Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
Directed by: James D.R. Hickox
Written by: Dode B. Levenson, Matt Greenberg, Stephen King
Starring: Charlize Theron, Daniel Cerny, Jim Metzler, Jon Clair, Mari Morrow, Michael Ensign, Nancy Lee Grahn, Nicholas Brendon, Ron Melendez, Yvette Freeman
CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST (1995)
Directed by James D.R. Hickox
Available on Arrow Video Children of the Corn Trilogy UHD Blu-Ray
Brothers Joshua and Eli are rehomed with foster parents in Chicago after the disappearance of their father in Gatlin. Whilst eldest sibling Joshua begins to fit into his new home and mix with the local kids, younger sibling Eli is keen on making Chicago feel more like his beloved Gatlin in more ways than one…
The third film in the eleven (and counting) film franchise, CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST does a Predator 2 and takes the action from its familiar surroundings and thrusts it into the urban jungle. Gone is the farm equipment and country bumpkin lifestyle the duo are used to. Instead, the main child characters are introduced to a community of races and cultures different to their own, a school that follows Christianity, and a modern, urban scene that is miles away from how they’ve grown up.
Right from the opening credits, the over the top music sets the tone that this movie has moved away from its creepy, isolated roots and is going for a more in-your-face, mainstream style of ominous. It gave me The Omen vibes upon hearing the opening music, except The Omen is a stellar piece of filmmaking and couldn’t be further away from this film. However, aside from the music, there are other similarities between the two: a wicked child, a suspicious guardian, and plenty of deaths! I suppose you could even say there’s a crop connection if you cast your mind back to the motives of Thorn Industries. However, unlike CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE (1992), the death scenes in this film are more focused on the special FX rather than set piece murders that stick in the mind. As blood squirts and gore oozes, CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST does its best to make the audience squirm as limbs are pulled and stretched apart, the malevolent corn once again reaching out to wrap its tentacle-like leaves around any non-believer. Whilst the movie does have a couple of shocking visual moments, most of it falls flat. Perhaps that’s because the story itself is so well trodden, as well as borrowing from other movies, that this effort does little to actually raise its head above the parapet and offer something mind-blowingly different. Even the character of Eli, who’s this film’s preacher, lacks the charisma, conviction or fear that was built up in the other movies to chill me as a viewer though he does a fine job of disturbing those adult characters around him who are wise to his tricks.
What does work within the film is Joshua’s friendships with Malcolm and Maria, and his development from rural to urban kid. We see him actively trying to fit in, whether it’s with his new foster parents, befriending the kids at school or developing a relationship with a girl, even if brother Eli doesn’t approve. Unfortunately, the contrast between the two siblings is not enough to make this film deliver what is needed. For me, Children of the Corn film relies on the fear cultivated by the preacher and disciples of He Who Walks Behind The Rows but CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST seems to fall into generic horror territory that feels quite removed from its roots despite including the corn, the cult kids and the deity being present. I’ll give the film credit that it tries to spice things up with an interesting economical angle of planting corn and making a business out of it, explored in a statement on capitalism and industrialisation, but it’s executed in a way that lacks impact as it seems squirrelled away into the background. As always, the film ends up with the kids and their preacher attempting to wipe out the adult population, and not even a corn monster can turn the fortune of the movie around. (Watch out for an Evil Dead-inspired scene involving Charlize Theron!)
On the surface, CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST feels like a very different Corn film to what we’re used to but weak scare tactics and a lack of tension makes this a dull entry in the trilogy that doesn’t really offer anything substantial in a single watch, unlike the two previous movies. A movie solely for the fans, and even then, I’m not sure it’s one everyone will enjoy.
Though not as loaded as the other discs in the Arrow Video Children of the Corn Trilogy , CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST comes with a selection of special features including:
Two cuts of the film – The disc contains both the R Rated US Cut (1 hour 30 mins 57 seconds) and the Unrated International Cut (1 hour 32 mins 54 seconds). The Unrated International Cut is assembled from the best elements available but some variation in image may be noticeable due to varying sources.
Audio Commentary with critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain – After providing the commentary for CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE, the duo are back with their insightful commentary on CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST, a film that it turns out they love. At least someone does! 😉 Once again, they provide background into the creation of the film with Miramax’s involvement, and how it ended up being made. Having spoken to the producer Scott Stone before the commentary, they’re able to shed light on some aspects of the film and provide plenty of details on the behind-the-scenes of getting this sequel to screen. If you’ve any interest in filmmaking as a business, this is well worth a listen to just for that side of things. Matty and Dave’s commentary is easy to listen to and provides the sort of detail that film fans look for. I might not have been thrilled with the film, but the commentary is a great eye-opener.
Corn in the USA (18 mins) – A new, Arrow exclusive visual essay with author and critic Guy Adams who explores the connections between corn, culture and cinema. There’s some pretty revealing things in Adams’ visual essay as he points out the various things touched upon in the movie, especially the ecological ‘Mother Earth fighting back’ message that seems to be attached to the film. The comments and criticisms seem fairly on point.
Corn in the City (16 mins) – Another Arrow exclusive is this new interview with screenwriter Dode Levenson. In this interview, a passionate Levenson shares his involvement in the movie, and how he was given creative licence with the film so decided to move the setting from Gatlin to the city. He explains how some scenes he wrote didn’t exactly pan out as planned on screen, such as the pipe death scene. He also talks about working with James Hickox, and how they were both young, enthusiastic and looking to impress with their work. Levenson also describes some of the visual scenes such as the ones with Maria’s parents and the cockroaches, and seeing FX master Screaming Mad George’s creation of his Corn Monster.
Before The Urban Harvest – Before deciding on going with Dode Levenson’s screenplay, there were other ideas on where to take the movie. A collection of early treatments are featured, exploring what might have been should the producers have taken the film in a different direction. Displaying 38 pages to read, one describes a trip of a group of kids from the city who encounter Gatlin and He Who Walks Behind The Rows. When they inevitably make their way home, it seems like the corn has followed them to the city too. There’s some interesting ideas here that I think would have worked better than the resulting film.
Stills Gallery – 148 still images from the film shoot to cycle through using the TV remote. There’s some fantastic shots of Screaming Mad George’s special FX and creations of the ‘scarecrows’.