Oh Stephen King. Trying not to run into a horror movie based on your work is like trying to find a sci-fi movie not inspired by Philip K. Dick: difficult. We’ve already talked about the relative quality of King’s adaptations to the big screen before, but this is one of the strangest of his scenarios (right along with the killer car). Can a child cult that worships a haunted cornfield actually be scary, or is running through tall stalks a cheap way to build suspense?
Let’s take a look at Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.
We lay our scene in not-Maine, or for those of us who aren’t Stephen King, Nebraska where one day a large group of children and teenagers decide to kill every single adult in the town of Gatlin, under the leadership of young Isaac. Three years later, a young couple on their way to the West Coast gets stuck in the murderous child town, meant to be used as sacrifices for a monsters only known as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Will our two love birds escape this nightmare town, or are they doomed to be buried in cornfields just like in Secret Window? I think I just mixed up my King films. What’s with the affinity for corn anyways?
The plot is basically every other Stephen King adaptation of the 1980s, so you know it all works out in the end. The acting is pretty strong considering the majority of the cast is full of children. John Franklin and Courtney Gains play Isaac and the murderous Malachai who fight for supremacy and do so well. Franklin is very intimidating with his creepy stare and authoritative voice, acting more like a mini-adult than a child, and Gains pulls off the red-neck-you-wouldn’t-want-to-meet-on-a-back-road. It’s hard to have children be intimidating, but these two performances seal the deal for me. Seeing Linda Hamilton pre-Terminator is always fun, though half the time I was expecting her to stop the damsel-in-distress act and pull a Sarah Connor and bean those little jerks.
While I will say that running through corn fields isn’t scary, this film does its best to build the suspense. Seeing children on a murderous rampage is pretty disturbing, as well as the strange religion they designed for themselves. The cinematography did not age well but it’s still watchable. Great use of faded colors and lighting, though sticking corn stalk everywhere was a bit of overkill. The special effects leave a lot to be desired, but since there aren’t that any until the end, it doesn’t distract from the rest of the film.
One big problem I have with the plot of the film is that very little is explained. Why did Isaac strike when he did, and to what ultimate goal? Did he believe adults were evil? Was he power hungry or possessed? How long was the “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” monster in that corn field? Where did it come from and what the Hell was it? All we saw was a cheap glow effect and some cloud, which makes no sense. I know King is famous for weird disappointing monsters, but at least we get to see what those monsters are in the end. This one was a cloud, a demonic cloud that take over people and demands worship from small children – no matter what else he could come up with it was already disappointing, you might as well have it make some sense.
Children of the Corn is a good film but the concept is scarier than the end product. If you’re on a quest to watch each and every Stephen King adaptation, you’ll be pleased to find that this is one of the better ones. It would make a good Halloween classic but don’t expect it to bring the thrills. Also, whatever you do, don’t watch the 2009 remake by SyFy. Just trust me on that one.
– Good cast.
– Good cinematography.
– Under-explained plot.
– Poor special effects.