Stephen King, the “king of horror,” gets the popular nickname from his many horrific narratives. “IT” and “Pet Sematary” are only a couple of newer films based on King’s widely popular stories. As the cinematic experience progressed, so did the adaptation of King’s scary stories. Based on a short story of the same name, “Children of the Corn,” directed by Fritz Kiersch, was released in 1984. For its time, this film was considered a horrifying concept but doesn’t compare to current horror adaptations.
“Children of the Corn” focuses on a couple traveling through Gatlin, Neb. who encounter obsessed, murderous children led by their self-proclaimed preacher, Isaac, who took over the town. Once the film starts, it immediately jumps into action with clearly fake blood, gore and carnage. The film contains multiple jump scares, and these are all the film has going for it with the scare factor in modern context. The rest of the scariness is reliant on children holding different shapes and sizes of knives walking around in various scenes chasing the young couple. Since the film immediately jumps into this story, it misses opportunities to build up certain characters and give more of a background of the story. After a while, the film just looks and feels like an extended version of a childhood game.
Starring Peter Horton as Burt and Linda Hamilton as Vicky, the film relies heavily on dialogue to make it interesting. Some of the dialogue comes across as cheesy and not well thought out, but there is also a lot of dialogue that makes this film stay afloat. This old film is more comical than horrific because of how it aged and the lack of acting, but it is still decent through other aspects of the film.
The manipulated kids choir and organ music also adds to the scary effect of the film but is contradicted by the massive amount of random running scenes. The film is paced pretty well, but the inclusion of certain unnecessary scenes makes it overlong and boring, at least until the next interesting scene pops up. Kiersch’s filmmaking, like the camera placement or the blocking when characters interact with each other, really holds the film back from reaching the same potential as the source material.
Both the acceptance and despisement of religion drive the story. Small details throughout the film, like the religious character names, focus themselves on this overall theme of faith. The film emphasizes how extreme religion can consume a person’s life. The dialogue toward the end of the film really cuts deep among not only non-believers but believers as well. The true meaning of the film shines through with some simple yet complex quotes like “Any religion without love and compassion is false, it’s a lie.”
For a film made in 1984, it is good, but aside from the older set designs and the totally rad 80s wardrobe, the adaptation of King’s story could have involved more creativity. For this Halloween season, there are plenty of “go-to” films, but sadly “Children of the Corn” is the film to turn to once better films have already been crossed off the checklist.