Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Movie Review: "Children of the Corn: Runaway" (2018)

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by myself, and me decided to take I up on the opportunity.  This despite the fact that me only wanted to speak to us -- ? -- on the subject of Children of the Corn: Runaway, the recently-released fauxquel that marks #9 in the series.  Or #10 if you count the remake.
We'll get into that below, among other things.

Q:  Hi, Bryant!
A:  Uh ... hi.
Q:  Thanks for taking my call!
A:  *sigh*  You bet, man.  Happy to ... uh ... yeah, happy to do it.
Q:  So my first question is this: Children of the Corn: Runaway was released onto VOD services on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, which -- let me consult my calendar here and make sure this is correct -- uh-huh, yeah ... which was LAST Tuesday.  It is now March 20, 2018.  So my question is: why did it take you a full week to watch a new Stephen King movie?
A:  I'm not sure anybody cares what the answer to that is, but I can answer it.
Q:  Well, don't let me stop you.
A:  Right.  Well, see, I bought the Blu-ray, which...
Q:  You bought this on motherfucking Blu-ray?!?

A:  Yeah!  Yeah, I did!  Look, it's important to support physical-media releases in these days of streaming supremacy!  Anyways, I own EVERY King movie that's been made available on disc, be it DVD or Blu-ray or whatever; even the ones like this, which are ripoff fauxquels marginally related to King's work.  So yeah!  I bought the Blu-ray.
Q:  Sor-RY!  Jeez, bit my head off, whydontcha?
A:  Anyways, Amazon kept telling me it'd be delivered on Tuesday the 13th, right up until the day beforehand, when they changed the delivery date to Friday the 16th.  I can't say for 100% sure, but I think this was a nationwide thing; I checked a couple of other sites, such as Best Buy, and they are showed Friday as the due date, as well.  So I think the distributor at the last minute decided to put a brief delay on the physical release, possibly so as to give the VOD version a short exclusivity window.
Q:  Do you actually know what you're talking about?
A:  Absolutely not.
Q:  I figured.  Seems logical, though.
A:  Right?  Bottom line is, the Blu-ray didn't get delivered until Friday.  But since Amazon sent it FedEx, it didn't get delivered to my mailbox; instead, it went to the front office at my apartment complex.  And then, because I am a lazy sack of shit and didn't get going in time to pick it up before I left for work that afternoon, it had to wait until Monday.  So while the release date WAS Tuesday the 13th, I didn't have my copy until the 19th.
Q:  That was a fascinating story.
A:  YOU asked ME, man, so...
Q:  Fair enough.  Alright, well, before we dive into the movie itself, a few quick-fire questions.
A:  Okey doke.
Q:  Is this the ninth or the tenth film in the Children of the Corn series?
A:  Tenth.  I am counting the remake.
Q:  Has there ever been a good Children of the Corn movie?
A:  Yes, "Disciples of the Crow," a Dollar Baby short film.
Q:  Is this new one the worst Children of the Corn movie ever made?
A:  No.
Q:  Is this new one the best Children of the Corn movie ever made?
A:  No.
Q:  Does the song "Runaway" by Dion appear in this film?
A:  No.
Q:  Does the song "Runaway" by Bon Jovi appear in this film?
A:  No.
Q:  *exasperated snort*
A:  I know!  I know.
Q:  Okay, well...  What's this "movie" "about"?
A:  It's about a pregnant girl who survives the events of the original story.  She decides she doesn't want to be a children of the corn anymore and give up her baby and get killed and stuff, so she sets the cornfield on fire and burns all the other children of the corn up and escapes.  Somehow, she manages to stay on the run with her kid, Sarah-and-John-Connor-style, for something like thirteen years.  Then she gets a job as a mechanic in some small town in what I'm assuming is Texas.
Q:  Why are you assuming it's Texas?  Didn't you watch the movie?
A:  More or less.  I can't remember if it said one way or the other.  I assume it's Texas because I know it's not Nebraska -- they say that for sure -- and basically just don't care enough to think what other states it might be.  Oklahoma?  Hey, I guess I care a little!  Not much, though.
Q:  So what happens when she gets a job as a mechanic?
A:  Should I just spoil the entire plot?
Q:  Sure, why not?  Do you think anyone (A) cares and (B) is actually reading this?
A:  You make good points.  Okay, well, she first has to rebuff the sexual advances of her new boss, and she also makes friends with a local waitress who takes a liking to both her and her son, and then she has a tense meeting with a hypocritical Christian woman who has a job at the school her kid wants to go to, and...
Q:  Waitwait.  The principal, or what is she?
A:  I don't really know.  I kind of zoned out, but let's assume the principal, or the guidance counselor, or the registrar.  Do public schools have registrars?  I just don't know.
Q:  Beats me!
A:  Well, anyways, that happens, and then there's this Arya Stark-lookin' little girl in a yellow dress who pops up every so often and is kind of menacing.  
Oh, and Ruth is...
Q:  Who's Ruth?
A:  That's the main character, the one who was pregnant at the beginning but isn't anymore cause it's thirteen years later and she had been done give birth.
Q:  Okay.
A:  Anyways, Ruth is basically crazy, right?  Like, she sees things, and hears things, and her son Aaron knows about it and kind of reminds her sometimes that when she sees locusts, the things that happen after that aren't too much real.
Q:  She sounds like a piece of work.
A:  She is.  But I think you're supposed to like her and sympathize with her...?  I can't really tell, to be honest.  Let's assume so.  Well, eventually you find out that the little girl with the yellow dress is actually Ruth, and apparently a manifestation of what Ruth was like when she was a little kid, so she kills some people and then convinces the waitress, Sarah, to take Aaron and drive away with him so he will be safe.  But -- duh-duh-DUM! -- it turns out that Sarah was also a children of the corn from Gatlin and she's gotten Aaron on her side, so Aaron kills his mom and turns into what amounts to the new preacher.
Q:  Wait, wait ... what?
A:  Yeah!  The twist ending is that Sarah was evil the whole time and that Aaron was too.  Or maybe Aaron wasn't and only gets talked into it by the malefic influence of Sarah the big-breasted waitress?  I think maybe it's that.
Q:  Sarah the waitress has big breasts?
A:  They're pretty fair-sized, yessir.  The movie makes sure you know it, too, so I don't feel too bad for pointing it out.

That's the movie zooming in, not my screencaps, by the way.  And no, there's no evident rationale for this.
Q:  I almost hate to ask, but what about Ruth's breasts?
A:  What about them?
Q:  Is this one of those movies where the main female character wears tank-tops the entire time?
A:  Not THE ENTIRE TIME, but on occasion, for sure. 
Q:  Do you mind that?

A:  I mean ... no.  It's not salacious or anything; it's just what Ruth wears.  It's more salacious with the waitress, although really only due to the one down-the-shirt shot that comes out of nowhere.  Let's not forget that movies like this come from the exploitation side of the industry, which has traditionally been very breast-focused.  The only nudity in this particular exploitation film comes from an encounter Ruth's son has with a drunk lady outside a motel room; it's more disturbing than it is salacious. 
Q:  Is there a #MeToo subplot?
A:  It sure does.  Ruth shows up at this garage and asks for a shot at the clearly-posted mechanic's job.  The guy who runs the garage is all like, "No!  You're a woman and women can't be mechanics!  Drift on, drifters!"  He actually says none of that, but I'm guessing that to be the implication.  Anyways, he sees Ruth and her son in the rain that night and decides to let them sleep in the garage, but Ruth can't sleep because she's crazy, so she gets up and just starts fixing vehicles, and the next morning ol' dude is impressed by her fixin' skills so he hires her and then gives her a house and tr...
Q:  He gives her a house?!?  What?
A:  Yeah, huh?  I think he explains it, but I wasn't paying super-close attention.  It's his dead father's house, maybe?  And he's not actually giving it to Ruth and Aaron so much as he is just letting them stay there?  I dunno, something like that.  Well, anyways, this mechanic guy at this point has an obvious expectation of poontang in exchange for his benevolence.
Q:  Uh-oh.
A:  Uh-oh is right.  What's a little bit off for me is that Ruth is totally into this guy.  So it seems at times, at least.  She thinks she might smell bad at one point, so she goes into the bathroom and soaps down her armpits so as to freshen herself up.  And then, apparently, either invites ol' dude over for drinks or allows him to invite himself.  Then she starts making out with him but freaks out when Aaron sees them and makes the mechanic guy leave.  
Q:  So in other words, you're saying Ruth is a tease and deserves what she gets?
A:  I'm absolutely NOT saying that.  I'm unsure as to whether the movie is.  So then, later, after Ruth supposedly botches an oil change, he fires her over it.
Q:  That seems unfair.
A:  #MeToo actually appears onscreen when it happens.
Q:  Are you serious?!?
A:  No!  Of course not!
Q:  It sounds like you're making fun of #MeToo.
A:  Not even a little bit.  It's just that the movie doesn't seem to have any clear idea of what to do with any of this.  It's not a bad idea for a subplot in a horror movie, to be honest; but this particular movie fails to capitalize on it.  Not totally uninteresting; but a failure.
Q:  Did you almost just pay this movie a compliment?
A:  Did I?
Q:  Sounded like it.
A:  Yeah?  Well ... okay, sure, why not?  I have to be honest: I didn't hate this movie.  It's not a good movie; in fact, I'd argue that it's a demonstrably bad movie.  But I didn't hate it.  Most of the acting was actually pretty good.
Q:  For real?
A:  I mean, not compared to Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri or whatever, but yeah, for real.  Ruth is played by Marci Miller, who is apparently best known for playing Abigail on Days of Our Lives.  She's pretty good here; I can imagine her going on to better things.
Q:  Dude...
A:  What?
Q:  Are you just saying that because she wears tank-tops the whole time?
A:  No!  I mean, yeah, sure, she's really hot in a sort of specific way.  But she's a good actor, given the limited material she's got to work with.  The kid who plays her son is pretty good, too.
Q:  What about Sarah the waitress?
A:  Well, she's played by Mary Kathryn Bryant, who is not bad.  She's a little bit creepy right off the bat, but not in an incredibly obvious way; so the plot twist with her actually kind of manages to come off.  The movie presents it in an incredibly ham-handed fashion; but her performance helps make it work.  To the extent that it does work, I mean; and it more or less does, within the boundaries of ANYthing working in a low-rent movie like this one.
Q:  Is this film deeply connected to the Children of the Corn mythos?  Does it explore new territory previously only hinted at by Stephen King's original short story?
A:  No and no.  Of course not!  It's barely connected at all.  Moreso than the last one -- Children of the Corn: Genesis -- was, maybe; but that's not saying much.  But a 2016 article at Bloody Disgusting implies that this might be the same Ruth as in the 2009 remake of the movie; the one who was pregnant.  So if so, that's more mythos-building than I'd ever have suspected on my own, so ... yay?
Q:  Do you get to see He Who Walks Behind The Rows?
A:  Sort of, if you stay all the way to the end of the credits.
Q:  Ooh...!  There's a Marvel Cinematic Universe-style post-credits scene?  Does Nick Fury show up?
A:  No and no.  It's a part of the actual end credits themselves.
Q:  That's disappointing.  What about the story itself?
A:  The screenplay is by Joel Soisson, who wrote Genesis in 2011, so is currently THE Children of the Corn writer.  It's bad.  NOT, I would argue, awful; but bad.  Little of it makes any sense.  Soisson has primarily written direct-to-video knockoffs, so I would imagine that he doesn't exactly put a lot of effort into his work; but I've seen worse examples of this sort of thing, so there's that.  It ain't much; but it's not nothing, either.
Q:  Who directed the movie?
A:  John Gulager, who I guess won season three of Project Greenlight and made a movie called Feast as a result.  Mostly, everything else he's made has seemingly been on roughly the level of Runaway.  Nothing special.  He's a big fan of handheld camera, and shoots a lot of this movie as if he thinks it is an episode of Friday Night Lights, which, in retrospect, might be why I think this movie is set in Texas.  The score sounds a little bit like that sort of thing, too.  In both cases, it's ... okay.  Okay for a fauxquel, let me specify; beyond that, no compliments.  But for a King-"based" fauxquel, this isn't anywhere near the lower end of the spectrum.  It's competent; not good, but competent.  If nothing else, Gulager seems to be able to get decent performances out of his actors.
Q:  Bryant, I've got to be honest.  I was hoping for more snark than this.  You've let me down.
A:  Sorry about that!  I tried to duck your calls, so this is on you.
Q:  I'll accept that.  What else do you have to say?
A:  What else do you want to know?
Q:  Do you think this will be the final Children of the Corn fauxquel?
A:  I do.  News broke last year that King was able to legally regain the rights to make movies based on a handful of his stories, including "Children of the Corn."  The assumption for some time now has been that movies like Genesis and Runaway were being made only so that the company who owned the rights could retain the rights; making actual money on the projects was a secondary concern.  
Q:  Which makes movies like this mercenary and craven, doesn't it?
A:  Depends on how you look at it.  Mostly, yes; for sure.  But there's something about that that I find find bizarrely appealing.  These fauxquels fascinate me for that reason.  Well, "fascinate" is too strong a word.  But for some reason, I'm unable to drum up any real antipathy toward them.  Never have quite been able to explain that, even to myself.  
Q:  You're a strange cat, Bryant.
A:  Was that a question?
Q:  In a way.  Here's another: do you think The Truth Inside The Lie will ever do a multi-part series -- complete with screencaps and deep-dive analysis -- of the entire Children of the Corn saga?
A:  Hey, this post, has screencaps!
Q:  Yes, but you know what I mean.
A:  I do.  Well, to answer that question, I would love to do such a thing.  I've got a LOT of higher priorities, but yeah, for sure.  Someday.  Let's say during the '30s.
Q:  I'm gonna hold you to that.

A:  Hold away, my friend.  See you then.


  1. I had forgotten about King getting the rights back. That's cool. I bet he did that to will-them to his progeny or grand-progeny. Which is a perfectly cool (and admirable) thing for a granddad to do.

    This sounds pretty wacky. I'd expect nothing less!

    I THINK we saw FEAST but damned if I can remember. I just asked Dawn and we realized we were talking about the one with David Hyde Pearce where he's a serial killer who's also the chief of police or something ridiculous. We weren't fans.

    Love the interview posts when they come around these parts! And this was no exception.

    1. Spoken in wacky-sitcome-announcer voice: "He's the killer wanted for over a dozen ritual slayings ... AND he's the CHIEF of POLICE! Tonight on UPN!"

      It couldn't be much worse than this "Children of the Corn" movie, I guess.

  2. Is it better than Dark Tower or The mist tv series?

    Wanted to ask you for your 2017 King projects rankings...Dark Tower, It, Mr Mercedes, The Mist, Gwendy's Button Box, Sleeping Beauties..?

    1. It's definitely not as good as "The Dark Tower" in a semi-objective sense; but it's also less of a disappointment in the relative sense. Same is true of it compared to "The Mist," I'd say.

      As for ranking the 2017 projects...hmm...! That's interesting. I think it'd go like this for me:

      Sleeping Beauties
      Gerald's Game
      Thin Scenery
      Mr. Mercedes
      Gwendy's Button Box
      The Dark Tower
      The Mist

      That's a tough assignment, ranking originals and adaptations together like that! But I think that's how I'd rank 'em for now.

  3. Actually completely forgot about Gerald’s game and 1922!! Liked them both too! Haven’t got to see mr Mercedes yet. But that’s a good ranking, couldn’t disagree with that! Hoping 2018 is at least as good!

  4. I think they key to Disciples of the Crow's success is that it's approximately an hour shorter than every other COTC movie.

    1. That doesn't hurt, for sure. It's also got a realistic feel to it that all the others lack. You can tell it's an amateur film, but it's solid.

  5. Yeah, I actually do agree with you and was happy to see it included on the most recent Blu-ray release. I still think it's one of King's most effective short stories, but it was not destined to be a (good) full-length feature film. There's not nearly enough story, and how it spawned a dozen or so sequels is beyond me.

    1. I think it COULD make for a good -- maybe even a great -- feature film, just not filmed in the manner it has been filmed so far. It needs to be (A) actually scary, (B) as realistic as possible, and (C) utterly without mercy.

  6. Will be interested to see which version of golden years is on this set... only $20 too!!


    1. It'll almost certainly be the feature edit. If not, though, I'll buy this for sure.