Sometimes you just need to stop making sequels, especially to movies no one is asking for a sequel to. But in 1996, they did it again with a THIRD sequel to the King “classic” CHILDREN OF THE CORN. This latest installment, CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: The Gathering, is not only the fourth in the series, the second to go straight to video, but is also the first time Naomi Watts received top billing. And she is the BEST thing in the movie.

God knows it isn’t the story, the script, the directing, or the acting by most of the other cast.

Let’s see if I can sum this one up relatively quickly.

Grace Rhodes (Watts), has returned to Grand Island, Nebraska (I’ve been to Nebraska; it’s about the most landlocked state you can find, there are no islands there) to care for her agoraphobic mother, played by Karen Black. Also, Grace’s two MUCH younger siblings, James and Margaret.

While in town, Grace takes her old job working for the local doctor, when one night soon after her arrival, all the kids in Grand Island suddenly come down with a mysterious fever. The fever quickly dissipates all at once across the board but the next day the kids all start to behave even weirder than kids growing up in a place called Grand ISLAND, Nebraska would probably act. For one, they stop answering to their names and instead insist their names are something else, the names of former, now dead, kids from the area.

And when Grace runs a blood test on her siblings, the results she get confuse her: they show there are traces of dead and decaying blood in their systems. But she never gets a chance to run the test again because by this point, bodies start to pile up or local residents turn up missing. One of the fathers has been suspected of killing his wife, when in reality it was his young son Marcus, under the influence of an evil child preacher whose soul was given to the dark one decades earlier before the townsfolk dragged him to a corn field and burned him alive. It is suggested in several places online that this may be the origin of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, but those six words are never spoken in this film, so I can’t say for sure.

Turns out the child preacher was abandoned by his mother, left to be raised by traveling preachers, which the boy turned out to have a knack for and people showed up in droves to see the child preacher. But, over fear of losing their golden goose, the rest of the troupe begin to feed him mercury in order to stunt his growth and keep him looking like a child. And now, Grace deduces, after seeing the reaction Margaret had to Mercurochrome, Mercury must be the way to finally defeat this evil.

She and the local father with the dead wife go to the farm where the boy was originally killed, where just previously, he had all the other kids in town spilling their blood into a pool of water, which somehow allowed him to be resurrected.

He was brought by when Margaret–another child abandoned by her mother (Grace is her real mother, not Karen Black, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out early on)–gives herself over to him. But once doused with a whole vat full of mercury, then knocked backward into a tub of the stuff, the evil child preacher dissolves into mush, and Grace is able to pull her daughter back out of the water and revive her.

I don’t feel the least bit bad about spoiling any of this because I really see it as a serve I’m doing for you, the reader. Because there’s NO reason for you to sit through these 86 minutes like I did. And I had to do part of it twice because, once the credits started rolling, I had to backtrack and watch about 20 minutes of it again, I was so sure I’d missed a big part of the climax.

But upon a second watch, I can say with all surety, no, I missed nothing. The climax was what it was, and what it was was quick, BORING, and painless.

Sure, Grace wins, but you knew she would anyway, so who cares?

This is a boring movie that goes nowhere quickly while at the same time taking its sweet time getting there. I’m not saying it’s totally worthless–Naomi Watts is really good here–but with a little retooling, this could have been a middling horror film on its own, without forcing the inconsequential Children of the Corn nonsense into it.

Co-written by first time writer/director Greg Spence (The Prophecy II) with Stephen Berger (The Cold Equations), CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV: The Gathering is by no means required viewing, not as a horror movie, not as a Stephen King-related movie, and not even as a Children of the Corn movie. The corn is an afterthought here, a plot device that, previously, had meant everything to the mythology. Here, though, it’s been tossed aside, mentioned in passing, and the ONLY holdover we have from any of the previous movies is the idea of kids killing their own parents. Congratulations Lyle and Eric Menendez, this means you qualify as Children of the Corn.

The effects here are goofy, the tension is nonexistent, and if that was a climax to a horror film, my name is Professor Mergatroid Highbottoms (that’s not my name and that was NOT a climax).

The most I can hope for at this point is that the next film in the series is only half as badly done as this one. But let’s be real, so far none of these sequels have been worth much. I fully expect that trend to continue throughout the entire Children of the Corn series of movies. What’re you gonna do?


King on Film
1976-1992 (Carrie to Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice)
The Dark Half (1993)
The Tommyknockers (1993)
Needful Things (1993)
The Stand (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
The Mangler (1995)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)

The Langoliers (1995)

Sometimes They Comes Back … Again (1995)