Children of the Corn (1984)

children_of_the_corn_poster_01 About:

A road-tripping couple winds up in a town populated by creepy kids with sinister biblical names who worship corn demons.

Review:

I bought this movie at a yard sale for a buck when I was a kid, and I’ve held on to it all this time so that one day I could review it in a blog entry no one would read.  As far as film adaptations of Stephen King stories go this one is high up on the list.  That could be just an indictment of movies based on Stephen King stories (it is), but Children of the Corn is actually a pretty good movie in its own right. The movie begins 3 years before the present day.  Church is getting out and the townspeople are off to the local diner for a lazy Sunday brunch.  The eggs are barely poached before a group of surly kids pull out their cleavers and start hacking up the grown-ups!

School’s out forever!!!

Fast-forward to the present day.  A couple – the lady who plays Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies and her henpecked husband – are hopelessly attempting to navigate the Nebraska outlands when they run over an Amish kid.  Shit!  Better drop this little guy off on the doorstep of the nearest constable.  Luckily they are a couple miles outside a town called Gatlin.

joseph We’re definitely not making it to Omaha before dinner.

The town is abandoned of course, save for a religious cult of children brandishing sharp and pointy farm tools.  They don’t take too kindly to outsiders, especially those who are well-past the sacrificing age of 19.  Note: avoid Nebraska at all costs.

Children of the Corn is based on a short story of the same title by Stephen King.  There aren’t a lot of differences between the two except the story is much more gruesome and in the end the bad guys win.  The Shining notwithstanding, it has been my experience that movies based off of Stephen King stories are more often misses than they are hits.  Despite the horrible child acting and cringe-worthy special effects, Children of the Corn is one of the hits, mostly because the subject itself is just so darn eerie.  And the movie itself is pretty much just the short story on screen; it did not take a whole lot of creative vision to transform an already very spooky and well-articulated tale into the film.  But let’s instead talk more about the stuff that sucked.

outlandurr“OUTLANDURRR!”

By 1984 the Star Wars movies had raised the bar for what we’d come to accept as convincing movie magic.  There is really no excuse for the special effects in this movie looking like a high-school audio-visual project.  The makeup and fake blood is fine, but some of the post-production editing really falls flat.  The scene where Isaac is sacrificed to ‘He Who Walks Behind the [Corn]Rows,’ should have been a cinch; at the very least it’s a death scene that could have been implied and left out all-together.  Instead we are treated to an awkward and confusing glimpse of him getting enveloped in a swarm of cartoon lava bugs.

lava Not the face! Anywhere but the face!

Anytime you cast a kid, you run the likely risk that they will ham it up worse than a cold-cut platter.  Professional actors spend their entire lives perfecting their craft.  When you film a child who’s only acting experience was in a K-Mart clothing commercial, bad things tend to follow.  Now multiply that ineffectiveness by the dozens of kids who appear in Children of the Corn and you’re in danger of a Phantom Menace-esque type of meltdown.

That’s actually too harsh – most of the “children” with speaking roles were actually adults when this was filmed, so it’s really not that bad.  The guy playing the leader of the children, Isaac, actually looks a lot like Mickey Rooney and even sounds like an old lady with emphysema.   Still, there are a few rug rats who’s delivery is so bad you’ll wish the protagonists had also run over them on their way into town.

Again, it seems unfair to pile on all the shit that was bad about this movie when overall I really like it a lot.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention the last scene, one which is so bad it truly boggles the mind as to how it ever made the final cut.  With Issac and the corn demon dead, leaving behind a town full of confused and emotionally traumatized children,  the adult couple decides that now is a good time to split.  Since their car has been turned into a giant planter for corn stalks, they decide to hoof it to the next town over – the one they should have gone to from the get-go.  Just before one final lame scare, they decide to take with them two of the cuter kids for a couple days…make that a couple weeks.  A month?  Ah fuck it, if a near death experience won’t save our marriage, maybe adopting a couple of kids will!

Overall: 7.5

homer
Boom!

I’ve seen this movie several times and I still love it.  Yes, there are some lame child actors and horrible special effects.  But since the story itself is so chilling and original those just seem like minor imperfections that don’t actually detract from the final product.  It is God’s will that you watch Children of the Corn this fall.

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Sleepaway Camp (1983)

SLEEPAWAY-CAMPS-poster-art

About:

Most preteens are pretty awkward to begin with, but when Angela returns to the campground where her dad and brother died 5 years earlier, she has an especially hard time stepping out of her comfort zone.  As if that weren’t enough, a series of gruesome accidents befalling her fellow campers have some wondering if there is a killer amongst them!

Review:

Let’s start with the end and work backwards: the ending, without giving away any spoilers, is incredible and solidifies its spot among some of the genre’s best.  “Twist” doesn’t really do it justice; terrifying, confusing, gut-wrenching, and completely unexpected, it is widely considered one of the most shocking horror movie endings of all time.  The killings in this movie are also creative and unusual, and filmed using some pretty top-notch special effects.  The best death scenes include a giant pot of boiling water, a precariously placed curling iron, and a weaponized bee hive.

images
Bees: nature’s thumb tacs

The camp is run by a stogie-smoking dried up old prune who looks and sounds like a real-life Moe Szyslak.  The campers are mostly represented by a group of young awkward teens and a rival sect of much taller and developed older teens.  The guys in both groups are fighting over a mean hot girl, which is hard to take seriously because she’s not hot.  I know that sounds terrible, but picture Iggy Pop’s head with a horse tail sprouting from the back of it.

judy
Wearing t-shirts with her name on them sure isn’t helping 

It’s your average tale of young love lost until kids and counselors start dropping like flies.  Nothing kills a summer romance like untimely death.

It’s becoming harder and harder to believe that the men’s short shorts scene of the 70’s and 80’s was ever really a thing.  The guys in this movie are pushing that nefarious hemline to an absolutely absurd height, and I can’t tell if it’s a joke making fun of that whole fad or a genuine anachronism of the times.  Nary is there a scene that doesn’t include a ridiculously intrusive bulge just begging to pop out of those paper-thin Umbros.  On that note the homoeroticism in this movie is impossible to ignore.  Not only is there a scandalous homosexual relationship portrayed in the film, but those cool older guys I mentioned?  They’re looking for any and all opportunities to go into Lady Gaga backup dancer mode with each other.  This includes but is not limited to a midnight swim in tighty wighties (bulges aplenty) and a rooftop waterballoon fight that for some reason must be carried out without pants.

bulge
Don’t act like you’re not impressed

There are also no boobs in this movie – a cardinal sin of the summer camp subgenre, and a slap in the face to the horror movie community as a whole.  Adding insult to injury is the substitution of boobs with dong.  Now, hanging dong in a movie is unacceptable[1] in most cases, but given the specific context of this particular scene, it is downright traumatizing.

Overall: 7

Because the wild ending was the last part I saw, I thought this movie was really good.  Then I watched it again and remembered everything before the end was actually pretty dumb.  Clearly the writers came up with the kick-ass ending first, and it’s really too bad they diluted everything preceding it with stupid dialogue and poor character development.  I still think the ending saves it though, making it a must-see flick.  And, in spite of its shortcomings, this movie touches upon some heavy topics that are unusual to the genre, including homosexuality, the modern familial structure, and prescribed gender roles.  Oh, and don’t forget the bees!


[1] The only exception I can think of is Michael Fassbender in Shame; you’ve just got to tip your hat to that one and try not to let it ruin your self-esteem.