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Stephen King’s Children of the Corn

***
1984

‘a tense, effective little shocker that makes hay from the frisson between past and present cultures’

Perhaps not the most celebrated of Stephen King adaptations, but Children of the Corn, adapted from the horror author’s short story, captured a small slice of cinematic real estate for itself back in 1984. Back in the days of VHS, Fritz Kiersch’s thriller wasn’t likely to topple Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining as a genre classic, and yet it’s a tense, effective little shocker that makes hay from the frisson between past and present cultures.

Vicky (Linda Hamilton) and her doctor boyfriend Burt (Peter Horton) are driving through Nowhereland, USA when they hit a child on the road. As a medic, Burt quickly realises that the child’s throat was already cut before the impact, and that the boy was left standing on the tarmac like a scarecrow. They put the body in the trunk, but find themselves unable to avoid the nearest small-town of Gatlin, where a group of malevolent children have taken control of the area, and hoping to make another sacrifice to “He Who Walks Behind The Rows.’

Children of the Corn is a long, slow burn that feeds on Vicky and Burt’s helplessness in the face of a largely unseen enemy. When the children do show themselves, they take the formidable form of Isaac (John Franklin) and Malachai (Courtney Gains), both of whom strike sparks with their dour appearance. Vicky and Burt’s savvy, urban superiority doesn’t count for much when the children are in pursuit, and their incredulity about the situation is well-handled, although the climactic effects leave something to be desired.

What America is built on is one of the staples of cinematic horror, and King was clearly onto something here, linking to The Wicker Man and the idea of a crop-saving sacrifice that’s out of sync with the modern world. Sequels, reboots and a pop-culture urban-legend status followed, but the original Children of the Corn still delivers a few good chills and scares, even by 2020 standards.

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    • It’s an ideal starter pack for non-genre veterans! Tense, not particularly violent or gory, and taps into something sinister. In other news…lined up a couple of Carry Ons, Screaming and Cleo, although you may have had enough of that by now!

  1. I haven’t seen this one but it at least sounds decent. The last King movie I saw was IT Chapter 2 and that was blasphemous compared to the first chapter. And before that, I saw Mercy, which ended up being one of the worse horror movies (or just movie) I’ve ever seen hahaah

  2. Franklin and Gains really make this movie work. They’re unforgettable. I actually made notes on the whole franchise a while back (there were eight of them at the time, there may be more now). Fun fact: Charlize Theron made her film debut in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.

    • Yup, I think I counted six sequels, a couple of reboots, I guess people couldn’t get enough of the idea, even if the standard of film was pretty low from all accounts. But you are totally right, the two great baddies make this film tick. And that is new information re Theron, although I may well lack the stamina to check out a third Corn movie…

  3. I agree. While certainly not one of the best King adaptations, it did have it’s moments, and the atmosphere in this film certainly wasn’t bad at all. It kind of get under your skin at certain points. Definitely enjoyed it too. Best not to talk about the numerous sequels that came after this film😂😂

    • I had wondered if there were any hidden gems in this franchise, but based on your trusted opinion, I think I’ll wash my hair instead. Totally agree, this film does get under your skin and is more effective than it really should be.

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