Buried inside the final cut of Children of the Corn there might be an exciting film. The movie tells the story of Gatlin, Nebraska which falls under the violent control of a cult of young corn worshipers led by a boy named Isaac leads the cult and his feared lieutenant Malachai. By the time the film’s main plot begins, the only dissenters to the rule of Isaac and his followers are two siblings, Job and Sarah, who seem younger than most of the cult. Isaac allows the siblings a great deal of freedom because Sarah displays “the gift of sight.” Meaning that her drawings predict the future like an elementary school version of a different Isaac from the show “Heroes.”
Will Sarah’s gift come up later? Will it impact the events of the movie in anyway? Nope. The only important thing about her gift in this film is that it allows Job and Sarah to operate relatively independently (much to the chagrin of Malachai). Otherwise her drawings predict events the audience already knows about, including the arrival of two adults to the town. Burt and Vicky find their way to Gatlin after a not-so-coincidental accident. Soon the Children come after the two “Outlanders” and seek to sacrifice them to their corn god “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.”
The film’s biggest problem is a lack of any narrative cohesion. There are several plot threads that end up feeling like loose ends (eg. Most of the earlier scenes between Burt and Vicky deal with her wanting to be engaged and Burt’s hesitance. This only really serves to give the finale a stronger emotional payoff. And again there really is no need for Sarah to have her power which is never explored anyway). Because of this lack of a unifying plot or theme, the actions of the characters seem dictated by the film’s needs and not that of the characters. When Vicky was attacked by the Children, why did she throw a lamp at the wall and not her attackers? Because watching the lamp smash made for better action. Then the scene carried on as if it didn’t happen. Why did the corn clear a path for Burt early in the movie? So he would kill Malachai? Or Isaac? The corn could’ve killed anyone it wanted. Why help this random person? Was the corn trying to trap Burt? It easily could have grabbed him like it did later in the movie. In the end it doesn’t matter because Burt turns around and runs away. The only function of that scene was for the audience to learn that the corn is sentient.
That one thread that almost makes Children of the Corn worthwhile is the Lord of the Flies version of the film. A movie about a cult of children who kill all the adults in their town is an interesting if not original concept. Why not just make a movie about that? About how easy it is for people to be swept up by religious fanaticism. Isaac would be the charismatic leader who claims to have the sole connection to their god. Malachai would be the trusty sidekick who grows suspicious of Isaac’s holiness and starts to wonder if Isaac is deceiving the group. Have two adults stumble into the town to stir the pot and force the children to reckon with what they’ve done.
Instead, the movie covers this interesting element with the actual supernatural. First we have Sarah’s useless gift. Then the mystery of He WhoWalks Behind the Rows becomes less mysterious and less exciting. The film ends with a final battle that really didn’t need to happen. Children of the Corn tries to have it both ways. Is Isaac delusional like it is alleged? Well, no. There really was a crazy thing behind those rows of corn. He wasn’t a fanatic run amok but someone responding to an actual force. Which is the less interesting version of this story.
Horror Tropes Checklist:
-Lighter that won’t stay lit.
-Creepy kids (triple check)
-Tripping over your own feet during an escape.
-Final scare (This one was horrible. The movie ends in a very weird way because of this. After that final jump scare, the actors just sort of walk off screen, as if they weren’t sure when the director would cut. That uncertainty carries over to the audience. “Oh so I guess it’s over?”
Yeah but it’s scary! I agree with you there is not a simple human message about people, which King is known for. It’s a little too supernatural.
Reblogged this on and commented:
Here’s another review of Children of the Corn for our October Kingathon. This review is by Damien of Flashback/Backslide. Tnx Damien!