Having steadily improved through its first three installments, the Stephen King-inspired film series CHILDREN OF THE CORN takes a giant step back with this hackneyed entry, THE GATHERING.
College student Grace Rhodes (Naomi Watts) returns to her hometown of Grand Island, Nebraska to take care of her mother, June (Karen Black), who is raising Grace's younger sister and brother, Margaret (Jamie Renee Smith) and James (Mark Salling). June has been acting disturbed, as a result of
being tormented by nightmares of a disfigured young boy named Josiah (Brandon Kleyla). As her visions foreshadowed, Josiah's spirit returns to life and kills a drifter. Meanwhile, at her job assisting Dr. Rob Larson (William Wingdom), Grace is unnerved by the severe, fever-like illness that seems
to be sweeping the town's children. It's not long before the youngsters are behaving strangely and calling themselves by new, biblical names, while several local adults (including Dr. Larson) meet violent deaths.
Soon Grace--along with Donald Atkins (Brent Jennings), whose son is one of those afflicted--discovers that the "children of the corn" are under the sway of Josiah's spirit. It turns out that Josiah was a youthful traveling preacher with a demonic heart who was killed decades before by townspeople;
he now seeks to be reborn in a ritual performed by the children, in which Margaret will be a sacrifice. With Donald's help, Grace rescues Margaret and destroys Josiah's ghost, restoring the youngsters to normal.
Eschewing any connection to the previous CHILDREN OF THE CORN films or King's original story, director and co-writer Greg Spence unfolds a tired tale of kiddy cultdom that just happens to be set among the cornfields of Nebraska (even though the story's Gothic religious underpinnings would seem
more at home in the deep South). Overall, the film settles for genre cliches instead of any genuinely imaginative twists. A couple of gory jolts aside, the scares are predictable, as are the characters and plotting. Even the scenes of young children undergoing seizures and losing their teeth are
more nauseating than frightening. Given such material, the performances can't rate high: Watts, so fetching as the sidekick in TANK GIRL (1994), is appealing but given little to do except go through the motions; Black gives her typical mannered, eccentric performance; and Kleyla brings no
particular malice to the pint-sized villain. (Graphic violence, adult situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: R
- Review: Having steadily improved through its first three installments, the Stephen King-inspired film series CHILDREN OF THE CORN takes a giant step back with this hackneyed entry, THE GATHERING. College student Grace Rhodes (Naomi Watts) returns to her hometown… (more)