Children of the Corn (1984)

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“A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believe everyone over the age of 18 must be killed.” — IMDb

This was another re-watch for me and I said the same thing this time that I did after the first viewing: I just don’t think kids are that scary. I know lots of movies try to pull of the whole “creepy kid” thing and it just doesn’t do it for me.

Ultimately, I think this movie starts off really strong and it gave me high hopes. The whole chaotic scene at the diner, with the kids watching as the adults are poisoned and murdered… awesome. I mean, they put a dude’s hand through a meat slicer and that creepy music with the kids chanting is playing and you can see beady-eyed Isaac (played awesomely by John Franklin) peering through the window, very pleased at what’s going on, and you think hell yeah, I am in for a fun ride.

Then we cut to Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton), who are on their way to Burt’s new physician job. They’re driving along, cornrow after cornrow whizzing by, and BOOM, out lurches one of the children, half dead from these tiny cult members. It’s an intense scene, with a closeup of the kid rolling under the tires, and you can almost feel their sense of panic and confusion. Again, hell yeah, we’re on the right track here. We even get an awesome jump scare when Vicky drifts off in the car while waiting for Burt to return from looking for help.

But then… I don’t know, things get a little silly. They try to find a phone to no avail — the town is abandoned, with corn leaves strewn all over — what? Are the kids just constantly covered in corn leaves and accidentally leaving them places? Is it some kind of calling card?

There’s some transfer of power with Malachai (Courtney Gains), the brain of the operation — who is by far the scariest looking kid — insisting that Isaac be sacrificed. The whole thing is way too easy, the kids need NO convincing whatsoever, and then boom, Isaac is up on a cross. But He Who Walks Behind the Rows (admittedly a super creepy moniker, but not actually creepy in reality since it just kind of burrows its way under the dirt) is not very discerning, apparently, and takes Isaac despite his pleas. The special effects are shockingly, laughably bad. I want to say maybe it’s charming — it was the mid-80’s after all. Burt tries to talk some sense into the kids and tell them they’re worshipping a false god (which is also VERY easy to do), and then Isaac comes back as a sort of zombie-Isaac and kills Malachai. Wheee!

They gather the kids into a barn and realize they need to destroy the cornfield to stop the evil, and they figure the best way is to burn it all up. They do so, and there’s a LEGIT SAD FACE IN THE SMOKE AS IT BURNS. I COULDN’T EVEN HANDLE IT WHAT? WHAT??

Then everything is hunky dory and Burt and Vicky are leaving (with Sarah and Job in tow) and it’s kind of implied that the kids are going to stay with them?? And then one of the evil kids is hiding in the car and attacks them but Burt just kind of annoyedly stops her and they’re on their way. SO FREAKING WEIRD.

I don’t know, I wanted to like it — it’s based on a Stephen King story after all — but I think the rest of the movie couldn’t even try to compare to those first couple scenes. It has its few very brief moments but nothing else to really grab you. Womp.

Rating: 4/10 | Director: Fritz Kiersch | Writer: Stephen King (short story), George Goldsmith (screenplay) | Music: Jonathan Elias | Starring: Linda Hamilton, Peter Horton, Anne Marie McEvoy, Robby Kiger, Courtney Gains, John Franklin

 

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