Three years ago, the children of Gatlin, Nebraska murdered everyone over eighteen at the command of Isaac (John Franklin), a child preacher who hears the words of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Now, Burton and Vicky Stanton (Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton) have found themselves in the nearly abandoned town, where Isaac and his lieutenant, Malachai (Courtney Gains), plan to sacrifice them.
Yet another film based on a Stephen King story, Children of the Corn is a godsend for anyone who likes watching people drive around and listening to them call out people’s names. For the rest of you, go find a book. Hell, go find the book this was based on. Just do something else.
It starts well, with the restaurant slaughter of the adults by children with sickles and knives. This would have been chilling except for a deeply unnecessary voice-over by a young kid telling us what we are seeing. This periodic narration ruins several other scenes before it stops, for no better reason than the one it had for starting.
Things continue downhill, as a kid who attempts to escape the cult is engulfed by romance music, as if the child is running to meet a lover rather than to escape a corn god. To offset this, the music switches from time to time to a religious chant. It doesn’t help.
The child is hit by the Stanton’s car, but doctor Stanton assures his wife that they didn’t kill him; the child was already dead from a slit throat. He was just standing in the middle of the road…dead. Wow, I can’t tell you how much I don’t want this guy as my doctor. In case any of you are equally misinformed, let me enlighten you: dead people don’t stand, in the road or anywhere else.
Ah, but that’s only one of the comical things said and done by the good doctor, whose presence guts the film’s attempts to create tension or pull the watcher in. He just isn’t believable. He carries on his bizarre behavior by covering the child’s body, and then telling his wife “Something’s not right. You go back to the car. Just do as I tell you.” I guess he’s from a strict 1820s family that knows the place of women. But why does he send her back to the car? Because he thinks the murderer is nearby, probably watching, and wants to check the cornfield. So, he abandons the little woman to the possible machinations of the killer as he stumbles around playing amateur sleuth. He also likes to walk into other people’s houses. When the town looks like a plague has struck, his reluctance to drive to another town, one with a police force, only makes sense if he was in on the killings. He’s not. Upon finding a young girl, he dismisses what she has to say, ignoring her warning of the fanatics in the cornfield, and again, abandons his wife. I don’t think that’s the way to keep a happy marriage. Let me check. Nope. My wife says it’s not.
At the blood-drinking, religious service, Doctor Nutcase rushes in and lectures the cultists on the Bible. One stabs him (no kidding). Does he learn? Nope. When he finds the homicidal, armed branch of the cult, instead of running, he stands in the middle of them and again, lectures them. “Any religion without love and compassion is false.” Yeah, that should stop zealot-butchers.
Working with the poorly conceived doctor character, there is the inadequate acting talents of the cast (which is understandable as many are children), and the crude cinematography. But it could have been an acceptable horror flick if it had a decent script. It doesn’t. Taken from one of King’s short stories, nothing is added and there isn’t enough meat for ninety minutes. The slight plot is filled out with endless scenes of the couple driving down rural roads and through cornfields. It’s not suspenseful. It’s not exciting. It’s just long.
The other films in the series are Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return, Children of the Corn: Revelation.