Corn Exports, Patent Corn Magic Bibles, and Basketball: Is Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) Worth It?

This is part of the Horrorathon for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). 

The “move over Jason and Freddie!” with Freddy Krueger’s name misspelled really says it all!

From IMDb: Two brothers connected to the murderous children’s cult of Gatlin, Nebraska are taken to Chicago by an adoptive couple.

This is the first of many (many!) straight to video entries in this series, but I can’t hide the fact I’m more than a little excited to see it set in my city Chicago! Bring on those repetitive establishing shots to help us forget this is definitely on a soundstage!

Recap:

We begin the movie on the outskirts of Gatlin, Nebraska. A drunk man is chasing his teenage son with a scythe in the cornfields which definitely seems to give the teenager the home field advantage in this particular situation. The teenager manages to get away, but his little brother Eli uses some good ole’ corn magic with his Patent Corn Magic Bible to psychically order the corn to tie his father up, rip one of his arms off, crucify him on a cross that just pops up from the dirt (the corn has multiple props now?!), and sew his eyes and mouth shut which seems a tad excessive. Let’s just stick with one method of torture and death.

Patent Corn Magic Bible

The brothers, Joshua and Eli, make a run for it with Joshua not realizing what happened to their father. We then meet William and Alice, a couple from Chicago who have decided to adopt the brothers.

From left to right: William, Alice, Samantha (the social worker who sets them up together), Eli, and Joshua

Just call this setup the Osmonds because Eli & Joshua are a lil bit country and William and Alice are a lil bit rock ‘n’ roll.

They bring the boys home and say “let’s eat” and I knew in my heart they would serve thick pizza because it is set in Chicago and they are introducing two people to the city. But this is where it gets utterly predictably and baffling at the same time, because William suggests they “fold the pizza” to eat it?!

Eli is just as offended as I am, but not because William is “folding” what is clearly a non-foldable pizza. Eli is upset there is no grace so he offers one that includes such non-ominous phrases as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” and “striking down infidels.” So that’s cool.

They go out to the backyard, and Eli is frustrated they aren’t growing corn like the social worker told them they were – as if Eli & Joshua made the decision of who to get fostered by. William corrects Eli and says “he sells corn” on the stock exchange. Get ready for the best Chekhov’s Gun with that little kernel of wisdom!

Fortunately, William and Alice live next to a conveniently located abandoned factory perfect for growing evil magic corn. They are also located next to neighbors Maria and Malcolm, who ask Joshua why he’s dressed like he’s Amish. In turn, Joshua asks Malcolm why his hat is backwards. We are about one piece of dialogue away from the lyrics of “Accidental Racist” at this rate.

“I hope you unnnndddeeerstaannnnddd….”

Then William comes outside and nervously takes Joshua to the side to tell him “not to talk to strangers” even though these are clearly their neighbors and Joshua’s peers. So apparently William is just going for intentional racist at this point.

William: “Oh my God Joshua! You can’t just ask people why their hat is backwards. Sorry, Joshua is with our ‘Out of the Cornfield’ program.”

Alice opens Eli’s suitcase to see a bunch of roaches at first, but of course when she screams and alerts William all he sees is…corn. Beautiful, unblemished corn.

Overnight, Eli sneaks out to plant corn and make ominous promises to He Who Walks Behind the Rows in the conveniently located abandoned warehouse next to his new house.

Likewise, Alice has a terrible nightmare and the corn seems to be whispering to her. Things are not great for Alice.

The next day, Alice takes the boys to a private Catholic school with extras straight out of “90s movie urban casting” complete with switchblades, a propensity for violence, and a passion for basketball and hip hop.

Eli tries to sit next to one young gentleman who tells him, “I wouldn’t sit there…cause I think you gonna try to suck my dick!” So that’s where we are at as a society when this film was released.

We live in a society

In the next scene, Joshua is invited to play basketball and shows a surprising amount of skill as well as interest with joining the “non-He Who Walks Behind the Rows worshippers” in their fun and games. He even starts dressing in the clothes Alice bought them and going by Josh (presumably still Joshua if ya nasty).

Go corn kid go corn kid go!

Meanwhile Eli is growing increasingly recalcitrant to adopt to his new digs and starts sermoning to his corn.

You’ve heard of sermons in the corn, but what about sermons TO the corn?

Eli sneaks some of his magic roaches into the school cafeteria which pretty much goes nowhere? The principal/head priest (priest-a-pal?) ends up almost eating one in his soup, but no one else seems to have any issues or notice roaches in their food so okay. The principal however starts getting flashbacks of the first two movies and losing sleep.

Fearful of Eli and sensing he is to blame for his malaise, he seems to speak against him in his next sermon to the school. Eli is purposefully being disruptive and so the principal makes the mistake of saying, “you want to come up here and talk instead?” Eli is like, “as a matter of fact I do!” and starts brainwashing the other students against the sins of adults.

Meanwhile our social worker Samantha is just now realizing Eli is from the same Gatlin where all the children murdered their parents and just now things to inform the adoptive parents. She doesn’t make it very far.

Meanwhile Joshua reveals Eli is not actually his biological brother. And William reveals he is all about the possibility of selling Eli’s evil magic corn.

“Tell me more about this magical KARE-ORNE you speak of over a warm, half-full beer at lunch time…”

Unfortunately Alice meets an untimely and pretty shocking demise in the cornfields:

One of the amazing practical effects courtesy of genre veteran Screaming Mad George

I was really not expecting that, especially the fourth wall breaking glance.

The movie reiterates Eli is responsible for what just happened with a close up of his newly edited family drawing just in case you couldn’t piece it together!

We see a memorial service for Alice, but fortunately William has something to live for: CORN EXPORTS!

Hallo! Tuck away the fact West Germany is the top country in your back pocket.

Eli is busy getting all his fellow students on the He Who Walks Behind the Rows bandwagon when he’s not Dramatic Chipmunking the principal. And please note I did not edit this clip in anyway:

Eli’s recruitment plan must be working because all the kids besides Joshua, Maria, and Malcolm are dressing like Goths – something we learned must be bad in the last movie.

He has a showdown with the principal. It does not go well for the principal even though he does throw the good book at him in a shot I can’t believe they kept in the film:

To be fair he did give it his best shot as Eli asked him to

Joshua receives a package meant for Alice, and realizes Eli was alive in 1968, with the implication being Eli is the embodiment of He Who Walks Behind the Rows or some kind of supernatural entity associated with Harvest Moons. As my wife said, this movie “stops making visual and narrative sense” around this point so it doesn’t really matter.

Case in point

Before he dies, the principal tells Joshua and Malcolm that they need to destroy Eli’s Patent Corn Magic Bible. Defying time & space, the teens allegedly drive to Gatlin, Nebraska and back to Chicago in a single night to retrieve it while simultaneously neglecting to tell Maria, William, or anyone else that Eli has gone full psycho at this point. Malcolm is killed in the fields by scarecrows who have gone wild.

Eli also murders Maria & Malcolm’s parents as well as William. He gathers his Goth kid acolytes in his corn field to unleash the corn, but Joshua returns with the Patent Corn Magic Bible and vows to destroy it. He’s realized that the Patent Corn Magic Bible is like a horcrux for Eli, and threatens to destroy them both. And despite the fact he is surrounded by murderous corn and murderous acolytes…they just kind of let him and Eli fight to the death?

Like you’re not going to do anything about this even though he’s about to murder your Corn Pope?

Joshua eventually throws the book at Eli who catches it, before double scything them both without a second thought. Killing Eli and stabbing (?) his Patent Corn Magic Bible releases the other children from the corn hypnosis he has them under, including Maria. But it also awakens the kraken aka the weird monster embodiment of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Or whatever you want to call this thing:

The creature manages to off a few children before Joshua and Maria manage to slay it.

But not before they try to sneak in this action figure shot!

It seems the evil has been defeated before it can spread…except oh no…a lone German flag on a dock indicates we are in “West Germany” aka the main evil corn importer from the very explicitly labeled “Corn Export Countries” document we saw William with earlier!

When you need to be a shipping dock in West Germany for a second

Does this mean the next movie will take place in Germany?

Random Notes/Observations:

  • I really wasn’t expecting Malcolm to die and thought the film would finish with him, Maria, and Josh defeating Eli. His death has a quasi-The Thing vibe that once again really showcased the great effects by Screaming Mad George.
  • This entry really had a Sinister 2 vibe to me – maybe the combination of the corn and two brothers ultimately torn apart because of an evil force.
  • The past two films featured Baptist congregations getting their comeuppance from the children, but in this entry the Christian element shifts to Catholicism with the change in setting. No brilliant takeaways but I’ll be curious to see how this trend continues.
  • This movie notably has a then-unknown Charlize Theron as one of Eli’s uncredited acolytes.
  • Whoever put together the DVD decided to name the chapter where Joshua and Maria hook up “Mixing It Up” which is…a choice

Is It Worth It?

This is a tough call. Much like the second film, it would mainly appeal to people looking to laugh at a sometimes earnest, sometimes in on its own joke straight to video horror movie. For gore fans, Screaming Mad George does do an impressive job with effects and makeup on a limited budget – it is nice to see a mid-90s horror movie retain some of the practical effects of classic 80s horror movies, and it is definitely the goriest of the lot so far. I’d recommend this one for people who consider themselves horror movie fans. Anyone else should probably stop at movie one.

One thought on “Corn Exports, Patent Corn Magic Bibles, and Basketball: Is Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) Worth It?

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