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The F*cking Black Sheep: Children of the Corn (1984)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

"Outlanderrrrrrrrrr!"

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

DIRECTED BY FRITZ KIERSCH

It’s time to flip the script a bit on all you sons-a-bastards. We often ask what your favorite Stephen King film is – the top tier and bottom barrel – but rarely get a chance to do the opposite. So, let’s get it out upfront, what is your least favorite Stephen King film?

Sure, it’s easy to lambaste any odd Mick Garris adaptation, grouse about THE TOMMYKNOCKERS or ridicule THINNER, etc. But if you were to ask me, I would not hesitate for a moment to name CHILDREN OF THE CORN (our boy The Arrow has it right) as not only my least favorite of all King’s cinematic offspring, I truly believe it’s the most overrated Stephen King adaptation as well. You disagree with the latter statement? How the hell else do you explain the fact that there have been 10 f*cking franchise film entries to date, with the most recent coming courtesy of John Gualger via CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNWAY (apparently outranking the OG), which came out just last year?! For those keeping count, CHILDREN OF THE CORN has stocked its canon with more movies than deserving horror franchises like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, whose bona fide original actually merits a legitimate franchise to begin with. Shite’s folderol. Hogwash. Motherf*cking poppycock! Here’s why CHILDREN OF THE CORN, which turns 35 this month by the way, is a preposterously overblown F*cking Black Sheep!

CHILDREN OF THE CORN is a bad movie that is extremely unpleasant to watch, and it starts with who wrote and directed it. Yes, the short story Stephen King wrote served as a springboard for a screenplay written by George Goldsmith, whose only credit prior to COTC was the unparalleled classic martial-arts space movie FORCE: FIVE. So not only was King’s story truncated to begin with, it was put into the hands of a man who only ever co-wrote one ludicrous sci-fi karate farce. Okay. And for those who think you can grow into talent, let’s look at Goldsmith’s resume since, which includes such enviable pearls as NOWHERE TO HIDE, BLUE MONKEY, HOT CHILD IN THE CITY, and WHERE ANGELS TREAD. Yeah, hardly inspiring greatness up in this motherf*cker. King should have wrote the script himself! Now let’s move on to the director of CHILDREN OF THE CORN, Fritz Kiersch. Ever heard of this guy? Anyone at all? Me neither. Perhaps you’ll recognize his film credits since making COTC as his feature debut. Have you ever seen, much less enjoyed, TUFF TURF, WINNERS TAKE ALL, GOR, FATAL CHARM, SHATTERED IMAGE? Any of these ringing a goddamn bell? How about CRAYOLA KIDS ADVENTURES: TALES OF GULLIVERS TRAVELS? Point is, who the f*ck is Fritz Kiersch? No, point is, there’s a reason why CHILDREN OF THE CORN sucks as badly as it does, and it starts with who the hell was put in chargeof adapting King’s authentically creepy ass short story to the big-screen.

Now let’s dig into the actual 92 minutes of insufferable ennui. While we all love Linda Hamilton from the TERMINATOR flicks, I never once enjoyed seeing her paired with “Thirstysomething” star Peter Horton as the primary leads in this film. Have you? This is problematic from jump-street, for if one does not care about the protagonists, one cannot care about what happens to them. If we don't care, we tune out immediately. Even when the characters make choices in the film that are supposed to get the audience to side with them, the lack of sympathy or empathy is simply to glaring to give a damn. To this end, if we’re to put ourselves in the main characters’ shoes, another point of pure displeasure has to do with the dusty, sun-baked setting of Gatlin, Nebraska. It’s one thing to make us feel as vicariously frightened as the two leads through a genuinely chilling atmosphere, but the setting in COTC is so boringly staid and aesthetically ugly that, after awhile, you want to be killed yourself so you can simply get the hell out of dodge! Seriously, the faltering flatness of setting and painfully plain daytime horror escapades (only Kubrick’s THE SHINING can get away with being a day-lit horror film) does not feel threatening whatsoever. They’re disturbing, sure, but for all the wrong reasons. The movie isn’t freakishly disturbing or deeply unnerving in the way you’d expect from a well made horror movie, unh unh, the kind of disturbance in COTC has to do with pure obnoxiousness and unpleasant annoyance of the story, setting and characters themselves.

The lack of coolness that pulls COTC to the ground like an albatross around its neck is really typified in its titular villains, the children, which, if aren’t scary, need to be appealing in other ways. Now, good ole ginger-mulleted Malachai gets a pass simply because Courtney Gains is a legit 80s movie boss (BACK TO THE FUTURE, CAN’T BUY ME LOVE, THE BURBS, etc.), but every other evil cornfield-dwelling child is a weak, nonthreatening nuisance.Likeyoung Dax Shepard up there is gonna do jack shit! Isaac (John Franklin), the precocious kiddy leader who is most influenced by the malefic force hiding behind the windrows of corn, simply does not inspire a single scare throughout the entire film. His dull one-note grimmace face is flat-out bullshite! Worse, those patient enough to sit through all of the inexplicable strands of the macabre – the vicious crucifixion, the nighttime ceremony, the mysterious underground TREMORS (far better by the way) – are never given a requisite explanation of the supernatural force that sways beyond the cornrows. Not that we always need exposition in the end, but a movie this poorly made does need some sort of insightful closure toward the conclusion. Alas, we get none.

Another aspect of COTC I’ve always took umbrage with is its quasi-religious sentiment and philosophical hooey the movie panders to. I’ve never been a fan or religious horror films in the first place (THE EXORCIST obviously notwithstanding), but whatever the hell King was trying to communicate with COTC falls on my deaf ears. I don’t often agree with the late great Roger Ebert, but I think his line on this very matter is more articulate than I can ever be regarding this matter. In his original review, Ebert said “The ringleaders speak in pseudo-biblical English, kind of a King James version of Stephen King.” That’s such a perfect description of what I’m talking about. It’d be one thing if the religious aspects of the film actually had something to say, but they don’t, and therefore make the movie feel silly at best, fake at worst, with the median sentiment leaving us in a state of head-scratching confusion.

All this to say, I have absolutely no idea why CHILDREN OF THE CORN ever became, or why it’s remained, as popular as it has over the past 35 years. If you have an inkling or an impassioned plea, please feel free to share below as to why you think it’s a good horror movie. To my eyes, the movie is not very scary, unpleasant to sit through, features characters – both and good and bad – that we neither care to see escape nor feel the need to evade. CHILDREN OF THE CORN is a dull, toothless, dusty, boring ass F*cking Black Sheep of a movie that does not deserve to bear the regal King namesake. It certainly doesn’t warrant nine sequels over 34 years either. Straight up, I hate this f*cking movie!

GET CHILDREN OF THE CORN ON MULTI-FORMAT HERE

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