Children of the Corn (1984)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 93 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although by no means a horror classic, this low-budget Stephen King adaptation stands out from a crop of similar '80s slasher films by virtue of its scary premise, spooky music, inspired casting, and tightly plotted, if frequently hammy, script. Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton star, but it's the child actors who make the most indelible impressions. John Franklin has one of those faces that looks ancient before it even hits puberty, making him the perfect choice for pint-sized cult leader Isaac. Redheaded teen actor Courtney Gaines is even better as Malachi, Isaac's menacing, machete-wielding henchman. Robby Kiger and Annemarie McEvoy make convincing if occasionally cutesy young protagonists. And in one of the few adult roles, horror-Western veteran R.G. Armstrong plays a crusty gas station owner with campy aplomb. Despite a few unfortunate digressions into primitive-synthesizer mode, Jonathan Elias makes great use of a haunting children's choir in his deeply creepy score; the music works especially well during the clever title sequence, which tells the story of the titular children's rise to power in a series of sicko crayon drawings. Cheap special effects keep the climax from measuring up to the opening credits, but for the first two acts, director Fritz Kiersch relies on ambience and the mere suggestion of violence to exact maximum nail-biting intensity from the material. Kiersch does occasionally let the hoary dialogue get the best of his actors -- particularly Horton, whose character bizarrely attempts to argue morality with a group of bloodthirsty, parentally unsupervised young religious fanatics who are holding him at knifepoint in a derelict church. But several truly scary scenes and bits of dialogue -- "He wants you too, Malachi" being only the most quotable -- made this film a staple of suburban nightmares when it appeared on cable channels throughout the mid-'80s.