Although eight years had passed between the makings of the first Children of the Corn movie and this sequel, part 2 begins very soon after the end of the 1984 original, perhaps even within hours. Three years after the children of Gatlin, Nebraska, under the leadership of boy preacher Isaac and at the command of their corn-based god He Who Walks Behind the Rows, rose up and murdered everyone in town over the age of 19, the stories related by the survivors of the previous film have finally brought the authorities and the media swarming into town.
The remaining children of Gatlin seem to be in a sort of daze, and when they’re asked what happened in their town, what they saw, they all reply simply, “I saw the corn.” Since Isaac and his right hand man Malachai were both killed during the climactic moments of the ’84 film, and thus “those involved with the killings are dead”, the surviving children face no criminal charges. Instead, they’re bused over to the nearby town of Hemingford, where some families have even graciously opened their homes to them, willing to adopt them. Many sympathize with the children and the horrible ordeal they’ve been through, though there are some dissenters who rage against the idea that these kids are going to get away with mass murder.
Disgraced reporter John Garrett, who once worked for Newsweek covering events like the Jonestown mass suicide but now churns out nonsense for the tabloid rag World Enquirer, has come to the Gatlin/Hemingford area to write an investigative report on what happened in Gatlin, and has brought along his teenage son Danny, with whom he has a very rocky relationship. They find a place to stay at a bed and breakfast in Hemingford run by Angela Casual, who has taken in a teenage boy from Gatlin named Micah.
At first, Micah comes off as meek, quiet and introverted. But as he walks through a cornfield during his first night in Hemingford, heading for the secret meeting the not-so-innocent children of Gatlin have arranged to have with each other, he encounters something horrific among the corn… And when he emerges, he has changed. He’s strong, commanding, dark, and evil. He takes up the leadership role vacated by Isaac, preaching the word of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and under his guidance the children set out to eradicate adults from the town of Hemingford as well.
While the first film got the adult massacre out of the way in its opening sequence, the murders of Hemingford’s adults are carried out throughout the movie, and generally in more inventive ways than simple slashings with farm tools. The use of a voodoo doll gives a man the most horrendous nosebleed in history. These backwards farm kids somehow figure out how to take control of an elderly woman’s electric wheelchair with an RC car’s remote. That woman’s sister, who plans to move her house out of Hemingford in protest of the children of Gatlin being brought in, is crushed by the house when the children release the hydraulics.
There are odd Wizard of Oz references with those two old women. As the house is dropped on the first “wicked witch” old lady, she cries out, “What a world, what a world!” After she’s killed, her sister comes riding into town on her “broom”/wheelchair.
As John looks into the events that occurred in Gatlin, meeting up with and theorizing with Native American anthropologist Doctor Frank Redbear along the way and romancing Angela on the side, Danny spends his time falling in love at an accelerated rate with scooter-driving local teen Lacey Hellerstat, who used to go to school with the Gatlin kids. Co-habitating with Micah also pulls Danny into the cult activities, which I think is smart element to include. I’m kind of surprised Stephen King didn’t give his outlanders who stumble across the horrors of Gatlin a child to possibly be swayed by the cult in his initial short story.
Strange elements to include are just how many alternate theories are presented to possibly explain what caused the children of Gatlin to turn homicidal. Redbear relates an old Native American legend about corn farming kids killing off lazy adults. There’s poisonous toxic mold growing on old corn reserves that can have serious effects on people if it becomes airborne, including causing madness and hallucinations in children. If presented properly, the idea that all of this He Who Walks Behind the Rows stuff is entirely in the minds of children suffering from a medical condition could have been a very intriguing one, but all this theorizing is really a waste of time, because we know all along that there is something supernatural at work here. The first victims in the movie are killed not by the children but by the corn itself, we know there is a monstrous evil out there stalking among the stalks.
Despite all the questionable choices and things that don’t quite work, I still find Children of the Corn 2 to be very good and entertaining. The story is interesting, the characters are involving and I especially like Frank Redbear, and the kills are fun. Director David Price and writers A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler (regular contributors to the Tales from Crypt TV series) crafted a great follow-up to the story told in the first film.
I also have a nostalgic appreciation for the movie, because I can clearly remember when it first came out on VHS twenty years ago, renting it as soon as it became available, and then watching it a second time when my older sister rented it while I was spending the night at her house. I really enjoyed this movie when I was 9 years old, and I still enjoy it to this day.
Plus, the way Micah gets taken out is totally awesome and perfect for the movie.