Execrable: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)

Directed by David Price
Written by A. L. Katz, Gilbert Adler
Produced by Scott A. Stone, David G. Stanley, Bill Froehlich, Lawrence Mortorff
Starring Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer, Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Rosalind Allen, Ned Romero, Ed Grady, John Bennes, Wallace Merck, Joe Inscoe, Kellie Bennett, Robert C. Treveiler, Leon Pridgen, Marty Terry, Ted Travelstead, Sean Bridgers, Aubrey Dollar, Kristy Angell, David Hains


Mass murder in an agrarian, Nebraskan town that was clearly committed by a syncretic cult composed of minors attracts the professional attention of a tabloid’s lunky reporter (Knox), who investigates several succeeding deaths and other local intrigues in a nearby community where the unmistakably sinister kids have been transferred and welcomed by its obtuse residents. His snottily hostile teenage son (Scherrer) accompanies him to pad the duration of this garbage by romancing a fetching blond townie (Clark).


Genre hacks Katz and Adler contemporaneously co-scripted episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales from the Crypt, but their screenplay for this sequel to the middling adaptation of Stephen King’s short story doesn’t even meet the low standards of those series. Amorous interludes, messy invultuation, and an underplot concerning environmental crime were interjected into their rehash of King’s physitheistic creeper because they haven’t the imagination to elaborate on his concepts or craft a compelling story. Every character is a stock archetype or rural stereotype who utter shopworn, schmaltzy dialogue suited to diurnal soap operas. Very little is so mortifying as coddled boomers raised in an immanently neurotic Abrahamic faith who slavishly satirize the toothless faithful of another.


His zooms and crane shots are the most wearyingly routine images in Price’s dull presentation. He couldn’t even execute the movie’s sole jump scare competently.


Notwithstanding noctilucence that’s absurdly overlit, Levie Isaacks’s colorful photography is easy on the eyes, and one of this movie’s few assets.


Persistently poor comic timing should be imputed to Price and his cast, but Barry Zetlin cut the prosaic footage at his disposal as well as anyone could expect.


Most of these actors either woodenly recite or gnaw the very fabric of spacetime to enact Katz’s and Adler’s simplistic characters. Clark and Allen are tolerable, but haven’t much to do other than posture prettily and shriek when imperiled.


Daniel Licht’s assemblage of choral and orchestral clichés serves the same function as ambient music without any soothing effect. His minatory variation of London Bridge is Falling Down sung by brats is exquisitely abashing.


Every tritely slain victim could easily escape if they’d a survival instinct or average IQ. Purblind provincials unwittingly waiting to die aren’t terribly interesting either. Dismal digital effects that have aged horribly are twice implemented. Sweaty sex shammed by Allen and pudgily misshapen Knox is starkly sickening, even more vile than the coitus between Joe Don Baker and Linda Evans in Mitchell. Demonic possession and talentlessness cause Bollman’s heresiarch to speak with a peculiarly peeving cadence.


This is the very lowest grade of sequel: unfunny, vapid, gutless, hokey, tired, tedious trash contextualized in a faintly subversive pretense. Avoid it.

Mediocre: Unspeakable Acts

Unspeakable Acts (1990)
Directed by Linda Otto
Written by Jan Hollingsworth, Alan Landsburg, Hesper Anderson, Joanna Strauss
Produced by Joan Barnett, Don Goldman, Alan Landsburg, Howard Lipstone, Linda Otto
Starring Jill Clayburgh, Brad Davis, John Mazzello, Gary Frank, Season Hubley, Bebe Neuwirth, Mark Harelik, Gregory Sierra, Bess Meyer, James Handy, Maureen Mueller, Sam Behrens, Valerie Landsburg, Jeff Seymour, David Wilson, Ashleigh Sterling, Alan Sader, Jenny Gago, Paul Eiding, Maria Cavaiani, Rick Warner, Terence Knox, Guy Stockwell, Byrne Piven, Laura Owens
Onscreen, it seems so simple: children and infants of an upscale neighborhood in Miami-Dade County are entrusted by their parents to a babysitting couple (Sierra, Meyer) who introduce them to collectively sexual sport and threaten them with Satanic rituals; after the deranged couple’s ineludible arrests, married, compassionate juvenile psychologists Laurie and Joseph Braga (Clayburgh, Davis) gently pry confessions of these abominations from the older victims to successfully inculpate their assailants and secure their convictions, despite the pettifoggery of their defense (Samek, Stockwell). Both this televised docudrama and the book on which it was based (penned by former television reporter Hollingsworth while in the therapists’ employ as a consultant) alter and omit numerous crucial details: the Bragas were not accredited criminal psychologists and coerced the victims during interviews; co-defendant Ileana Fuster was subjected by the prosecution and her defense attorney to a lengthy series of aggressive interrogations and probable hypnotism, then blatantly coached when providing a deposition as a witness against her husband, Francisco Fuster-Escalona; their adopted son, who has maintained their innocence for decades, is here depicted as a little girl (Cavaiani) tormented by their atrocities; most significantly, Janet Reno prosecuted the Fusters while serving as Miami-Dade’s State’s Attorney with the same unscrupulous and energetic efficiency that characterized her stint as the United States’ Attorney General, using a discredited and unethical methodology that also led to two wrongful convictions of accused sexual offenders, who were later exonerated — yet despite her authority and individual conduct in this case, she’s only mentioned twice by her inferiors. Previously convicted for counts of assault, manslaughter and child molestation, Fuster-Escalona’s culpability is overwhelmingly probable, corroborated by consonant confessions of his victims to their parents before they reported them in turn to the authorities, as well as symptoms of sexual abuse observed by their doctors. However, the question of prosecutorial misconduct is never seriously raised in this unconscionable fictionalization, characterizations of which are childishly broad, presented melodramatically to manipulate unsuspecting audiences. Performances among the ensemble vary drastically in quality. As the heroic kiddieshrinks, Clayburgh is surpassing and Davis charismatic, though he untypically overacts certain scenes, weirdly coiffed with a preposterous ponytail. Neuwirth, Mueller and Hubley are especially convincing as mothers of the traumatized tots, and Sierra greasily exudes their abuser’s slimy perversity. That any of the players under Otto’s ham-fisted direction breathed plausibility to Landsburg’s, Anderson’s and Strauss’s schmaltzy script — itself emotively and expositionally bounteous with cornball conversations — is a testament to their talent. In reality, the improprieties of this movie’s protagonists casts as much doubt on the validity of its judicial proceedings as Ileana Fuster’s famously inconstant claims regarding its verdict. Fuster-Escalona is likely where he belongs, but one can only wonder.