Out of all Stephen King adaptations, I’m not sure why Children of the Corn is the franchise with the most sequels under its belt. Don’t get me wrong, I love the first few movies (and the excellent short story that started it all), but there’s only so much mileage you can get out of a child-cult going on murderous rampages before things get stale. Nevertheless, John Gulager, director of the incredibly entertaining Feast, was chosen to helm the tenth entry in this long-lived saga in an attempt to keep things fresh, with mixed results.
Children of the Corn: Runaway stars Marci Miller and Jake Ryan Scott as Ruth and Aaron, a mother and son who’ve been on the run for years after escaping the original film’s murderous cult. After becoming stranded in a small town, Ruth attempts to start a new life with her son, though the influence of He Who Walks Behind the Rows doesn’t seem to be far behind.
Despite being yet another direct-to-video sequel, I’ve got to hand it to Gulager for making the most of a relatively limited budget. Were it not for a few awkward shots and death sequences, the cinematography is entirely theater-worthy. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the film’s muddled script and lack of scares.
Runaway actually starts out with a genuinely compelling narrative, as the prospect of a single mother trying to protect her son from the horrors that raised her sounds like one hell of a premise. While the film does at least try to acknowledge the deeper emotional aspects of the story, the end result feels rather boring. The characters and their motivations aren’t quite engaging enough for the film to work dramatically, and the horror elements are painfully misused.
In all honesty, the movie wouldn’t be that different if someone were to edit out all the Children of the Corn connections, leaving us with a lackluster drama about a troubled single mom trying to get by in an unforgiving rural-American town. The supposedly scary elements from the previous films seem incidental here, as random deaths pepper the script with little to no consequences until the very end.
There are still some worthwhile aspects to Runaway, however, as Miller and Scott are an extremely convincing mother-son duo, and their chemistry helps to remedy the script’s flaws. Performances aside, a few of the deaths are also quite entertaining, if lacking in the creativity department. The film also managed to build up some decent atmosphere, as the dusty Oklahoma town the protagonists are stranded in occasionally feels almost tangible.
Ultimately, Children of the Corn: Runaway could have been a legitimately interesting character piece featuring some familiar bite-sized antagonists, but regrettably squanders its potential on a shallow script, despite some of Gulager’s trademarked flare. Remarkably, this isn’t the worst sequel in the series, but it won’t be revitalizing the franchise anytime soon. Unless you’re a diehard worshipper of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, I’d give this one a pass.
Children of the Corn: Runaway is available now on Blu-Ray and VOD!