Truth be told, the original Children of the Corn is a mixed bag. Based on a Stephen King short story, the movie deviated significantly from its source material. Still there are some genuinely creepy moments and a few jumps. Throw in a bit of nostalgia and Children of the Corn deserves some guilty pleasure status. Like the Hellraiser franchise, however, Children of the Corn has inexplicably spawned a never-ending assembly line of straight-to-video sequels. Unbelievably, Children of the Corn: Runaway marks the tenth entry in the series. To date, one critic has weighed in on this one at Rotten Tomatoes.
Years ago, the specter of a figure known as He Who Walks Behind the Rows captivated rural Gatlin’s children. As part of a ritualistic massacre, they murdered everyone over 18 years of age. Now an adult Ruth has escaped Gatlin and her past with her son, Aaron. Thirteen years later, Ruth and Aaron live on the roads, travelling from town to town. Haunted by her past, Ruth tries to settle in another small town, Lincoln, to give Aaron a chance at a normal life. But when a young girl in a bright yellow dress arrives, Ruth fears that “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” has finally found her.
Runaway Somewhat of a Technical Improvement for the Franchise
For the tenth movie in a straight-to-video horror franchise, Runaway is a surprisingly competent film on most technical levels. Certainly, it’s a huge step up from recent Children of the Corn sequels. It’s also a much better effort than the recent Hellraiser: Judgment. Both the cinematography and picture quality are well-done for a low-budget horror film. Director John Gulager films the action and violence clearly with no shaky cam anywhere to be seen. There are some nice long camera shots of desolate highways that emphasize Ruth’s isolation.
For the tenth film in a straight-to-video horror franchise, Runaway is a surprisingly competent film on most technical levels.
All of the performances in Runaway are similarly competent. No one is going to be blown away by the acting. Nonetheless, like the rest of the movie, it’s far better than what you typically find at this stage of a franchise. Marci Miller and Jake Ryan Scott both carry themselves quite well in the lead roles. And Mary Kathryn Bryant also acquits herself well as a local waitress who befriends mother and son. Sara Moore, billed only as “Pretty Girl”, stands in for “He Who Walks Behind the Rows“. Similar to the original film, she offers as much menace as a child can reasonably offer.
Runaway An Ambitious Sequel That Still Fails to Deliver
What’s most surprising about Gulager’s Runaway is that’s actually kind of an ambitious sequel. That is, Joel Soisson’s screenplay eschews most of the narrative trappings of past Children of the Corn entries. At least there’s some attempt here to take a different path. Much of Runaway focuses on Ruth’s trauma of surviving the Gatlin cult. Specifically, Gulager uses hallucinations to create doubt about what’s transpiring on screen. The approach works early on as it adds some element of mystery. While it’s an ambitious direction, poor pacing, a lack of scares, and convoluted twist undermine Runaway. Very little happens in the film’s first 45 minutes. And on more than one occasion the story veers off in pointless directions.
While its an ambitious direction, poor pacing, a lack of scares, and convoluted twist undermine Runaway.
Aside from one shock at the end, Runaway lacks much in the way of scares. In place of thrills and jumps, Gulager provides an abundance of blood on the screen. However, the film’s explicit violence is unlikely to sway gorehounds as much of the bloodletting is filmed with average CGI effects. Budgetary constraints limit any real creativity in the staging of the death scenes. There are a couple of grisly moments that are pretty satisfying but probably not enough for hardcore horror fans.
Runaway Better Than It Deserved To Be
All in all, Children of the Corn: Runaway is much better than it had any right to be as the tenth film in a straight-to-video horror franchise. There’s a bit of a midnight movie vibe to the sequel that, along with competent filmmaking, elevates above all of the other sequels. No one asked for any of the sequels to Children of the Corn, but this entry probably deserved to be considered the best one since the original. It’s not likely to convince anyone to make another sequel but Runaway may offer horror fans a decent low-budget option for late-night viewing.