There wasn’t much hope here at Missile Test for Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest. While we did enjoy the previous film in the series, barely, Urban Harvest marks a transition for the franchise, as the films moved from theatrical releases to productions made specifically for the home video market. As any shitty movie veteran can tell you, they don’t send Oscar contenders direct to video. Director James D.R. Hickox seemed to know this (thank goodness), so what viewers lose in quality, Hickox makes up for in gore.
Mostly unrelated to what came before, Urban Harvest leaves the cornfields of Nebraska and moves to the urban landscape of Chicago. There, brothers Eli and Joshua (Daniel Cerny and Ron Melendez), survivors of the massacre of the first film, are taken in by a pair of foster parents, William and Amanda (Jim Metzler and Nancy Lee Grahn).
Eli and Joshua have been raised within the confines of strict and conservative Christianity, and were then subjected to the murderous cult of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. It’s left them a little…off. Eli wants nothing to do with modern life in a major American city, while Joshua, at first reluctant, comes around to regular teenage life quickly, once one of the local teens, Maria (Mari Morrow) starts giving him the googly eyes.
Eli wastes little time setting up shop as the new cult leader, gaining adherents from the Catholic school he and Joshua attend (keep an eye out for Charlize Theron, who made her film debut as one of these kids, and whose character met a grisly end).
Meanwhile, Amanda continues to grow more worried at Eli’s strange behavior, while William, a commodities trader, is interested in some corn Eli brought from home and planted behind their house. The corn, which Eli claims is a new strain developed by his deceased father, grows to maturity in a mere four weeks, is resistant to pests, unharmed by chemicals, and tastes great, too! This corn would be the holy grail of agricultural production, were it not for the fact it’s haunted.
So, William has visions of dollar signs dancing in his head, Amanda is growing too curious about goings-on, Joshua is trying to get laid, and Eli is taking over his school, building up to another massacre that only Joshua can stop. Is any of this worth the journey?
Yes, and for one reason only.
The gore in this flick is silly, but it is spectacular. Characters become impaled on water pipes, have their entire nervous system yanked out of their bodies, have their faces melted, become crucified with eyes and mouth sewn shut, and more.
But, the crowning achievement of this film is a climax that features the first onscreen appearance by He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and it’s a doozy.
The creature work looks ridiculous. He cuts a swathe through the film’s peripheral characters, in spectacular manner at full scale. But, the finest shitty moment of this film comes in miniature, when He grabs one of the film’s characters and swallows her hole. It’s only a momentary shot when He lift its victim towards its maw, yet there’s no hiding the fact that the poor victim is a doll. I’m not exaggerating. It looks like a G.I Joe in a tiny wig, or maybe a Barbie doll. It’s one of the most ridiculous and inept effects one will ever see in a movie, and I praise Hickox for sticking with it. There probably wasn’t much room in the budget for reshoots, so including this shot may have been a matter of necessity. Any reason to keep something so silly in this movie is welcome, however.
There’s nothing to recommend this film as far as plot or performance goes, but the shittiness is sublime. Besides the cartoonish gore and the Barbie doll shot, there are occasional views of palm trees and the hills north of Hollywood, despite this movie being set in Chicago. Then, in the final credits, we see Grahn’s character listed as ‘Alice,’ despite being called Amanda all throughout the film. That lack of attention to detail is precious, and so is this stupid dog of a film. I find myself looking forward to more entries in this series, as long as further films continue this high level of cheese.
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest stinks, but it makes it into the top half of the Index on its gall alone, displacing Maniac Cop 2 at #129. Check it out.