Children of the Corn III [1995]

Genre: Horror, Thriller
Children of the Corn The murder rate is as high as an elephant's eye in this flaccid adaptation of Stephen King's short story. While driving through Nebraska en route to a new job, medico Burt (Peter Horton) and his wife Vicky (a pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton) nearly run over a mutilated boy who staggers from the cornfields. Seeking help, they enter the town of Gatlin, whose under-20 residents have butchered their parents per the decree of junior-grade holy roller Isaac (John Franklin), who preaches the word of a being called "He Who Walks Behind the Rows." King's original story (from his 1978 collection Night Shift) was a lean and brutal mélange of Southern-gothic atmosphere and E.C. Comics-style gore, which scripter Greg Goldsmith effectively neutralizes by adding a youthful narrator (a grating Robbie Kiger) and putting an upbeat spin on the story's morbid conclusion. Fritz Kiersch's direction is TV-movie flat, with the sole inspired moment (hideous religious iconography glimpsed during a bloody "service") delivered as a throwaway. Aside from Horton and Courtney Gains (as Isaac's hatchet man Malachai), the performances are dreadful, and the depiction of the Lovecraftian monster-god as a sort of giant gopher inspires more laughter than terror. Amazingly, the film spawned six sequels; Franklin (Cousin Itt in the Addams Family films) later appeared in and wrote 1999's Children of the Corn 666. --Paul Gaita Creepshow 2 What is it about hitchhikers that makes them such a sure-fire bet for horror? This question is addressed in the final segment of Creepshow 2, another Stephen King-George Romero collaboration. "The Hitchhiker" is the simplest and best of the three tales on display here, with Lois Chiles as a cheating wife who just can't seem to get rid of a hitchhiker... no matter how hard she tries. The collection gets off to a slow start with "Old Chief Wood'n Head," a sleepy story of Native American justice. "The Raft" is a passable teens-in-peril number, but it worked better on the page than on screen. Romero adapted the King stories but emphatically did not direct, which accounts for the drop-off from the kicky fun of the first Creepshow. King appears as a dimwitted truck driver--a foreshadowing of Maximum Overdrive? In any case, this one's for diehard fans only. --Robert Horton Maximum Overdrive "I'm gonna scare the hell out of you," intones Stephen King in the trailer for his sole directorial effort, the much-maligned Maximum Overdrive. While the end result doesn't live up to that boast, this sci-fi/horror tale isn't as awful as it's been described. King's script (based on his short story "Trucks") focuses on the patrons of a North Carolina truck stop, which comes under attack by a convoy of trucks and other machines animated by Earth's passage through the tail of a "rogue comet." King's fans, tired of half-baked screen adaptations like Cujo and Children of the Corn, expected a horror home run from Maximum Overdrive and instead got an old-fashioned drive-in movie filled with car crashes, cheapjack gore, and fart jokes. While the film is torpidly paced and often amateurishly acted, it's no worse than any direct-to-video thriller, and King's ear for dialogue occasionally shines through the gloom. Emilio Estevez and Pat Hingle register as a heroic cook and his black-hearted boss, respectively; the cast includes Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson's voice), Giancarlo Esposito, and Marla Maples (!) as a victim. --Paul Gaita

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