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Horror of Horrors: Cornfields

Any rational horror/thriller loving freaks like yours truly and likely yourselves should have figured out by now there are some inherent rules to maximize your chances of survival when you are transplanted in to a plot-line involving horror and mayhem. Some movies like Scream and Zombieland even spotlight these rules throughout the movie so those of you that are a little behind the eight ball with survival instincts can catch up.

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Recently I thought of another inherent “rule” that should be considered for minimizing your imminent death come whatever “fill in the blank” apocalypse or scary movie situation you might encounter: beware of cornfields. While I try not to spend too much time going in to my personal life when it comes to these posts, I think I might have to explain how I came to the conclusion that it was worth posting about this subject- it occurred to me the other week as I was moving cross-country from Boston, MA to San Jose, CA (making it all the easier to infect you West-Coasters with a healthy addiction to the Brotherhood of Evil Geeks). One afternoon ended with crossing ½ of Ohio state, of which 90% was cornfields. The following day the saga continued, and the last 8 hours of traversing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa was filled with the majestic cornfield as the only scenery for my tired eyes. Naturally I was basking in ennui and couldn’t wait to get through our breadbasket (aka wasteland to me, sorry Mid-Westerners).

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When you find yourself staring into row upon row of 6+ foot cornfields extending on beyond the horizon for the 5th hour straight your mind starts to contemplate what it would be like to live in this farmland. As I started to imagine this simple existence my mind wandered to all the films out there involving running through cornfields from some monster(s) or insanely scary killer. And now that I think about it, there are many. Even if there is not a specific chase scene through a cornfield, there is something spooky and hair raising about being in a town surrounded by cornfields, not knowing what is lying in wait.

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The first movie about a middle of nowhere Mid-Western corn town that came to my wandering mind was The Crazies. I guess it was tolerable for me (aka I didn’t spend the entire movie with my hands over my eyes, probably closer to ¼ of it as such) since the bad guys were people, though crazy-ass mother-f*c#ing violent people. In a way this film was about pseudo-zombies. The background: a military plane crashed in one of this hobunk town’s lakes, and it turns out that plane had an experimental virus on it that contaminated the drinking water of said town and slowly infected most of the inhabitants. The symptoms of the virus: you go bat-shit crazy with extremely violent and sadistic tendencies. The movie’s plot follows a sheriff (hmm, maybe that should be another rule I should pursue: don’t be a small town sheriff as you always end up in some psycho terrifying movie) and his pregnant wife as they try to escape this town of monstrous people while the army comes in killing anyone in their path. Of course, living in a town that is 80% cornfields allows for lots of tense, nail-biting moments in the film. I won’t tell you how it ends except that there is a bit of a twist, but you can enjoy this thriller from your couch and feel safe knowing if you were unfortunate enough to live in a cornfield town like this, Joe Biden’s advice to “buy a shotgun” would probably help.

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Sticking with the theme of sheriffs and small town antics, let’s next bring up The Walking Dead. This is actually what I first pictured as I passed Davenport, IA and it’s corn farms: I pictured Dr. Hershel Greene and his picturesque little farm on a hill with cornfields around it, and then thought of how that worked out for them towards the end of Season 2. While I have heated discussions of where I will go and what I will do when the zombie-virus brings about the end of the world with people, an answer a lot of friends give is: “head to the country and fortify an area where you can be safe from the zombies in isolation”. While I have not completely decided on my approach to survival, I have to disagree with this idea. Sure, an open field on farmland gives you lots of space to run when you see the zombies coming. But realistically a working farm to live off of would be too dangerous as you might not see a crawler zombie coming up between the corn stalks, and what if your farm gets surrounded? Being in a cornfield during a zombie outbreak just seems like a dumb idea….

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South Dakota cornfields are the location of horror in The Messengers, another horror genre film embracing the erriness of cornfields and isolated farm life. While I have not personally seen this one, I am told it is a great watch for American horror-lovers that need things taken up a notch. It was written by a Japanese brother duo, and I guess Asians like their horror movies intense, leading it to be a heart-stopper for Americans not used to that level of scariness. Also, the whole night-time ghost appearance is thrown out the window, as these ghosts will appear anywhere to haunt, daylight, in the house, in the cornfield, just about anywhere you can scream.

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Now if I am talking about cornfields in combination with horror films, I would be an idiot not to bring up The Children of the Corn. The original movie came out in 1984. Of course, thinking about this movie made me want to put the pedal to the metal through Nebraska since it references many of the specific towns I drove through (in fact, I spent a night in a hotel in Grand Island, NE, the very city the couple in this movie SHOULD have driven to). While I would go in to more detail about the movie, Arthur has promised to bring you a post in the future featuring this scream-tastic film, so I will leave that to him.

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As Children of the Corn features a classic chase scene through a cornfield, let’s now move on to more cornfield chase scenes. This is a little bit of cheating since it was technically grass (not corn), but don’t you all remember that scene in Jurassic Park: The Lost World?!?! When the entourage was trying to get to the old command station to radio for help, and to do so they had to run through the long grass only to be slowly picked off one by one by raptors?! I have only had the opportunity to walk through a cornfield once in my life, but as I did I couldn’t help but feel this urge to start running as fast as I could to escape the unseen dinosaurs probably coming at me from all directions.

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The last situation where I want to talk about cornfields being somewhere you will want to stay miles away from deals with crop circles. Something about cornfields seems to just attract aliens, and crop circles are the mythical connection cornfields seem to share with aliens. From X-Files to ET aliens like cornfields like a fat kid loves cake. And I have saved this for last as my personal favorite cornfield scene does involve extraterrestrial beings, only not the nice kind.

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M. Night Shalaman’s Signs is a movie that constantly leaves you gasping with shock and fear. This movie starts out on a farm and brings up the mysteriously creepy nature of crop circles in cornfields. This is one of Shalaman’s best flicks, as it constantly gives you little glimpses of the aliens that are  infiltrating and attacking earth, and it sets your heart racing as it progresses. Plus it has Joaquin Phoenix in a great role. His screams of shock and terror come at the exact right moments and always coincided with mine. One of the most chilling scenes of the whole movie was when Mel Gibson’s character raced through his backyard cornfield after his son and barking dogs only to turn his flashlight back between the corn rows at just the right time so as to spot what appears to be a non-human, extraterrestrial looking foot steeping back in to the cornstalks’ shadows. Everytime I see that scene I gasp just like Gibson’s character. Being set on a farm like the thousands that cover most of the middle of this country, I think Signs is both my favorite cornfield movie and just an all around awesomely frightening alien flick in general.

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Well, that’s all for now kids. My best advice: stay away from farmland, it’s safer on either coast of this nation for when the monsters finally come.

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Posted on October 16, 2013, in Features, Geekology, Horror of Horrors and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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