The reason I sit here at the keyboard, beginning this journey, has to do with two events.
Here is the first:
In the beginning years of our marriage, my wife and I went to the library on an almost-weekly basis. We would troll the new fiction and the DVD racks, searching for ways to entertain ourselves on the cheap.
This was a period when buying a single hardback book was a major luxury.
It was my wife that spotted “The Children of the Corn,” and picked it up. The DVD touted the fact that it was “Based on the story by Stephen King.”
“You like Stephen King,” said my wife.
I admitted that I did, in the same breath noting that the movie’s reviews were, at best, just okay. But there was nothing else that caught our interest in even a minor way, so we proceeded to check out and then head home.
We put the movie into the DVD player with low expectations, and the film mostly met them and sometimes exceeded them. Though not by much.
As the credits rolled, I turned to the love of my life and remarked, “I’ve heard that the third one is actually pretty good.” This earned me a half-hearted nod which said that, on the whole, the chances of her sitting through part two were pretty low.
The chances of going on to part three were even lower.
Which leads me to the second event:
A year or two later, I bought my wife a plane ticket and sent her to visit her best friend from college. We were getting close to becoming parents, and we both recognized that our chances of having free time and/or extra money were coming to an end.
At the time I worked next to a video store that offered two-for-one rentals of older videotapes. So I headed over there after work to see if I could find a just-for-me kind of movie or two.
I started in the As, walked through the Bs, and then arrived at the Cs, where I saw “Children of the Corn.” I swiveled my head slightly and noted that part two was in. I swiveled it a bit more and noted that there was also a part three, part four, part five, and part six. Part six was unhelpfully labeled 666, which I guess was meant to imply that it was more evil than the previous chapters, or that the video store was missing parts 6-665.
I had already grabbed one movie from the previous sections, and I realized that if I grabbed parts 2-6, I’d have a total of six videos, which would easily provide entertainment for the three nights I had available to me.
I picked up the videos and headed home.
I want to write something like, “What happened next astonished me,” and I guess I could, but it would be more accurate to say, “What happened next occasionally caused me to raise an eyebrow and go, ‘Huh,’ in a semi-thoughtful way.”
To begin with, “Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice,” obviously lacked some truth in advertising, based on the fact that I had four more movies to go. What’s more, the movie was, it seems, supposed to take place directly after the first movie – despite being released eight years after the original.
The movie itself wasn’t great, but it was short of terrible. Or rather, it wasn’t bad enough to make me start concocting reasons to return all the movies to the store and claim they didn’t work on my VCR.
The movie ended, the credits rolled, and I put in part three – and whattaya know? The third one, while not great, was better than pretty good. It had a nice sense of impending dread and an entertaining little kicker at the end that was clearly designed to lead into part four.
But it was late, and I was tired, so I headed to bed.
The next night I stuck part four into the VCR with a sense of anticipation. That little nugget at the end of part three… where would it lead? It was clearly headed towards impending apocalypse territory, right?
We were, instead, headed into reboot territory.
This was my first real encounter with the horror movie reboot – something I have since learned is something of a staple of the genre. The screenwriter of part four goes back, watches parts 1-3, and then decides to chuck it all and start over as though those movies didn’t exist.
It’s a bit like a remake, but with a roman numeral attached.
If I was surprised at the quality of part three, I was even more surprised by part four. Not because it was good, but because it had an Academy Award nominee starring in it.
I saw part four shortly after Naomi Watts had made a huge splash in Mulholland Drive, and I had to admit I was surprised to see her bringing her considerable acting abilities to a movie that not only lacked a redeeming social value, but pretty much any value at all.
Part five was even worse. It too had a star-before-she-was-a-star, this time in the form of Eva Mendes. To say she didn’t do a very good job is a little unfair, as it was her first movie and it would be difficult to point to anyone who outshined her.
My hopes dashed that I had struck a gold mine of underappreciated genre films, I went to bed again.
The last night of the Children of the Corn saga brought me to Part 666: Isaac’s Return. Isaac was a character who died, or so I thought, near the end of the first film. The Isaac in question was played by John Franklin, who also received a writing credit for the film.
And if I thought part five had problems…
But I’ll come to that later. Much later.
Because right now, the question is – what am I doing here now?
I like to help people.
The “Children of the Corn” saga was not, it may surprise you to learn, the last saga that I tapped out at the video store. I few years after my “Children” weekend, my wife and I decided to give “Wishmaster” a spin, and found it to be a small gem. A small gem with three sequels…
And then there was “Prophecy,” a great movie with a part 2-5…
And then, last Halloween, I laid my hands on all five “Child’s Play” movies for less than twenty bucks. This despite the fact I’ve only ever seen parts 3 and 4.
Is it a high tolerance for cheese? Am I one of those fanboys who thinks every horror movie, no matter how awful, deserves some love?
Let’s call it a mission.
Most movies, when they hit theaters, get a reasonably fair shake. Critics show up, the movie has its day in the sun, and then it’s up to history.
But the horror sequel rarely gets much attention.
And so, like those who climb Everest, I shall watch these movies because they are there. And report back on them.
Join me, won’t you?