The Children of the Corn franchise has been suffering as long as it has been a franchise. The first movie has become a cult favorite, but definitely has its noticeable flaws. The sequels began an immediate downward spiral, with a few entries getting by on fun, quirky B-Movie charm. Most of them fell into a sense of sameness and none of them really did much of anything with the idea, other than rehash the general concept.
In the ‘90s, Dimension obtained the property and started churning out straight-to-video sequels left and right. It was pretty much guaranteed that if you got a new Hellraiser, you’d be getting another Children of the Corn around the same time. And that’s a trend that amazingly still continues to this day.
Going into Runaway, I was hesitant, I’ll admit. It’s no secret that the franchise has seen a lot of letdowns and the most recent prior to this one, Genesis, was the worst of the bunch. Yet, there was at least some semblance of hope, especially when Jon Gulager was announced as director. It’s hard not to hear his name associated with Children of the Corn and imagine what on earth that take would look like.
Luckily, it actually looks pretty decent. Runaway, at the very least, gets major points for being the first movie in forever to actually do something interesting with this concept. There are callbacks to the original, to the source material. This feels at its core like a Children of the Corn movie, but at the same time goes off in a completely different direction—but one that’s actually a very smart take for this franchise.
Runaway deals with a woman who was once a member of the child cult of Gatlin, Nebraska. She was a child of the corn, but she escaped when she got pregnant, burning the field and leaving her fellow cultists to die. This has haunted her for years and now has a thirteen-year-old child. The relationship between the two of them is actually engaging, similar to Halloween H20 except somewhat more tragic because this really is a kid who shouldn’t feel compelled to look after his mother, he should be going to school, he shouldn’t be homeless.
One of the things I’m most surprised to see this sequel do is to actually see the repercussions of this lifestyle. Even if it’s necessary, it takes a serious toll. Ruth is a young mother not always doing her best and the film is never afraid to shy away from that.
Many of the Children of the Corn sequels were actually light on kills and action and this one isn’t really that different. The only major difference is that this time the character drama is actually interesting and worth following.
When the children do show up, there are great homages to the original, such as The Blue Man and a sequence that seriously echoes the original’s diner massacre. For the most part, though, there’s one little girl central to the killings and she borders on effectively creepy and, well, just kind of there. It varies from scene to scene.
The only real issue, especially when it comes down to the children themselves, is that the movie falls way too heavily into the DTV-era Dimension trope of “is this a hallucination or is this really happening?” in the second half. This is an issue that has famously plagued the Hellraiser sequels as well. Whereas Runaway keeps the child-themed hallucinations sparse for the first half in order to fully establish its characters, these things run rampant in the second half and the feature as a whole ultimately suffers for it.
Still, Gulager’s more than competent as a director and makes this look like a far more expensive movie than it actually is. Marci Miller, most recognizable to horror fans for her role in Anthony DiBlasi’s Most Likely to Die, really does shine in the genuine character moments. Jake Ryan Scott shows promise as her son.
Overall, this is a movie that has some good ideas even if it doesn’t always stick the landing. It really shines in its dramatic moments and above all deserves credit for trying to do something legitimately interesting and innovative with this franchise on its tenth entry. Children of the Corn: Runaway is now available on home video.
WICKED RATING: 6/10