The Test of Time: Children of the Corn (1984)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they continue to be must see? So…the point of this here column is how a film stands against the Test of Time, if the thing holds up for a modern horror audience.

Director: Fritz Kiersch
Starring: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, and John Franklin

As a general rule of thumb, Stephen King and his movie adaptations have not had the best track record. Oh sure, some damn good ones have been produced, but out of over the 50 movies created out from his works (and that’s not including all those TV movies) few would be filed under the label of timeless classic. A lot end up middle of the road products or worst. Thanks to Mr. King’s staying power as the biggest name in horror for over 40 years, Hollywood keeps making flicks based on his writings, with some of them even turning into franchises. Case in point that movie with lots of corn, lots of weird, creepy kids and that lady from those killer cyborg films.

Under the examination: CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

Welcome to hell!

THE STORY: In Gatlin, (known as the “Nicest Little Town in Nebraska,”) a young, short-statured preacher named Isaac (John Franklin) talks all the young folks under the age 19 in town into murdering all adults for the corn gods. Soon after, an unlucky young couple (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) decide to take the scenic route and hit the body of a murdered young boy in the middle of the highway. They go in search of help (or at least a phone), and stumble upon young Isaac and his posse (led by creepy Malachai) which is bad news for everyone involved.

Sure, I'll join your cult. Looks fun. 

WHAT STILL HOLDS UP:  I hate to overuse a phrase like “creepy kids” but let’s face it. CHILDREN OF THE CORN works not because it has gore, murder, or Linda Hamilton, it works because the killers are a group of country kids who would scare anyone. John Franklin and Courtney Gains are perfectly cast as Isaac and Malachai. I’ve never read the original King short story so I don’t know what director Fritz Kiersch or writer George Goldsmith changed or didn’t, but I dig it. Both actors carry solid intensity even if they’re not the best around (Malachai yelling “Outlander!” over and over isn’t as haunting as it should’ve been).

What also makes CHILDREN OF THE CORN effective are gore and the atmosphere. For the former, the opening sequences where Malachai and his homies murder the entire town is pretty graphic (in the 1980s sense of the word). Lots of stabbings and slashings to good effect - although the movie could have used even more. For the latter, too many horror movies take place in the same location. East Coast, West Coast, or the South. Writers tend to forget about the 40 other states that they can utilize, and that’s what CHILDREN OF THE CORN got right. There’s something about being captured in a cornfield at night while OMENish music plays that naturally scares the shit out of anyone.

Someone is thinking of cyborgs and hoping for the best.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: 1984 was a good year for Linda Hamilton. She had a true classic in THE TERMINATOR... and this movie. I’m sure she thanks the gods for THE TERMINATOR because if not for it, we’d remember her for this and probably see her at every horror convention making a few bucks off autographs. Why? Because even though she’s cute here (even with her lackluster strip dance), she’s completely forgettable because she doesn’t have anything to do. And while I like the look of the actors, this movie was never going to get anyone another gig. The acting is ok at best, sometimes pretty bad (along with the special effects). The same could be said for Peter Horton, who acts more or less like a pissed off teacher sick of dealing with f*cked up brats. However, I applaud the guy’s ability to run around Gatlin with tight jeans, tucked in white button down, and sparkling white tennis shoes. The man is a good dresser. And he can bitch slap with the best of them.

As someone who resides in the Great Plains, can I just remind everyone making movies out there that Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, among other states, don’t have mountains. Shouldn’t really be a shock considering it is the Great “Plains.” I know the rest of America doesn’t give a damn, but come on. When we see beautiful views of endless cornfields, we should never see mountains lurking in the distance (they’re there in a few scenes). That’s like shooting in Texas and calling it Northern Alaska. Anyway, get it straight people.

Beyond that, CHILDREN OF THE CORN is entertaining, but for a film about a cult of killer kids, it feels stretched a bit thin. Though that makes some sense considering it's based on a short story, not a novel.

That's not creepy.

THE VERDICT: Okay, to say CHILDREN OF THE CORN is a great film is bit of a stretch. I don’t think a decent, entertaining B-movie equates to classic status. It is entertaining, it does contain some good gore, it does have some fantastically creepy kids and a great cult leader/henchman duo. But it's definitely not a classic.




Extra Tidbit: How you you feel CHILDREN OF THE CORN holds up?



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