Directed by Fritz Kiersch [Other horror films: Surveillance (2006), The Hunt (2006)]
In some aspects, Children of the Corn has aged somewhat poorly, and it’s not necessarily the best translation of one of King’s short stories (from Night Shift, a copy of which was shown on the dashboard of the main characters’ car at one point) to a full-length film, but despite this, Children of the Corn is a very solid attempt, and one I’ve loved since childhood.
Let’s start with two things – the opening of the film and the music. It opens with a massacre in a diner by the youth of a small town, and a violent massacre at that, with plenty of scythes and the like. And that haunting music, a choir of sorts, belies the notion of the children’s innocence. That is a fantastically effective opening, period. End of story.
Now, few scenes really compete with that sequence, but later in the film, there is another pretty good scene in which a mechanic is being tormented by the Gatlin kids, and ends up getting entirely messed up. These kids know no mercy, thanks to the beast that is Malachai (Courtney Gains).
I want to touch on the interesting concept of the King story, and of this movie, then onto a small examination of the relationship between Malachai and Isaac, as it certainly impacts my view of the film.
Pray tell, why did kids kill adults at the beginning? Interestingly enough, the youth of Gatlin rallied beyond young child pastor Isaac, who held secret meetings in the corn, and decried the depravity of adults. The adults of this small Nebraska town were generally Baptist, but that’s not old school enough for Isaac, who believes that once you’re past a certain age, any hope of salvation is gone.
The solution? Kill off all the adults, form a new religion worshipping ‘He-Who-Walks-Behind-The-Rows’ (in a small farming community, you can see why that title would have appeal), and sacrifice everyone who turns of age for the sake of their soul. Realistically, a small town, even in Nebraska, couldn’t disappear off the map (though apparently, it wasn’t on the map to begin with) – even if you can ignore out-of-town relations, the IRS want their taxes, not to mention eventually the Census.
Still, the idea’s damn cool.
The relationship between Malachai and Isaac (John Franklin) is an interesting one – Isaac is the clear spiritual leader, but Malachai has a strong following, and is seen as doing more for their faith (it doesn’t hurt that he’s more of a hard-liner than Isaac, as music and games are forbidden, but Isaac lets that pass at times). Them Gatlin kids ain’t got no time for Isaac’s ‘mercy,’ and so turn to Malachai. That scene where Malachai revolts against Isaac’s authority (screaming ‘seize him’ didn’t get Isaac anywhere) is another one that pulls this movie to higher grounds.
Also, when he’s holding Burt’s wife (Linda Hamilton) at knife-point in the center of a dead town, crying out for the Outlander, again, fantastic scene.
Of course, it’s not all good, as the movie is somewhat drenched in the aura of the 1980’s, especially the somewhat cheesy conclusion and final scene. Believe you me, the original short story was so much better, and this waters it down just as bad as the adaptation of Cujo did. Also, it does take a little bit for the movie to get going, as a lot of the first half of the film are the two main characters (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) looking for any signs of life from the aforementioned dead town, but personally, I thought it had solid atmosphere.
And on that note, while I wasn’t really blown away by either Horton or Hamilton (Hamilton, of course, soon becoming famous for her role in The Terminator movies), both John Franklin (Isaac) and Courtney Gains (Malachai) were fantastic, and I can’t applaud their performances enough.
I think the idea behind this movie (and story) is better than the final product, and I wish this movie touched more upon the religious views of the kids, but still, Children of the Corn has a lot going for it, and while I’d never say it’s perfect, I don’t really understand the hate this one sometimes get. But again, maybe some of my viewpoints are drenched in nostalgia. Still, I find this a very solid movie, and always have a quality time with it.
This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, so if interested, you can listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one below.