Saturday, March 8, 2014

In short: Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

After he killed his adopted dad, one of the original Gatlin children, Eli (Daniel Cerny), and his adopted brother Joshua (Ron Melendez) are taken into the foster care of Amanda (Nancy Lee Grahn) and William Porter (Jim Metzler) in beautiful Chicago.

Joshua is easily able to fit into the new lifestyle, why, he even makes friends with people of colour like Malcolm (Jon Clair) and Maria Elkman (Mari Morrow), and shows off his basketball skills. Eli, on the other hand, can't let go of the olden ways, so he plants some magical corn in the empty factory building that just happens to be right next door to his new family's home, and slowly proceeds to start up his own new children's cult, while commodities trader William plans to make Super Corn™ popular all around the world. There are also - possibly symbolical - bugs with pernicious influence involved.

Because Eli is right and grown-ups are perfectly useless, it falls to Josh to swart his brother's bizarre plans.

Where Children of the Corn 2 (about which I’ll say a few strong words in the near future) really didn't seem to have a clue on how to make the sort of kill scene revue that is late 80s and 90s horror entertaining, Urban Harvest's director James D.R. Hickox doesn't suffer from any such problems, and delivers a series of increasingly grotesque murder scenes in the patented Screaming Mad George style with a lot of panache.

Of course, Urban Harvest's script is stupid as hell, its plot only barely makes sense, and its retcons regarding the original Gatlin murders (like these now having taken place at the beginning of the 60s for no good reason) seem useless except to suggest Eli is more than just a kid – a point most viewers would probably have gotten by watching him use his superpowers. But if that sort of thing is a problem for you, watching 90s low budget horror is probably not a good idea in any case, because crack-brained-ness was one of the time's and of the place's identifying marks. Consequently, I'm not blaming Urban Harvest.

Particularly, I'm not blaming Urban Harvest because it shows us so much idiotic to grotesque good stuff of the sort grand guignol theatre what have loved to be able to show: there's a death head-melting caused by magical lighter flame swallowing, corn tentacle crucifixion, a poor woman whose head explodes from magical bugs, a priest who may or may not have trouble with a hallucinated Virgin Mary in a scene that looks rather edited for censorship to me, and a finale that features the giant monster version of a mutated corn plant(!!!), among other things. It's quite impossible for me to argue with a film featuring Cornzilla, so I'm not going to.

Apart from the crazy, the film also does the very uncommon thing in horror films and treats its (more than one!) black characters as actual characters, instead of as the exotic or hated Other, nor as token signs of diversity or "identity". Not that anyone's characterization here is deep, but the film prefers shorthand to lazy shorthand, which is more than I ask of the second direct-to-video sequel to a not all that well-loved movie.

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