And a child shall lead them...
Who would have thunk it, that one of Stephen King's short stories would spawn a gargantuan movie franchise? Children of the Corn is one of those movies that horror fans of a certain age, who started to blossom in the 1980s, remember fondly but agree that now it's a bit, well, corny.
Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton get trapped in a village of the damned where the children have killed the adults and established a religious order that gives worship to the devil of the corn. Isaac Chroner (John Franklin) and Malachai Boardman (Courtney Gains) head the creepy kid cult, corn does sway, blood does flow, poor special effects do down the devil, yet it's atmospheric as heck fire and still a bunch of fun if you forgive it its dated foibles. 6/10
***Children of the damned… in the cornfields of the American prairie***
A young couple traveling through the endless cornfields of Nebraska (Peter Horton & Linda Hamilton) visits a town so far off the beaten track it’s not even on the map. Yet it seems abandoned, except for some kids scurrying around. Horror ensues.
“Children of the Corn” (1984) takes the remote Plains town setting of “The Last Picture Show” (1971) and gives it a horror spin based on Stephen King’s short story. The later “Husk” (2011) used the same template. King, however, wasn’t pleased with the results, as conveyed in his statement: "My feeling is like a guy who sends his daughter off to college. You hope she'll do well. You hope she won't fall in with the wrong people. You hope she won't be raped at a fraternity party, which is pretty well what happened to Children of the Corn."
The uninhibited town with scavenging kids makes the film come across as a post-apocalyptic flick. The protagonists are likable and the movie works up some creepy rural mood. People have described the film as sacrilegious, but it’s clear that the kids’ hybrid religion is not a true expression of Christianity since it’s clearly sullied by “he who walks behind the rows.” One of the picture’s criticisms is the ambiguity of this thing, but I suppose enough is revealed to put the pieces together. Still, the lack of exposition is disappointing. And the gaudy effects in the last act are lousy.
Another arguable negative is the portrayal of the cult with the use of child & teen actors. I think they did pretty good all things considered. The growing schism between leader Isaac (John Franklin) and chief disciple Malachai (Courtney Gains) is interesting. It’s just difficult to portray diabolic cults, like witches and satanists, without getting eye-rolling and laughable.
In any case, imagine the casting auditions for Malachai wherein the producers are looking for a tall teenage boy with a mean face and shocking mane. Courtney Gains enters the room and answers some questions when the producers state: "This is going well; you've just about got it clinched. But, as a formality, could you shout ‘Outlander’ at the top of your lungs?”
The movie runs 1 hour, 32 minutes, and was shot mainly in Iowa.