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Subj: Halloween Roundup #3: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow / Children of the Corn II & III / Body Parts
Posted: Mon Oct 29, 2018 at 02:24:54 pm EDT (Viewed 476 times)
Well, I guess this will do it for this year. It was a fun trip down memory lane. Sadly I didn't even get around to watching The Monster Squad which is usually something I watch every year with the kids.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949) Trailer
Paired with "The Wind in the Willows" to form the theatrical feature "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad," Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one Halloween special I grew up with. It would fall outside of our board's parameters but it aired as part of a special called Disney's Halloween Treat in 1982 which must be where I first saw it. I watched it a few years ago with my older son and just watched again with the twins. As a kid I guess I only remembered the final scene of the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod through the woods. What's interesting watching it now, there is a lot of setup. There's a long intro that doesn't have much to do with ol' Headless. There's an interesting reversal of form where the big, strong, handsome Brom Bones is the underdog, while scrawny bookworm Ichabod Crane is wooing all the ladies of the town. He only seems interested in having them cook for him, though. Only when beautiful Katrina arrives does he fall in love, and then the two men compete for her affections. Brom tries to show up Ichabod at the town dance by telling the tale of the Headless Horseman to frighten him. Later, Ichabod rides home through the woods and ends up being chased by the Horseman. I always thought it was probably Brom in disguise but that is never revealed, we are left to wonder if there is really a ghost or not. I enjoy watching this every couple of years.
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992) Trailer
I remember having seen the first Children of the Corn movie when I was a kid, and then in the '90s suddenly this sequel appeared. I just remember the ads on TV showing '90s CGI that looked lifted from The Lawnmower Man (remember that?) and wondering what it was doing in a cornfield. Drafting off the success of a better movie, the tagline says "These kids are Home Alone, but their parents aren't coming back." Haha. The trailer also claims this is "the conclusion" of the saga, when it really signaled the beginnings of a franchise. This movie really feels like a direct-to-video or HBO/Showtime type movie but I think it got a theatrical release. But like much of the DTV market, this movie really feels like it has no reason to exist other than to give some wannabe film cast/crew members something to do, what I like to call Hollywood make-work.
So we've got Terence Knox (TV's Tour of Duty) as a reporter who travels to Gatlin, Nebraska to investigate the event of the first movie, I guess, where the kids of the town killed all their parents. The place is crawling with reporters and cops digging up bodies. Some of the corn cult kids are still milling around wondering what to do now that their leader Isaac has been killed, one of the few direct references to the prior film in this very loose sequel. No worry, a new kid named Micah appears and you know he'll be the new leader because while everyone else is dressed in coveralls, he is dressed in all black like Johnny Cash or an evil preacher. Micah gets sucked into the corn and down into Hell, I guess, in the movie's one CGI sequence where he is pulled apart into component molecules which are all combined with evil black molecules and then reassembled and shat back out into the cornfield. Does this mean he is now the embodiment of He Who Walks Behind the Rows? It also seems to have the side effect of locking his voice on maximum volume because he yells all of his lines for the rest of the movie.
Knox has a lot going on too. He's a single dad who has dragged his rebellious son along on this job. Knox starts romancing the owner of the local bed & breakfast (Rosalind Allen, SeaQuest) while his son starts seeing one of the corn girls and is being groomed to become a cultie. This family drama could probably take up the whole movie even without the horror angle.
There's an old lady who says she used to live in Gatlin but got out when she saw which way the winds were blowing. Now she's back to dump exposition, or fill in the back story for the reporters. Once that's done she's of no use so it's time for her to die. For some reason her house is jacked up on hydraulic lifts, like maybe when she moved back to town she moved her house with her? She's under the house when the corn kids show up and they kick the legs out, dropping the house on her. She cries "What a world" as the house settles on her with her legs sticking out in one of the most direct Oz lifts I've seen. What's worse, her twin sister (same actress) shows up later to say "you killed my sister!" in a continuation of the reference, I guess? But sis is in a wheelchair and rolls into traffic where a bus catapults her through the front of a diner. Maybe the actress just wanted to die twice?
Micah visits a local church sermon and uses a voodoo doll to make one of the church goers bleed from the face until he dies, then tells the congregation that he's taking over the town. Wait, if the original massacre in Gatlin just happened not long ago, and it was a ghost town except for the corn cult, then when did a church full of people (and the main girl's B&B) get established?
Knox visits a local doctor and they figure out that the corn 'round these parts has some sort of disease that may be controlling the kids' minds. After Knox leaves, the kids break into the Doctor's office and kill him with a bunch of syringes. Knox then runs into an Indian wise man (remember when every movie had those?) and they find some cave paintings explaining that this whole mess started when the parents of the town started neglecting their crops so the kids didn't have enough to eat, so the kids killed the parents so they could take over the farms, I guess? Knox and the Indian get tied up in a cornfield so they can be run over by a combine or some equally lethal piece of farm equipment. They escape and throw Micah underneath, who morphs into some kind of death metal album cover demon. The demon explodes, possibly He Who Walks leaving Micah's body, leaving poor Micah behind to get eaten up by the machine.
If the first movie was a poor adaption of a short story, this is an even worse sequel. But this was in the era when they had a lot of space on the shelves to fill so stuff got made that probably didn't need to.
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) Trailer
All I can say is, this movie is the apex of the series for me, and remains so on a rewatch. It's the only installment that takes a stab at continuity, it rewrites continuity, and it's actually a franchise installment that's about the concept of franchising, as the corn kids go to the 'hood to set up a new cult and spread the word. It also seems to have a bigger budget with more locations, more effects and more gore than the first two.
We start off in a cornfield as a father chases his two boys. The younger boy, Eli, seems brighter and takes care of the older one, Joshua, and I wonder if we're getting into sort of a George & Lenny situation. Eli goes to a scarecrow and pulls a corn bible out of it, and a suitcase. He says dad will never get his hands on the suitcase and he uses the bible to summon the power of the corn. Dad gets wrapped up in corn vines, his eyes and mouth stitched shut and finally crucified.
Then there's a smash cut to the city of Chicago, and a voice over explaining that a foster care agency has placed Eli and Joshua with a family in the city. No mention of what else is happening in Gatlin or the rest of the corn kids. The Porter family welcomes the boys despite their oddities. Soon they are going to an inner city school where their Amish garb is the source of ridicule, but they are befriended by a girl and her brother. Soon Joshua is dressing like a local and playing street basketball. Eli is concerned that his brother is losing the faith.
Eli asks what's behind the fence at the back of the house: just a giant abandoned warehouse with a dirt floor, perfect for growing a new cornfield with his suitcase full of magic corn. Mr. Porter is a stock trader who deals in among other things, corn futures. He is so impressed with Eli's fast growing, bug & disease resistant crop, he overlooks his wife's complaints about her dead rose garden on the fence.
There is a priest at the boys' school whose sermon is interrupted by Eli a few times. He grows more agitated at Eli's antics and concerned that Eli seems to be developing a following among the students. Worse, the priest starts having nightmares of life in Gatlin, consisting of clips from the first two movies of mobs of corn kids killing the town elders. I think the implication is that Eli was among all those mobs. Soon the priest is spitting up blood and cockroaches.
The last third of the movie has Eli on a spree killing anyone who gets in his way. An old bum wanders near his cornfield and gets his head ripped off by the corn. His head is planted in the cornfield and stays alive somehow? Mrs. Porter interferes in Eli's corn and gets killed rather ingloriously. They rush through her funeral and never mention her again. Eli gets new powers like either teleporting or at least causing people to hallucinate him, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and he can make things happen by drawing them, reminding us of the girl in the first movie who could at least draw future events if not cause them.
Joshua turns against his brother and returns briefly to Gatlin to retrieve Eli's corn bible, only to see his friend get ripped apart by living corn. Then he goes back to Chicago for the finale. Eli now has dozens of high school cult members living in the warehouse cornfield (including an uncredited Charlize Theron as an extra). He finally summons He Who Walks Behind the Rows who appears as a giant monster like something out of John Carpenter's The Thing. He has also put Joshua's girlfriend in a trance with his magic corn. In one of the best shots, He Who Walks picks her up and she is literally a Barbie doll in the hands of the puppet monster. Mr. Porter arrives to tell Eli that he is going to be shipping Eli's special strain of corn worldwide to make great profits, and Eli kills him with a sickle or something. Oh, Porter had previously received evidence from Gatlin via the foster service that Eli had been a child for decades and had appeared in newspaper headlines for years in Gatlin every time there was a massacre. Hmm.
Eli and Joshua shoot magic bolts of energy at each other, Eli and He Who Walks are killed I think. And then we see the cliffhanger ending where men in Germany trade a crate of Eli's strain. This franchise is going global, it would seem.
I'm not saying this is a good movie, but it is packed with bizarre stuff. Eli, for a kid actor, does a better job than the last 2 cult leaders at chewing the scenery, but playing it subtle at times. This movie has more magic and crazy deaths than the last two movies combined.
Body Parts (1991) Trailer
I remember the trailer on TV when I was a kid and remember the movie being pretty disturbing. I haven't seen it since the 90s and I had to order it on Laserdisc to see it again ($7 vs $20 on vhs or dvd).
Bill Crushank (Jeff Fahey) plays a prison counselor who wants to make a difference in people's lives. He wonders why some people have an evil streak. He soon has bigger worries when a freak car accident causes his right arm to be lopped off. Luckily his local hospital is working on a new procedure, grafting whole limbs from donors onto accident victims. Soon Bill has a new arm, goes through rehab and is good as new.
He starts having nightmares and mood swings of unexpected anger. He finds out during a prison visit that his new arm bears a tattoo that "they only give out on death row." He runs the prints and finds his limb belonged to Charley Fletcher, a serial killer who has murdered more than 20 people and was put to death. Bill confronts Dr. Webb, the genius behind the procedure who assures him that an arm can't control him.
Bill steals her files to find out if there were any other recipients of Charley's limbs. First he finds the great Brad Dourif as a painter who got the other arm. He used to paint landscapes and now he paints the same nightmares Bill has been having, images of Charley murdering people. Dourif doesn't care, his new paitings are selling like hotcakes. Bill then tracks down a guy who got Charley's legs, who is just happy to walk again. He tells Bill to relax.
Bill's home life deteriorates as no one will believe him. Soon we find out that the painter has been murdered and his arm torn off. The leg guy is next. Finally Bill finds himself being chased by ol' Charley himself! I guess his head was donated onto a heathly body? So it seems they faked his execution and lopped off his limbs just to see if this donor tech worked. Now Dr. Webb is helping Charley reassmble himself. Why ask why? Because they can, and because it's messed up.
I felt like every part of this movie was rushed and actually might have been better if they'd spent more time on it. Jeff Fahey can be kind of a bad actor at times and other times pretty good, it depends on the movie. He's okay here. Kim Delaney as his wife is better. Lindsay Duncan as Dr. Webb is appropriatey amoral. Interesting concept.
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