Since its inception as a short story published in Penthouse in 1977, Stephen King's Children Of The Corn has enjoyed a ridiculously prolonged cultural shelf life. In 1984, it was turned into a critically savaged yet wildly profitable film, which in turn spawned a slew of low-budget sequels. Clearly, something about King's tale of a group of blank-eyed farm children who belong to a murderous cult has struck a nerve in society. But what is the key to the story's enduring appeal? Most likely, the Children Of The Corn series is successful because it taps into a number of potent contemporary fears: the adult world's fear of children, industrialized society's fear of rural life, and secularized society's fear of religious zealotry, to name a few. But what's remarkable is how decidedly unscary and lacking in resonance the Children Of The Corn movies really are. Children Of The Corn V, like its predecessors, taps into a vein of contemporary anxiety, but derives from it only cheap gore and brutality. The film stars Stacy Galina as a doe-eyed Midwesterner who travels with a group of fellow college students into the heartland with the ashes of one of their peers, who died in a tragic bungee-jumping accident. But before long, their car breaks down, and they're forced to square off against the murderous Children Of The Corn, a group of youngsters not known for their hospitality or love of cosmopolitan outsiders. While Children Of The Corn V was distributed by Miramax's offbeat genre wing Dimension, which also released Scream, Scream 2, and Halloween: H20, there's nothing particularly self-referential about it. Instead, it's an earnest slasher film with decent production values and competent acting and direction, but precious little in the way of suspense or originality. Still, it's unlikely that die-hard Corn fans will be disappointed. After all, anyone who rents Children Of The Corn V: Field Of Terror pretty much knows what to expect. For better or worse, it's exactly the sort of uninspired late-night-cable fodder its title and premise would suggest.

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