marketed as the last film. The most attractive part of this film would the use of John Franklin, who once told Empire magazine‘s David Hughes, "Hollywood casting directors don’t exhibit much imagination when it comes to an actor who is five feet tall, so I’ll just have to write my own movies."

With this idea, John decided to go to Dimension and pitch his return to the franchise. Franklin would go on to say, "We lucked out by getting to them just as the project was beginning. We worked our butts off with the writing - it is so difficult to write and try to please six or seven producers and Bob Weinstein".

However, things in the horror genre were changing. Thanks to 1995’s SCREAM and it’s subsequent franchise, Dimension looked for a different type of sequel. In some Keri Skogland. Skogland would go on to tell Cinefantastique writer Dan Scapperotti, "All the other ones [installments] which kind of have their own life, own look, were not relevant to this story. This story was really Isaac." Keri would go on to say that the film was, "a reality-driven movie". The director would go on to say, "The mandate was to make a horror film that was smarter and cooler and more happening." "Given all the constraints, only so many locations and speaking parks, and just about zero special effects, I think it turned out better than I would have thought possible" said Franklin.

Principle photography took place in and around Los Angeles, California in November 1998. Production was headed by Blue Rider Pictures, who were known for making sequels for horror films, hence their moniker "sequel specialists". The company would go on to find and use two different cornfield for the film.

"Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return" was released 10 months later on DVD on October 19, 1999 (the VHS release would get a later release date of August 1, 2000) and would be released in the United Kingdom eighteen months later. The film was straight to video in most countries, but Amsterdam did allow a limited theatrical release of the film.

The kid with the denim jacket who is first found on the porch of the hotel, then in Hannah’s car, and finally closing the door to Hannah’s room was actually a visitor to the set, named Daniel. His visits were so often that they added him as a "why not" factor.

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