Like the previous Children of the Corn flick, this fifth entry in the series, subtitled Fields of Terror, features a future star in the cast, in Eva Mendes. But, that’s not all. There’s also a lesser Arquette and a Zappa progeny. The best part is, all this is wrapped up in a package more in tune with the ley lines of shitty cinema — more aware that bad movies survive on spectacle, and less on good intentions.
One thing we love here at Missile Test is spotting a former A-list star slumming it in a low-rent shitty movie. There’s nothing mean-spirited about it. We like low-rent shitty movies quite a lot, so we feel blessed when the inevitable career turn occurs, and former Oscar-winners and contenders are forced to make due in productions of lesser means and artistic intent. But, what we like even more is when a low-rent shitty movie features a future A-lister — a performer who has yet to prove they have the talent to take them out of the muck. Rookie performers such as these often do the best job in the film, and raise its overall watchability, without having too much of a negative effect on its shittiness. Preserving that je ne sais quoi is important for the shitty movie fan.
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. Continue reading “Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest”
It was a bold decision by the producers of the second Children of the Corn movie to place the word “Final” in the subtitle. Most horror series defer that kind of certitude until the fourth movie, at least. Perhaps they never envisioned that their property would ramble on as a direct-to-video franchise, and this flick was supposed to be a one-shot deal. After all, Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice was released in 1992, eight years after the first film. That pace is a little sluggish if one is looking to spawn a franchise of shitty horror movies. Anyway…
Final Sacrifice, despite that wide gap in release dates, takes place in the aftermath of the first film. Apparently, after the protagonists of that film made good their escape from the small town of Gatlin, Nebraska, they did the right thing and called the cops. Authorities swarming over Gatlin is how this film opens. With the baddies of the first film, Isaac and Malachai, done away with, everyone thinks that the evil influence they had on the children of Gatlin is gone, as well. The remaining children are taken into the homes of adults in nearby Hemingford, while they await permanent placement with surviving relatives, should any be found. Continue reading “Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice”
This is a film that gave birth to ten, count them, ten, sequels and reboots? This mediocre, slapdash, and, at times, lazy film made enough money to spawn a franchise? There really is no accounting for taste.
From way back in 1984 comes the original Children of the Corn, an adaptation of a Stephen King short story. King worked up a draft for a screenplay, but producers ultimately went with a pile of pages written by George Goldsmith, with first-time director Fritz Kiersch at the helm. Kiersch was handed a budget of around $800k, and his gobbledegook somehow managed to rake in over 14 million bucks at the box office. That’s on us, folks. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Children of the Corn (1984)”
Some horror films live and die on spectacle. They don’t use fear of the unseen to unsettle audiences. Rather, they go all-in early. The Saw franchise went for spectacle above all else, and it worked so well for them that there are nine films in the franchise as of this writing. Aliens was another film that used spectacle. James Cameron used spectacle so well, compared to the wrought tension of Ridley Scott’s earlier film, that it’s easy to forget that an entire hour of runtime passes before audiences see the first alien. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Rawhead Rex”
Oh, woe is this horror franchise. First in the hands of Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures, then picked up, with a trademark dispute, by Dino De Laurentiis and his company, and now, for this fourth film, into the grasp of American network television. Has any other iconic horror franchise been treated so poorly? I can’t think of one.
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, from 1989, is, believe it or not, not the worst horror film I’ve ever seen. But, it’s from the time before the internet age, when network television movies were a special kind of anti-art, purposefully devoid of most sharp edges. Yes, this was the era of television movies that brought us Roots, but there was a definite ceiling to the quality of a TV movie. Film critic Leonard Maltin, in his gigantic movie guide books, would not award stars to television movies, instead rating them as ‘below average,’ ‘average,’ or ‘above average.’ That makes sense. The difference in quality between television and film in the heyday of Maltin’s books was a vast gulf compared to today. This particular television movie I would rate as average. Had it been intended for cinema, I would rate it a ‘bomb.’ Continue reading “Attack of the Franchise Sequels: Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes”
Pacemaker Pictures, the English-language distributors of Terror-Creatures from the Grave, the 1965 Italian gothic horror flick, sure went all in on the title. Perhaps they had a shortlist and couldn’t decide between Terror from the Grave and Creatures from the Grave so, like some parents, decided to burden their charge with a hyphenated name. It’s a mouthful, but has loads of kitsch to it.
Directed by Massimo Pupillo, from a screenplay by Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale, Terror-Creatures is plays like a pageant in honor of horror cinema. Shot in stark black and white by Carlo Di Palma, the film relies heavily on early horror film styles and storytelling, while combining it with contemporary trends in Italian cinema. There’s the dark and stormy night, overlayered with endless theremin music, combined with dramatic closeups and the multinational cast mouthing their lines in different languages. It’s like watching an old Universal horror film, and everyone is poorly dubbed. Unfortunately, that dubbing can be somewhat distracting, but Pupillo and company nevertheless made a decent horror film. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Terror-Creatures from the Grave”
There are giants in the history of shitty cinema. Roger Corman, Bert I. Gordon, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Lloyd Kaufman, Ray Dennis Steckler, amongst many others. Then there are filmmakers like Andy Milligan. Milligan was a worker, with dozens of films in his oeuvre. But he sure did make some trash. Most shitty filmmakers would make something like Guru, the Mad Monk, and then have to call it quits. Having a film this bad in one’s CV is kryptonite to investors, but Milligan managed to make shitty films for another two decades after Guru’s release. That’s dedication. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Guru, the Mad Monk”
Rick Turner (Robert Alda), is, by all appearances, in a happy relationship with Donna Trent (Ariadne Welter). The two of them are clean-cut, 1950s wholesome, and engaged to be married. But, a mysterious, beautiful woman has been appearing to Rick in his dreams. One day, as he and Donna are walking about, Rick sees a doll in the display window of a dollmaker’s shop that has an uncanny resemblance to the woman in his dreams. He goes inside, and sets in motion a tale of evil and death.
Such is the setup to The Devil’s Hand, a kitschy 1961 horror flick from writer Jo Heims and director William J. Hole, Jr. By kitschy, I mean that this film has the look and feel of Ed Wood. I don’t mean a film directed by Ed Wood. I mean the Tim Burton biopic. I have no idea what exact sources Burton found for inspiration. Perhaps this flick was on the list. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: The Devil’s Hand”