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Children Of The Corn (1984)
Director: Fritz Kiersch

review by Jeff Young

As with Wes Craven's earnest Deadly Blessing (1981), this horror thriller - based on a short story by Stephen King - features murder and terrorism by a maniacal religious sect, with elemental supernatural mayhem in a rural setting. Unlike that earlier film, this one steals from The Exorcist and The Omen series by casting its youngest actors as the villains.
   "There's something very strange about this town." Isaac (John Franklin) is the little prophet from hell who commands the resentful adolescents of god-fearing Gatlin, Nebraska to slaughter their parents. Three years on, a doctor named Burt and his girlfriend Vicky (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) drive into the now deserted small town, and are attacked in pagan style rituals by the bad kids that worship 'He Who Walks Behind The Rows'. Most disagreeable among these teenage killers is red-haired Malachai (Courtney Gains) who, apart from being one of biggest youths, is the only challenger to Isaac's authority.
   Farming tools are wielded in menacing ways and shot from several acutely stylised angles, in order to enhance the threat of their appearance, even though they are not actually put to much use rending flesh after the grisly opening prologue. There are several instances of that visual cliché where a blade is slowly turned so it glints brightly with reflected light, and such foreshadowing of violence is about as far as this drama goes down that dusty old road.
   Honestly, there isn't a great deal of action here. Most of the film's 90 minutes is comprised of suspense scenes, with slightly arty cinematography. When Burt leaves Vicky in an apparently empty house while he goes off alone to search public buildings, Malachai and his gang of cutthroats close in, kidnapping our heroine to prepare her for sacrificial offering to their highly unlikely corn god. Children Of The Corn has seen five sequels (each one, unsurprisingly, more preposterous than the last), so it's clear that the basic idea of children as acolytes and instruments of demonic evil has a lasting impact.
previously published online, VideoVista #29
Children of the Corn - poster

Children of the Corn - on DVD
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