A Severe Lack of Corn, Naomi Watts, and a Contagious Virus: Is Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996) Worth It?

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

Even the children look bored

From IMDb: There isn’t a real synopsis on IMDb because that’s how boring this movie is. Basically children in a small town in Nebraska come down with a supernatural fever that makes them evil. Sadly this entry doesn’t decide to explore the evil corn outbreak in Europe or even return to Chicago.

Recap:

A woman named June has a prolonged nightmare about a strange, injured zombie boy visiting her rural home and then attacking her with a scythe. It includes a slow motion moment of a glass falling in a sink and breaking. Hopefully the aforementioned thrills from the tag line are still on their way…

Her daughter Grace (played by a young Naomi Watts) returns home to Grand Island, Nebraska to help around the house.

Creepy children beware!

Grace has left college to look after her June (who is suffering from agoraphobia and mental illness) and her younger siblings Margaret and James. Margaret is a precious little ballerina who seems to adore her older sister. And then there’s James:

The strange zombie boy from June’s nightmare in the opening is apparently a real zombie boy who wakes up in a barn and kills a drunk man who appears to be stealing well water. I don’t know just go with it.

Grace starts working for the town doctor just as a fever sweeps through all the children in the town. And thus starts one of the most boring sequences I’ve ever seen committed to film: a prolonged montage of filling up ice bathes and putting the town’s children in them.

This is a clip from an over 2 minute sequence

When Grace returns home, she sees the creepy zombie preacher boy in her sister’s room. He then…tries to tiptoe in a scary way I guess?

Things start escalating around town. The creepy zombie boy Josiah murders a boy named Marcus’s mother and her husband Donald ends up being the prime suspect when he finds her body. Josiah then murders a police officer in a corn field but doesn’t even use magical corn to do it?!

Lame

Somehow Donald just runs away from the police and goes on the lamb despite being the prime murder suspect in a small town, while Grace has a nightmare within a nightmare because that is where we are at with exciting ideas in this movie.

Two twin boys murder the town doctor with a gurney equipped with guillotine?

This is what passes for scary in this movie
I have a lot of questions about the purposes of this gurney.

At this point, I realized someone making this film truly believes slow motion = scary atmosphere because we are treated to the same slow motion glass breaking in a sink from the beginning of the movie as well as slow motion dribbling and slow motion Grace asking her sister if she is okay. Unfortunately, June overcomes her agoraphobia when she is really attacked by a creepy evil kid – only to be killed by the creepy zombie boy.

Grace’s childhood friend Mary Anne tries to make her understand something is wrong by pouring a pile of children teeth into Grace’s hand.

Wouldn’t it suffice to just show her the teeth?

Mary Anne tries to say three times this shit is bananas and she is done with this scene, but Grace tells her to “run blood samples” and “look for something chemical” which I’m sure like the guillotine gurney is real behind the scenes medical jargon we’re just not familiar with.

The runaway murder suspect Donald SOMEHOW catches Grace off guard in broad daylight with a shotgun, and demands they visit two creepy elderly “sisters” who live together so they can have storytime.

They reveal that the creepy zombie boy was a boy preacher named Josiah who was abandoned by his mother and physically abused by a group of preachers in a desperate attempt to keep him looking young (and thus earning them money) till he went insane and killed the preachers. They say Josiah is now looking for a new body to reside in.

But plot twist! Josiah was abandoned as a baby by one of these elderly women out of shame. Also plot twist! Margaret is secretly Grace’s daughter who she let June raise as her own out of shame!

It is too late for Mary Anne because Josiah kills her in one of the only actually creepy moments in the film. It has a nice Nightmare on Elm Street dream sequence vibe to it that quickly devolves into straight to video silliness:

Before Mary Anne dies, she does something with “blood” and “chemicals” and Donald and Grace realize mercury can kill the undead Josiah. This is good because the possessed, evil children look bored with themselves at this point:

Donald and Grace manage to destroy Josiah despite the children actually attacking the intruder adults en masse for once. Grace also rescues Margaret from her evil blood baptism in a moment that looks awfully familiar…

Samara is that you?

Things seem to be okay. The children of the town inexplicably return to normal and presumably to their parents like they didn’t just help murder a bunch of adults.

We do get treated to one last “stinger/the killer isn’t dead” when James creepily stares at a cricket before slapping it. I put that in quotes because the acting is so bad I can’t tell whether this is meant to be sinister or just a fake out.

Whatever it doesn’t matter

Random Notes/Analysis:

  • I know some of the child actors in this film continued acting, but most of these kids have a real “I was thrown into this scene because I’m someone’s nibling vibe” that leads to some hilariously bad acting including smirking at inappropriate times when they hit their mark. But at least they are actual children unlike the “30somethings of the corn” in previous films
  • The beginning of this film was surprisingly hard for me. Despite how meh of a film it is, it features a pretty poignant depiction of an adult child dealing with a parent with severe anxiety and mental illness. Fortunately the movie doesn’t dwell on this subplot too long before the scythes start scything but still I thought I’d mention it.
  • This breaks away from the knowingly silly elements and somewhat cohesive tones of the first three, and tries to incorporate more straight-up drama in the horror with the family secrets and tensions
  • We hear some preaching over the radio, but this is the first entry to not feature a church sermon scene. The closest the movie gets to a Christian counterpart to the evil children is when June is seen clutching a rosary, to which Grace comments “we aren’t Catholic” and June says she knows that, indicating it just helps soothe her nerves.

Is It Worth It?

If you need help falling asleep, then this is your movie. Despite a shockingly talented roster of adult actors, this movie is making me appreciate the original trilogy way more. But Eva Mendes is in the next one and it looks vaguely like it is trying to be a slasher so it can’t be that bad right?

One thought on “A Severe Lack of Corn, Naomi Watts, and a Contagious Virus: Is Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996) Worth It?

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