Children of the Corn
Dir. Fritz Kiersch (1984)
A travelling couple are trapped in a town with a dangerous child cult.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The Morrigan warned me about the Corn Kids. I actually hadn’t watched Children of the Corn until about a year ago, though I had read the King story on which it was based many many years ago. It never seemed to be that interesting to me, just some kids who wanted to kill people. There are plenty of movies that do that. Boy howdy, was I wrong, because I don’t know that there’s a creepier killer kids movie than this one. The opening scene at the diner, in which the town’s children summarily execute every adult in the town while a terrifying child choir/orchestral arrangement overlays the action, is amazing and shockingly more violent than what I expected.
What’s great about CotC is that it’s wall-to-wall creep factor and it never really lets up. When Vicky (Linda Hamilton) and Burt (Peter Horton) accidentally hit a child with their car and head to a seemingly deserted town, the shots of the empty streets and the neglected storefronts show just how isolated and barren the children have made the little hamlet. The eerie religious fervor of the children, most notably by the terrifying Isaac (John Franklin) and the brutish Malachai (Courtney Gains), and their childlike descriptions of the horrific things that they see add an extra layer of ghoulishness. The whole concept of He Who Walks Behind the Rows as some bizarre, Tremors-like elder god is creepy as shit. It’s also the perfect movie for Halloween, with the backdrop of the corn swaying in the wind evoking the cold, lonely fall season.
The child actors do a fantastic job in this movie, though to be fair, Isaac and Malachai were both adults. Isaac may well be the scariest kid in movie history, playing the role perfectly and alternating between the dangerous religious cult leader and a petulant child who pitches a fit when things don’t go his way. Growing up in a place with tons of roadside crops, it’s not difficult to imagine tiny pious people walking behind the stalks, watching as you drive by and hoping that you might have to pull to the side of the road to become their newest convert. If you really let yourself buy into the backstory, which was discussed in much more depth in King’s story, it’s really quite a scary concept. The movie is lots of fun and definitely worth a look, a genuinely creepy film that plays best around the Halloween holiday.
The ending of the film needs a little work and is pretty abrupt, and King’s ending was much better than the movie for a change. I won’t go too much into the different endings to try to avoid spoilers, but rest assured that the film’s ending is quite a bit more upbeat than the story. But then again, it’s 1984, you can’t just kill Linda Hamilton! The acting is actually excellent and effective for the roles required and the entire film packs as much creepiness as it can into every frame. It’s not a particularly well-made film, with the actual quality being more of the cookie-cutter standard of that early-80’s era of film. And while I would hesitate to say the film is actually scary, which depends entirely upon that which scares you, it’s definitely disturbing and a jarring take on a children’s cult. The film is gruesome and eerie, and there aren’t many movies out there that gives that October feeling better than Children of the Corn.
Who this movie is for: Classic horror fans; Stephen King lovers; That kid from the meme who loves corn
Bottom line: Creepy as all-get-out and disturbing as hell, Children of the Corn is great for people who are scared of children and/or corn. The kids, especially Malachai and Isaac, are intense, and the music could not be better to invoke terror in these bite-sized zealots. Watch this one around Halloween to make it extra spooky, but don’t shot it to your children lest they decide to reenact a few scenes.