At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Children of the Corn “84”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains, Robby Kiger, Anne Marie McEvoy, Julie Maddalena, Jonas Marlowe, John Philbin/ Runtime: 92 minutes

sigh well here we are again movie goers with yet another adaptation of work done by one of Horror literature’s favorite Maestros Mr. Stephen King. Also like a lot of the adaptations of King’s work in the genre of horror, this adaptation of Children of the Corn is one that, although most certainly not one which is a dictionary definition of what the best in this genre can give an audience, is a film that regardless manages to reel it all in and move up in the world of film. Indeed all the correct elements are in play including a fairly good narrative, decent work from the performers, a not-bad sense of direction, and the fact that this is a Stephen King adaptation ought to be enough to sell it even if it won’t be on the same level as say Avengers: Endgame. Yet that is ok and the reason that is the case is because there is a slot in cinema for every kind of movie imaginable be it a critical darling or the latest guilty pleasure direct-to-video film. Suffice it to say therefore that Children of the Corn manages to land smack dab in the middle. Indeed it never truly makes for a horrible movie and instead runs its course as a decent enough film that manages to drain enough feat, pathos, curiosity, and drama possible from its distinct and unnerving narrative to maintain audience interest. Yet, despite this intriguing narrative, the movie tragically is never able to get past the clichéd and telegraphed in advance curves and bends in the road. As such the film seriously fails to venture far from the well-traversed road that has seen a movie or 10, some better and some best left unspoken about, tread wearily along on the way to their destination, and as a result is not as good as it could have, and should have been.

The plot is as follows: Children of the Corn tells the tale of a tiny little town in the state of Nebraska known as Gatlin. A picturesque little community once known for being a thriving populace due to its agricultural pursuits, but one day walks head-on into a nightmare. A nightmare consisting of 99.9% of the adult population in town being systemically slaughtered by the town’s youth led by a unusual young man named Isaac and his fearsome enforcer Malachai. Yet despite the fact that their community manages to fall into a state of disrepair, this child cult still continues to serve their deity known as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”. A deity that, through his chief prophet Isaac, commands the butchering of those who should go astray from its teachings as well as requests religious sacrifices that consist of anyone who is unfortunate enough to be traveling through town. Thus we see that a few years following this massacre, a young couple by the names of Bert and Vicky find themselves driving head-on into a nightmare when they accidentally plow into one of the town’s children who had decided to flee and was subsequently viciously murdered by Malachai. Yet even though they do their best to avoid going anywhere near Gatlin due to the begging of a nearby local who has been living on the outskirts of town, they still find that they can’t get away since it seems like all roads manage to head there. Upon arrival however, our intrepid couple stumble upon a pair of young children by the names of Job and Sarah who, like the murdered youth, are weary of being involved with the cult and have decided to rebel by playing games and listening to music, two forbidden pastimes according to the murderous cult (or the minister in Footloose). However as Burt and Vicky begin to put the pieces together in regards to just what happened in this small town, they find themselves being pursued by a bloodthirsty pack of young people hell-bent on killing them for their despicable deity. A deity that knows no limits, is molded by horror, and constructed by the very properties of terror itself….

Now even though this film is working with quite a few religious implications albeit ones that focus more on fringe cults than with any particular main denomination, the film still manages to never get too over loaded or preachy in either accepting or pushing away the idea of religion on an entity level. Suffice it to say then that even though religion is a key ingredient to the film’s narrative, it never overrides anything else, but instead blends together with the vibe of the movie. A vibe that is more showcased through the narrative, unnerving atmosphere, and its youthful antagonists. Regardless the film manages to construct a narrative that deals with being inquisitive. Not inquisitive of why we need religion or what purpose religion serves in the society around us. Rather the film chooses to focus its attention on the groups that run opposite to the values and beliefs that tend to be the defining ingredients of most main religions. Indeed the movie manages to showcase imagery revolving around the deterioration of several religious-rooted artworks in order to more fully showcase how this cult has decided to turn away from the celebration of peace and life that certain religions have come to profess as part of their doctrine, and instead have chosen to embrace chaos, violent acts, and religious murder. Indeed the object of these youths’ demented worship really doesn’t have a purpose other than to define just what has pushed these youths to follow its “instructions” and obey its “commandments”. Thus it is safe to say that He Who Walks Behind the Rows really is no more or less crucial to the narrative than if it were an idol worthy of a demented group’s worship practices. Indeed it is plain and simply an object inserted into a particular setting that can ultimately aid the film unravel by utilizing the various things that, to many an audience member, define a tiny agricultural-based town in the Midwestern United States. Thus I think it is safe to say that Children of the Corn is the slightly terrifying movie that it is not because of the deity in the cornfield, but instead because of the fanatical love and devotion that the youth in town shower it with in the form of the despicable commandments, rituals, and orders that have come to rule their lives.

Now even though Children of the Corn comes roaring out of the gate at the equivalent of a snail on a hot summer sidewalk, the fact that it starts so slow is actually beneficial to both the construction of the narrative and the tense atmosphere at play even though it is balanced out with a third act that seems to be blink or you’ll miss it in nature. Indeed even though a fair amount of the stuff in this film seems a tad bit….odd with particular regard towards some of the more “mature” conversations between Isaac and Malachai, the majority of the film still holds up quite decently. Indeed even though it is safe to say that although this film most likely in the minds of quite a few horror fans be the dictionary definition of Horror and/or result in either insomnia-loving nights, or numerous night terrors, it still is a film which delights in both its ruthless clarity and the viciousness in the way that this group of bloodthirsty kids obey their new god. Yet with that being said, it should be noted that when looking at this film from the acting department, it very much is the dictionary definition of a mixed bag. I say this because when it comes to the portrayals of Isaac and Malachai, the actors portraying them honestly do not always appear to have a firm comprehension of either the characters they are portraying or the material they are working with thus resulting in some….awkward moments. Yet nevertheless this diabolical duo still manage to play the parts with an eerie reality and it is through that and the physical aspects of their performances that they manage to make them work ultimately as well as they do. As for our film’s intrepid duo comprised of Hamilton and Horton it’s safe to say that, much like the vast majority of ingredients in this film, offer audiences performances in this that don’t either bring down or elevate the movie in any way. Rather they just simply coast along and make it work as well as they could hope to. Finally it should also be noted in regards to work in the other technical departments that this film does offer up a showcase for decent directorial work provided by a Mr. Fritz Kiersch in what is both a directorial debut, and what would come to be known as his most-known film as well as a potent and unnerving musical score from a Mr. Jonathan Elias. Yet as with all of the other ingredients at play in this film, it is safe to say that the term hit or miss is most definitely applicable herein as well.

All in all even though this movie does devolve into a chase film that we have seen time and time again in the third act, it still should be said at least it manages to keep a decent tempo and provides an appropriate conclusion to what is otherwise a decent film in the horror genre. Indeed originating from the brain of horror king Stephen King, Children of the Corn is a showcase for an intriguing narrative that is brought to life with a degree of mehhh in its execution. Indeed it’s not exactly a bad film within the world of horror and just cinema in general, but it most certainly is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless the film has managed to garner a degree of a cult following and also managed to, in that lovely manner the Horror genre knows only too well, be followed by numerous sequels, the vast majority of which have gone straight to video and some turning out better than others. Nevertheless this is one corny, pun intended, spectacle that is worth at least a watch on a rainy day. On a scale of 1-5 I give Children of the Corn “84” a 2.5 out of 5.