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Children of the Corn: Runaway (Movie Review)

Children of the Corn: Runaway (Movie Review)
03.20.2018by: Cody Hamman
7 10

PLOT: A former member of an adult-killing cult fears her past may be catching up with her and her young son.

REVIEW: The rights to the CHILDREN OF THE CORN franchise have long been in the hands of Dimension Films, who hold on to those rights by occasionally producing a sequel. If they go too long without making a new film, they lose the rights. A couple times over the years, they've gotten very close to the point when the rights will lapse due to inactivity, and at those times they've rushed a new sequel into production, throwing it together quickly and getting it shot on a budget of just a couple hundred thousand dollars. That's how we've gotten the latest installment in the long-running series, CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY, which was just released on DVD (with Lionsgate handling the distribution for Dimension) earlier this week.

The tenth CHILDREN OF THE CORN film if you count the 2009 Syfy remake (and since most of these movies aren't really connected to each other, you might as well), RUNAWAY was directed by John Gulager from a screenplay by Joel Soisson, and it begins with a girl named Ruth doing what the characters at the end of the first film did - she sets fire to the cornfields of Gatlin, Nebraska and the demonic god (known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows) that lurks within. She was a "child of the corn" herself but turned against He Who Walks Behind the Rows because all of her friends and the boy she loved had gotten too old by their cult's standards and had to walk off into the field to be claimed by their god.

The pregnant Ruth then hits the road, the runaway of the title. Jump ahead thirteen years and Ruth (Marci Miller) is still leading a nomadic lifestyle, living in her truck with her son Aaron (Jake Ryan Scott), working whatever jobs she can get and selling scrap metal to survive. Aaron is tired of all this and wants to have a regular life. A home. A school to go to.

RUNAWAY spends a long time delving into mother and son's life on the road, showing their struggle to survive. While there are hints of bad things to come when Ruth has flashbacks and ominous hallucinations, it mostly plays like a low-key character study. I was surprised by this, but I was also fascinated - partly because these things were being filmed in some beautiful rural Oklahoma locations, and partly because it made me very intrigued to see just how this drama was going to lapse into the horror we've come to expect from a CHILDREN OF THE CORN movie.

Horror enters the picture in the form of a little girl in a yellow dress; Sara Moore credited as Pretty Girl. When their truck is put in a police impound because Ruth doesn't have license or registration, she and Aaron are stranded in a small town called Luther... and soon this "Pretty Girl" is seen roaming around the town, stalking Ruth, possibly trying to lure Aaron away from his mom, and killing people.

But even after Pretty Girl starts killing, the movie prefers to focus on Ruth's experience in Luther. She's gets a job working as a mechanic for a man named Carl (Lynn Andrews III), who also develops feelings for her. Since Ruth is white and Carl is black, their closeness doesn't sit well with the racists in town, like Diana Ayala Goldner's Mrs. Dawkins. Ruth also has a lot of interactions with diner waitress Sarah (Mary Kathryn Bryant) during her meal breaks, and there is some time spent on other diner regulars, like the legendary Clu Gulager (father of the director) as a grumpy dude called Crusty.

I was invested in seeing how all of this was going to turn out, but I'm sure there are going to be a lot of viewers who are going to find RUNAWAY's character drama a slog to get through. The actors handle that drama very well, though. Miller especially has to carry a lot of the film on her shoulders, and she proves to be fully capable of doing so. She does a really great job; this was the first time I've seen her in anything and I was impressed.

I was also impressed by the completely unexpected stylistic flourishes Gulager added to the film. This was made so quickly and so cheaply, I didn't expect it to have any tricks on display, but in addition to the movie looking great in general, Gulager also found the time to put in special touches like switching up the film stock from time to time. There's also a hallucination sequence that makes the greatest use of CGI blood that I've ever seen: slow motion camera moves around moments frozen in time as blood erupts from the wounds of people getting hacked into by homicidal children. My jaw dropped when I saw that in this rushed cheapie.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY was much different from what I was expecting. It's much more serious, quiet, and low-key. I was expecting cheesy killer kid shenanigans, and instead got a film that relied on the acting of its star to a surprising degree. It's a much better movie than I expected it to be. I'm a devoted CHILDREN OF THE CORN fan, even when the sequels have been bad I've still enjoyed them. This one wasn't bad.

I am concerned that this could be the last film of the franchise, and not just because of Dimension's recent troubles. Stephen King, writer of the original short story that inspired the series, has never been a fan of these movies, and last year he filed to get the rights back to the property. No matter what, CHILDREN OF THE CORN will officially be back in King's hands as of September 1, 2018. Anyone who wants to make a movie based on this concept from now on will have to make a new deal with King... so this probably, at least, marks the end of the era when we could expect to see new CORN sequels on a somewhat regular basis.

If it ends here, it ends with a movie that's better than most of the films that preceded it.

Extra Tidbit: CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY is now available on DVD, courtesy of Lionsgate.

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