Growing in the Ghetto
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest
We're three films into the Children of the Corn series, and after a second outing that actually wasn't that terrible (at least in comparison to the seriously low bar set by the 1984 original) we're back on the downward slope for this series. We've long since used up all the material available in the Stephen KingRising to fame with the release of his first book, Carrie, Stephen King is one of the most prolific, and most successful, American authors (in any genre, not just horror). short story and the films are just inventing stuff whole cloth. How else can you explain the weird places this third film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, ends up?
When I went through and tried to watch this whole series back years and years ago, I made it three films in before I had to stop. This is a series that, in three films, got so bad that I just couldn't continue any further (of note, that won't happen this time as I'll force myself to choke down this whole series for the sake of this website). This film not only is bad but it's also stupid, going to such a low point that it really doesn't feel like the film has anywhere else to go. It's hit rock bottom, so what's the point of going further? How bad does it get, you might be wondering? Corn Kaiju. I'm not kidding.
But before we get to that we first have to meet Eli Porter (Daniel Cerny) and his older brother Joshua (Ron Melendez). Joshua and Eli (the younger of which, as it's revealed, was adopted) escape an abusive father (Eli, who secretly had powers granted to him by He Who Walks Behind the Rows, the evil pagan corn god of this series, handles the father by turning him into a scarecrow). They're shipped off to Chicago by Child Services (without any explanation about why Kansas CPS is sending kids to live in Chicago, IL). Joshua is happy with this move but Eli is less than thrilled.
Still, both manage to make the most of it, each in their own way. Joshua befriends the neighbor twins, Malcolm Morrow (Jon Clair) and sister Maria (Maria Elkman), playing basketball with the two of them and becoming a (very white) addition to this inner city friend group. Eli, meanwhile, plants corn kernels he brought with him from Gatlin and starts praying to his god. Soon he's building a flock from his fellow students and finding a way to spread the "good" word far and wide. But He Who Walks Between the Rows is a malicious god, and Eli loved to kill in his name. It will be up to Joshua to save Chicago, and the world, from Eli's evil gospel.
Up front, for much of the run time of this film there's really nothing to this movie we haven't seen before. Eli plays the evil child preacher shtick, which we've already seen before in the first film of this series (and, to a lesser extent, the second film as well). All of the kills are just as weird and ridiculous as in the previous movies, and the powers of this evil god are just as nebulous and unexplained as they've always been. This film doesn't really do much of anything new with the series beyond transplanting the series to the urban jungle.
I have a theory about this, actually. When a slasher series starts running out of steam it will go to (a) the "ghetto" and (b) space. You can see this in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason X, or Leprechaun 4: In Space and Leprechaun in the Hood (as just two sets of examples). You can always tell a horror series is running out of ideas when the big innovation is, "let's do all this again, but this time on the streets!" and we've already reached that point with Children of the Corn.
Part of the problem is, yes, the lack of creativity (even kill is pretty much expected, right up to the climax of the film which, admittedly, does get pretty bonkers), but the real issue is the acting. This was the first film in the series that didn't even get a limited theatrical release and this, naturally, resulted in a dip in quality. As such the film couldn't afford even decent B-level actors so it had to go with whatever it could get and the results are pretty awful, with even the first film in the series faring well by comparison.
The worst offender is Eli's actor, Cerny. While he can handle the creepy kid aspects, with a naturally disturbing smile, he's very bad at acting evil. Most of the time he leans too hard into the performance making it vastly more comedic than scary. Not that Joshua's actor, Melendez, is much better; where Eli is too big and broad, Joshua comes across like a blank void, a barely there character that exists more to fill a hero role than to be an actual person in any meaningful way. He exists and that's the best that can be said about him in any capacity.
But the biggest, weirdest, and worst thing about this film is absolutely the climax of the movie. Joshua, having brought back Eli's evil bible from Gatlin (a McGuffin never mentioned before in the previous movies), uses the book to kill Eli (stabbing both at the same time with a sickle). This causes Eli to sink into the ground giving birth to a manifestation of He Who Walks Between the Rows and that thing is a giant corn kaiju. It looks like a mutated naked mole rat, grown to three stories tall, and it comes out of absolutely nowhere. Don't get me wrong, it's the first creative decision the movie has made up to this point, but it's also ridiculous, stupid, and not in the least bit scary. If they wanted me invested in the film this was absolutely not the way to do it.
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest is nothing short of an absolute fiasco. It has bad writing, bad acting, and so many other bad decisions it makes you wonder what the producers were thinking when they made the film. Dimension, the studio behind this movie (along with the second film and most of the sequels to come) was right about one decision they made: this film didn't belong in theaters at all. Do yourself a favor and skip this film as I doubt it'll have any bearing on future installments at all.