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