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STEPHEN KING’S CHILDREN OF THE CORN

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was not a fan of this one, as you’ll be able to tell from my review, published March 26, 1984, in the Deseret News. But horror buffs apparently loved it, since it spawned nine follow-up films … so far … including a 2009 TV-movie reboot. As a result, the Arrow video line has added the film to its Blu-ray upgrades this month.

You may recall one of our seven warning signals about movies: If a popular author’s name is part of the title, look out.

Remember “Sydney Sheldon’s Bloodline”? “Stephen King’s Children of the Corn” is even worse. And it’s appropriately titled, since there are lots of children in it and it’s as full of corn as a horror movie can be.

“Children of the Corn” is a Stephen King short story, included in his anthology book “Night Shift” — have we put all his novels on the screen already? — and it strangely resembles both Tom Tryon’s book “Harvest Home” and Wes Craven’s film “Deadly Blessing,” not to mention the two “Village of the Damned” films.

“Children of the Corn” opens “three years ago,” with all but two of the children in the small Nebraska town of Gatlin (though the movie was actually shot in Iowa) killing all the adults in town, under the direction of Isaac (John Franklin), a young religious fanatic who obeys “he who walks behind the rows,” meaning some creature who lives in the midst of the vast field of corn that seems to surround the town. The kids, in turn, go through a self-mutilation ritual on their 19th birthdays, and then are sacrificed.

     

    Linda Hamilton, 'Stephen King's Children of the Corn'

Most of the film, however, takes place during one day, three years later, when a young doctor and his wife (Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton) are passing through on their way to Washington state and their car strikes a young boy. The boy is already dead, of course, as we have seen in bloody detail before they arrive on the scene. They try to report the death but find the town empty, except for two youngsters who are rebelling against Isaac. Soon Hamilton is captured by Isaac’s youthful followers and strapped to a cornstalk, while Horton runs around town looking for her.

The fact that most of this film takes place in a cornfield must explain why the movie is so slow and dull — the killers take forever “stalking” their victims. At one point, Horton says, “Things just aren’t happening fast enough.” I couldn’t have agreed more.

There is the usual point-of-view “slasher” motif, and lots of gore, but no real characterization, no real sense of danger and plot holes as large as the corn rows are expansive. Who is this evil Isaac, anyway? What is it that lurks “behind the rows,” or more correctly, under them? How is it that for three years none of the victim’s out-of-town relatives have inquired about them, no one has come through town looking for them? Such logical questions are never addressed.

     

Even the special effects are laughable here, with the corn stalks wrapping their leaves around Horton, and Steven Spielberg-style rolling clouds announcing the monster’s displeasure. And though the monster itself is never shown (or explained, for that matter), we do see it tunneling like a mole among the rows — but the dirt is so phony it looks like a rug, giving the entire effect something of a Disney cartoon look, as if Donald Duck is chasing Chip ’n’ Dale under a carpet.

“Stephen King’s Children of the Corn” is a dreadful film, rated R for gory violence, and it’s an example of a movie that really is a “splatter” film. Most of the killings splatter blood on nearby observers. Ugh.

Watch the 6 o’clock news instead. It’s scarier.