Children of the Corn-1984
Director Fritz Kiersch
Starring Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton
Scott’s Review #1,385
Reviewed August 2, 2023
I liken the 1980s slasher film genre to the 1980s hard rock, ‘hair metal’ scene. Both contain standard and tried and true elements that are necessary to categorize them as such in said genre.
They both tended to be derided by critics as superfluous and commercially accessible to mass consumption.
I could write an entire dissertation on the subject but my focus will remain on the slasher genre and Children of the Corn, a 1984 release billed as a straightforward slasher film but that has supernatural aspects which set it apart from some contemporaries.
The cover art (pictured above) and promotion conjure up ideas of a knife-wielding maniac wearing overalls, stalking small-town victims in corn fields in middle America USA.
The film is based on a 1977 short story by horror author and brilliant storyteller Stephen King.
Set in the fictitious rural town of Gatlin, Nebraska, the film tells the story of a malevolent entity referred to as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” which entices the town’s children to ritually murder all the town’s adults. This is under the guise of ensuring a successful corn harvest.
A well-to-do city couple, Burt and Vicky, played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton drive cross-country to Seattle to begin a fantastic opportunity. Burt is a physician.
When they accidentally strike a child on a desolate stretch of highway they realize he was already dead and attempt to find help in Gatlin only to become the child resident’s next sacrifice.
Suffice it to say that the premise and the short story are way better than the finished film product though there is just enough to keep one entertained for an hour and a half.
Director, Fritz Kiersch, does a good job of providing a quality atmosphere. The loneliness of Gatlin and the foreboding corn fields where something deadly lurks amid the stalks made me feel uneasy from the get-go.
There is something about an uninhabited town in the middle of nowhere that is innately scary. Kiersch patterns the setting after the brutal Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) though with a much softer touch. The small farmhouses and the streets mirror that film.
I also enjoy the surprising chemistry between Horton and Hamilton. Scenes, where the pair are driving in the car chatting or listening to tunes, are pleasant and do not merely serve as filler to get to some killings.
The yellow early 1980s Buick or Oldsmobile is shown so frequently that it becomes a character itself. For fans of large American cars of yesteryear (me!), the inclusion of the car is a treat.
Finally, the blatant questioning and disparaging of the ridiculousness of organized religion is showcased when Burt (who believes in science) scolds the children for interpreting the Bible to suit their needs.
This may go over the audience’s heads but to me, it resonates and I cheered wildly when the dumb-faced kids realized the idiocy of their beliefs.
The film dissipates towards the end when the supernatural aspects take center stage. Tepid and very lowbrow they quickly take away any moments of peril and shift the momentum to comedy and cheapness. In 1984 this may not have been noticeable but in 2023 the special effects are at a low point.
The attempted sacrifice of Vicky doesn’t feel frightening, especially thinking of a superior film, The Wicker Man (1973) which used the same setup but more effectively.
Children of the Corn (1984) has its moments but by the time the film ends, I wished I had been treated to that knife-wielding, overall wearing maniac over a silly blood ritual in the name of the ‘holy bible’.