Thursday, September 3, 2020

Random Movie: Children of the Corn (1984)

Photo: New World Pictures

A repeated line in the trailer for Children of the Corn is "it's an adult nightmare." Creepy kids? Religious cults? Middle of nowhere America, surrounded by corn? Yep, checks out. All nightmare fuel.

Based on a short story from Stephen King, Children of the Corn is a fine addition to the underused horror sub-genre of killer kids. I cannot speak about the quality of any of its nine (NINE!) sequels but considering the relative caliber of Dimension Films' DTV output, I'm guessing they are garbage. This film though is pretty good with real actors, some impressive kills, and decent gore.

Main creepy kid Isaac has been visited by "He Who Walks Behind the Rows," a nebulous, barely-seen boogeyman that I'm sure is fleshed out thoroughly somewhere around the 4th DTV sequel. At "His" command, all the children band together and murder the adults in town, some in rather gruesome fashion. The film jumps forward three years to introduce Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (1984's great Linda Hamilton) as they are on a cross-country trek to Burt's new job. You can probably guess where it goes from here.

Although King wrote the first draft of the script, it was jettisoned in favor of George Goldsmith's take which seems to have been the right decision and King's honestly sounds pretty boring. After the opening scenes of the murdering moppets, we take some time to meet and grow accustomed to Burt and Vicky on their travels but they are "interacting" so to speak with the children before the 30 minute mark. From there, they go on the requisite search for exposition with a conversation with the old gas station attendant who warns them away from the town.

Of course they don't listen, and they head to the town in search of a phone, an adult, or answers. Instead, they find a rather eerie abandoned town square that is soon overrun by scythe-wielding teenagers. Aside from a few moments where they meet Job and Sarah, two of the town's children who have not fallen under Isaac's spell, the pace of the film is fairly consistent and engaging, especially as the couple splits up leading to Vicky being captured.

Sadly, Hamilton isn't given much to do in the role after this (but I guess she really wasn't in the OG Terminator either), but Horton steps up as the action hero to save the girl, emancipate the children, and defeat the ... whatever it is. Director Fritz Kiersch keeps everything moving along nicely so we are in and out with a complete three act story in around 90 minutes. It doesn't look like he had much other luck in Hollywood after this which is a shame considering the decent amount of scares and the sinister feel of the dilapidated town aren't easy to pull off. 

On the downside, the film ends rather abruptly after the "monster" is defeated leaving the status of the remaining children in the wind. Are they reformed? Do they still harbor a murderous rage for adults? Will they embrace the upcoming new-wave genre of 80s music? I guess that's why there are sequels galore as well as two remakes to fill in the blanks. As it is, just watch this film and make up your own sequel. You'll probably be better off.

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