"So how did such a mediocre film warrant six sequels (here's a hint...it's all about the money)? There's the original. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993), Children of the Corn III (1995), Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996), Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998), Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (1999), and Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001)...that's a lot of corn, or as the Native Americans call it, maize...I've seen the original, but not the subsequent sequels...my gut instinct tells me to avoid them. Children of the Corn, aka Stephen King's Children of the Corn (1984), directed by Fritz Kiersch (Tuff Turf, Gor) features a solid cast including Peter Horton ("thirtysomething") and Linda Hamilton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Also appearing is R.G. Armstrong (Dick Tracy), Courtney Gains (Colors, The 'burbs) and John Franklin, who appeared 1991 film The Addams Family, along with its' 1993 sequel, as the very hairy Cousin Itt.
The film, which primarily takes place in the small farming town of Gatlin, Nebraska, begins with a flashback, relating a particularly gruesome incident in where the children depopulate the town of nearly all adults through a good old fashion bloodbath. Fast forward three years to the present, and we have Burton (Horton) and his girlfriend Vicky (Hamilton) traveling through the Midwest as Burton has recently graduated from med school, and has been offered an internship somewhere...but that's neither here nor there as the pair get lost, have an accident, and soon find themselves looking for aid in Gatlin...but guess what? Gatlin appears all but deserted...except for the children, who've formed some kind of weird cult, led by the incredibly creepy man-child Isaac (Franklin). Initially their idolatry seems to be centered on the corn, but later we learn it's not so much the corn as what lurks under the corn. Burton and Vicky soon find themselves in a world of trouble, as the corn is thirsting for holy sacrifices, and they're at the top of the list (I wouldn't mind initiating a religious ceremony with that Linda Hamilton...that is the soft and sexy Linda from the original Terminator movie, not the bony and intensely scary Linda from T2: Judgment Day)...
The film is based on a Stephen King short story taken from his book Night Shift, which I've never read, but I have read a number of his other books, many of which were later adapted to film, with varying degrees of success...anyone else besides me sit through Maximum Overdrive? Okay, Children of the Corn isn't as bad as that was, but it is lacking something...it's not the acting...Horton, whom I despise for no other reason than he was on that TV show `thirtysomething' was actually pretty good. As far as Linda Hamilton, well, I think she's a good actress, provided she's given something to work with, and that wasn't the case here. The real fun is watching the performances of Franklin and Gains, as Isaac and Malachai, respectively. Franklin is extremely disconcerting as the leader of the group, mainly because his appearance is that of a child, but a closer look would make you think twice as his face and voice seem to indicate some much older. Turns out Franklin, who suffered from some sort of hormone deficiency, was actually much older, like 23 at the time of the film's release. As far as Gains, he presents the most intense performance as Isaac's enforcer and right hand man, but I felt like he got into it just a little too much (in the featurette Gains speaks of his craft and how he brought his character to the screen...I do appreciate it when actors give to the screen, but I think Gains took his modest role a bit too seriously, trying to make more of it than it was...but since the production in general was pretty bland, this overacting wasn't necessarily unwelcome). These two guys come off really good as the antagonists, mainly because they're so completely annoying I wanted to beat them both to a pulp (wait for the scene when Malachai is walking down the center of the street calling for Burton to come out, yelling `Outlander!"...you'll understand what I mean by annoying). As far as the direction, I have no real complaints, as Kiersch seems capable...in the featurette he speaks a lot of what he was trying to accomplish with regards to the sense of direction, and in some areas I think he met his goal, but others I think his aspirations extended beyond his capabilities. So what's the problem with the film? It's the story...well, not the original story, but the adaptation of the story. As I said, I'm familiar with many of King's works, and I know he takes a lot of time to craft his tales, utilizing detail like it was going out of style. I think one of the things that makes his story so popular is his ability to paint a visual using words...and he also seems to do this in terms that are accessible to an extremely wide audience. And I think this is a main factor that ends up hurting many of the films that are adapted from his novels...they lack the focus on what's important to the story. I think this is why we are seeing his more recent works produced as television mini-series...because more time can be spent developing the story and presenting the details, in my opinion.
The Divimax edition, released by Anchor Bay Entertainment features a really sharp looking wide screen (1.85:1) print, enhanced for 16 X 9 TV's, and the audio is exceptionally clear and crisp. Special features include a new 39 minute documentary titled Harvesting Horror, an audio commentary by the director, the producer, actors Franklin and Gains, trailer, poster and still gallery, screenplay, storyboard art, title sequence art, and a mini reproduction of poster for the film inside the DVD case.
Average at best, but an excellent Blu-ray release
Dave. K | Staten Island, Ny | 10/23/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN
*** Out of 5
Release Date- March 9th, 1984
Running Time- 92-Minutes
Screenplay- George Goldsmith (Story by Stephen King)
Director- Fritz Kiersch
Starring- Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gaines, Robby Kiger, Anne Marie McEvoy
Released in 1984 Children of the Corn is based off a short story of the same name written by Stephen King; Children of the Corn was first published in 1977 in Penthouse and than later in part of King's short story collection Night Shift.
Children of the Corn wasn't one of King's better stories in my opinion, but it wasn't bad or anything. It was an enjoyable piece, but in the end nothing special so I suppose it's only fitting the movie adaptation ends up being nothing special as well. Some people say King's work isn't suited well for film due to his writing style. I have to disagree with that; I think most of King's work is perfectly suited for film, but for the most part it seems many haven't translated well on film. King's work while sometimes violent is almost always character driven and that is what makes his novels and short stories work so well. In general horror is always about believing the impossible and that works best when the characters are well developed.
The fact Stephen King has created such excellent characters is the reason why his work has excelled; it's not easy basing a movie off of a book. You have the groundwork already done, but a lot of character development often gets lost and some of King's work turned into films have been duds like The Dark Half or average at best like Desperation, but The Dead Zone and Carrie were two prime examples of how well King's work can translate onto film. With Children of the Corn I don't think the story was good enough to be made into a 90-minute film. If anything I think this would have worked better as a short film or even an episode of a TV series. Again that's not to say the short story was bad or anything. It was enjoyable, but not one of King's stronger stories.
The screenplay by George Goldsmith was rather sub-par filled with some silly dialogue, but works well due to the silliness. The one area I do feel the screenplay improved upon the short story were with the lead characters of Burt played by Peter Horton and Vicky played by Linda Hamilton. Like I said earlier Stephen King's strong suit are his characters, but Burt and Vicky weren't among his best. I personally found them rather annoying and mostly un-likeable and here in the film version I thought they were a lot more likeable. The short story was 29-pages and the film runs at 90-minutes so obviously changes will be made; the changes made by George Goldsmith never improve on the original story, but I wouldn't say they were inferior either.
The script by Goldsmith as stated before is filled with some silly dialogue and overall Children of the Corn is poorly written, but in the poor writing it does actually make it fun. There is very little character development and the plot isn't really expanded on all that much, but it works well due to the poor writing and makes it campy fun. Like I said before the only real improvement for me was the main characters; I found Burt and Vicky more likeable in the film than the short story and in the story they spend most of their time arguing where as here in the film their relationship is still strong. My biggest complaint with the script though is the ending; the ending isn't dark like the short story and I personally felt was a cop out.
Fritz Kiersch makes his directorial debut and I'll give him credit due to the fact Children of the Corn had a very low budget, which shows at times, but doesn't look any cheaper than other low budget flicks of the same era. But besides making a decent looking film on a low budget he doesn't get much right besides that, which some limitations are due to the script though. The pacing isn't all that bad, but it's never really exciting either; Fritz Kiersch stated that when it came to the violence he wanted it more suggested than shown to do something like Alfred Hitchcock used to do. Most of the violence is just that suggested; we never see anything, but some blood splatter, which would be ok in a better movie. No offense to Fritz Kiersch, but he isn't Hitchcock and shouldn't attempt to do what he did. Children of the Corn is a movie that really could have used a lot more gore.
Some scenes are quite silly and over the top that it can be hard to keep a straight face while watching it, but some of that can also be blamed on the very poor acting from most of the cast. There is very little in the way of suspense and tension, but to Fritz Kiersch credit he does at least attempt it. Some scenes with Burt and Vicky going around the town of Gatlin can be semi creepy, which is more to do with the location than directing, but these scenes at least work some what decently, but another problem was the whole film was shot in the daytime except the final act and some of these scenes would have worked slightly better with a nighttime shoot.
The acting was rather terrible with the exception of Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton who give good performances despite the weak script; Courtney Gaines ended up becoming a solid actor, but here he wasn't very good and does add to the whole so bad its good vibe, which can partly be blamed on the silly things he has to say. I suppose it isn't easy to sound good with the idiotic lines he has, but Gaines has improved over the years. John Franklin as Isaac didn't fair much better; he is sort of creepy, but his performance was the icing on the cake for the so bad it's good.
The rest of the cast range from terrible to below average; one of my problems with the short story and film was I just couldn't fully buy into the concept, but with such weak acting it doesn't exactly help matters. Horton and Hamilton both work well together and manage to sell some really silly stuff.
My review for Children of the Corn may not sound good, but the movie really wasn't very good, but it is an enjoyable movie in how poor it was. The whole so bad its good vibe is on full effect and despite how poor the film was it does work due to that and is enjoyable, but you can easily find movies on the same level far more enjoyable. Amazingly there were several sequels made I don't think the original was good enough to warrant any (or if anything as many) and while I haven't seen all of them of the ones I've seen this is probably the best of the bunch, which is actually quite scary.
The Blu-ray release is top notch; Anchor Bay delivers a solid transfer, but obviously don't expect a pristine print. Due to the age of the film anything less than a full re-master there is only so good the picture can look. But the transfer is very good and there is some grain to be found and some dirt, but Anchor Bay delivers an excellent transfer. There are also some new features that cover the behind the scenes and they are all informative; Even though the movie is enjoyable in the so bad its good level the disc is far better than maybe the movie deserved."
Horror in the Cornfields
The Movie Man | Maywood, New Jersey USA | 08/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Children of the Corn" is the 1984 adaptation of a Stephen King tale that turns children into monsters. Following in the tradition of "The Bad Seed" and "Village of the Damned," "Children of the Corn" sets out to shatter our notion that childhood is a time of innocence. The opening scene grabs us right away. In Gatlin, Nebraska, a small farming community, the good citizens follow church on Sunday with breakfast at the local coffee shop. One morning, however, the town's children rise up against the adults, poisoning their coffee and slashing their throats in a violent, horrifying sequence. Skip ahead three years. Burt and Vicky (Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton) have a bad accident outside Gatlin and walk to town, searching for help. But they find no adults. Eventually, they discover that the children of Gatlin have formed a religious cult around an evil entity, "He Who Walks Behind the Rows." Though far from a classic, this film has an enormous following and has inspired six sequels, five released directly to DVD. Its appeal lies partly in the performances of the two young leads. John Franklin plays Isaac, the nine-year-old prophet who organized the cult, and Courtney Gains portrays the odd-looking and unsettling Malachai. Bonus extras include the featurette, "Welcome to Gatlin: The Sight and Sounds of Children Of the Corn;" an interview with Linda Hamilton; audio commentary by director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains; and the documentary "Harvesting Horror: Children of the Corn.""
Still Creepy After 24 Years
K. Jones | Portland, OR USA | 03/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm 16 years old and I love Children of the Corn, it's creepy without being gory. The dvd quality is great and the special features are fun. It was really interesting seeing John Franklin and Courtney Gains in the documentary for the 20th anniversary... they both look just as they were and it's cool hearing about their experiences on set, which is continued in the commentary. Great dvd, it's a great deal for those who love this movie."
Noteworthy horror film
M. Ryan Fairbanks | Cleveland, Ohio | 10/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Surely the name "Children of the Corn" does not resound through horror film history as prominently as The Exorcist, Halloween, and The Shining. However the film is a noteworthy addition to the genre and it is often overlooked. It has achieved a mild cult following, and spawned more than a handful of sequels, so there's gotta be something to it, right?
Based on a Stephen King story, the plot of the film itself was more than enough to make an interesting movie. A child preacher influences all the children in town to exterminate the adult population in a sacrifice to a deity "He who walks behind he rows". The corn itself was meant to be more of a metaphor for nature in general, the children wanting to take nature back from the adults who so shamelessly wasted its resources. Although this original film illustrated that concept well, the sequels took the "corn" aspect much more literally incorporating goofy ideas like corn monsters...(I wish I was kidding), but that's neither here nor there.
Anyway, we follow a young couple on a trip through rural Nebraska. After a series of unfortunate events, they are led to the town of Gatlin, where this whole thing with the kids killing their folks took place. Slowly, the couple is led through the ghost town and discover its disturbing past. After the residing children make it clear that they are unwelcome, they struggle to escape the cult's murderous clutches.
Well the story had potential to be a great movie, unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way. Children of the Corn is actually a very slow moving film with minimal scares or gore. The bulk of the film is basically a very long chase scene without much reprise and the body counts boasts a mere two or three. The most noteworthy part of the movie is the eerie, unsettling atmosphere it manages to create with the ghost town scenes and the endless rows of corn. Some of the performances are decent, such as the Malakai character and Isaac. However for a film that's partially themed around religion, it could have gone so much further and been so much more shocking. The great storyline is not utilized well at all.
All in all, for a Stephen King adaption this is not the best, but it's certainly not the worst. The Children of the Corn is an eerie little film that's worth a look if you like the horror genre.