Night #22: Children of the Corn (1984)

Directed By: Fritz Kiersch

I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with C.”

Children are creepy. It’s a fact. We all know this so we shouldn’t stop pretending.

Creepy children is something that Stephen King tapped into with his short story, appropriately titled Children of the Corn. This version of the story went on to spawn another 7 installments, which is impressive for a movie that was never that good to begin with. 

The problem in adapting King’s original short story is that you have to build on it, and building on it means that we get an extended action climax that doesn’t work all that well because instead of some ambiguous force we’re treated with some scary lights and a touch of the old possession.

Maybe it’s because it wasn’t long ago that I finished the short story so these things are fresh in my mind, but there’s no real sense of dread in the movie. I know it’s not fair to compare the two but I can if I want so here I go. King’s story puts across this great, unsettling feeling in just a few short pages and manages to keep it going right until the end. He can be unsentimental as a writer, which is why the leads – Vicky and Burt – are such assholes in the story. And why it’s easy to bump them off. Yeah I just spoiled it. In the book they bicker and fight, but it’s still for a purpose. We’re watching a relationship come to the slow inevitable end. Even if they make it out alive their relationship won’t.

Still, that’s tossed aside for the happy loving couple. It’s understandable why, King’s story is a fairly brisk read while this is a 90 minute film. It might be hard to stick with these characters if that was the case. Everything else unfolds in a way the story basically doesn’t, aside from their arrival in the town. There are some affecting scenes of a town deserted but that’s about it, and when we get to meet Isaac and Malachi and the rest of the titular children it’s just not that…interesting.  You’re always going to get mileage out of creepy kids (Eight films worth to be exact), but you can’t really commit to He Who Walks Behind The Rows (An unseen figure in the story) without it just looking a bit silly.

Burt and Vicky even get a helpful couple of kids in the movie, though I’m not sure that – again – it really works. I get why they’d need to do it, it gives the otherwise childless couple something to look after, but there’s the feeling in the short story that everyone is against them. Which turns out to be true. Still, at least Vicky has something to do here. In the original short she literally just sits in the car the whole time while Burt does everything and then is found dead later. So hooray for feminism.

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