Children of the Corn: Runaway is the tenth installment of the long running folk horror franchise that was started in 1984. So far, there have been eight sequels and a 2009 made-for-TV remake.
The original Children of the Corn is based on a short story of the same name by Stephen King. The premise involves a cult of murderous children in Gatlin, Nebraska who worship a deity called He Who Walks Behind The Rows. For the most part, the follow-ups have been rehashes and/or in-name-only sequels. Each entry has done very little in developing the overall mythology or showing much continuity or story arc for the series; instead, each movie has kind of been a standalone story.
Prior to Runaway, the series has been all over the place. For example, there’s been an installment that takes place in Chicago (COTC III: Urban Harvest) and one that appears to exist solely as a cash-in on the teen slasher boom of the 1990s (COTC V: Fields of Terror). In the past, there have been several attempts at connecting some of the dots by bringing back certain characters and concepts (see, especially, COTC 666: Isaac’s Return and COTC: Genesis). There have also been scattered ideas regarding He Who Walks Behind The Rows, each with varying degrees of success. So how does Runaway rank among the series? Read on to find out.
The film stars Marci Miller (American Fable, and the entertaining slasher flick Most Likely To Die) as Ruth. In a short prologue, a pregnant Ruth flees from Gatlin, Nebraska where she was involved in the aforementioned cult. Together with her son, Aaron, she spends the next thirteen years in hiding. The vast majority of Children on the Corn: Runaway takes place in a small Oklahoma town called Luther. Here, Ruth takes a job as an auto mechanic under the tutelage of Carl (Lynn Andrews III), becomes friends with a diner waitress named Sarah, played by Mary Kathryn Bryant (Hellraiser: Judgement), and she and Aaron move into a new house where they plan a fresh start. Just when things are beginning to look up for Ruth and Aaron, Ruth begins having horrific visions and starts to believe that something from her past has followed her all the way from Gatlin to to her new life in Luther. Note that Runaway is not the first of the franchise to take the action away from Nebraska (see Urban Harvest and Genesis).
The acting in Runaway is surprisingly good, especially from Miller who is very much believable in the role of Ruth. Both of the town locals that she befriends are played convincingly well by Lynn Andrews III (as Carl) and Mary Kathryn Bryant (as Sarah). Bryant has the standout role of the supporting cast and makes the most of her screen time. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future. It seems Aaron‘s character, played by Jake Ryan Scott (American Horror Story: Cult) is the the least convincing. Even so, it is clearly not the fault of Scott, as he does the best he can with what he has been given.
That brings me to the writing of Runaway. The screenplay is by horror sequel regular and COTC: Genesis scribe, Joel Soisson (the Prophecy, Pulse, and Dracula sequels, among others). It appears that Ruth‘s character is from the 2009 remake. I do find it odd that Soisson wrote the screenplay to presumably follow the events of the remake instead of the other COTC movie that he wrote, Genesis. Ruth repeatedly refers to what happened in the small town of Gatlin as being “thirteen years ago.” The events of Children of the Corn (the remake) happened in 1975. Does that mean that Runaway takes place in 1988? Intriguing, yes, but don’t expect much of a 1980’s vibe on display. There are a couple of surprises near the end of the movie that should have been developed further. These last minute story elements are presented as a way to offer explanations, but they seem to be introduced too late in the game for them to have much impact.
“..there are some genuinely creepy moments where violently bloody scenes are played in reverse.”
The special effects and kills are all well done, and there are some genuinely creepy moments where violently bloody scenes are played in reverse. One of my favorite moments of Runaway is during one of Ruth‘s visions where a group of kids enter the town diner and kill the adults that are present. It is a serious nod and link to previous entries of the series. Other than the effects, the look of the film is great. There are a lot of shots that evoke the charms and quirkiness of small Southern towns, and the film displays a consistent and vivid color palette throughout. Kudos to director John Gulager (Feast and Piranha 3DD) and cinematographer Samuel Calvin (Hellraiser: Judgement) for a visually pleasing production.
There’s a lot of interesting story threads that pop up in Runaway‘s short running time, but its how it all comes together that ultimately causes the movie to fall a little short. The story of Runaway is interesting on its own, but, sadly, it doesn’t feel like a Children of the Corn movie. SPOILER ALERT: Aside from a young girl in the town who kills a few of the supporting characters, the only scenes where we witness any of the evil actions by the child cult or even see any of the expected cornfields are in Ruth’s flashbacks/visions. END SPOILER. Despite being well made and well acted, the movie doesn’t give fans of folk horror much in the way of the imagery, atmosphere, and mythology that has come to be expected from a Children of the Corn movie. Runaway is not the worst of the series, nor is it the best.
Children of the Corn: Runaway is available on DVD, Bluray, and digital platforms now. Have you already seen the movie? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on our Facebook group Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street.