Corn, Linda Hamilton, and Death by 80s CGI: Revisiting Children of the Corn (1984)

This is part of the Horrorathon for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO).

From IMDb: A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believes that everyone over age 18 must be killed.

Recap:

The movie starts with establishing shots of fields of corn so I’m already loving how on brand this is.

A voiceover from a little boy named Job tells of a child preacher named Isaac preaching to the children of their small town of Gatlin, Nebraska. The movie escalates quickly with the children and teenagers of the town murdering all the adults in a single day – starting with poisoning the diner’s coffee supply shortly after church lets out.

Good thing the adults in this diner all start drinking coffee at precisely the same time just like all the diners in Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s “Telephone” music video! Also love the corn cob salt & pepper shakers.

The kid ominously staring through the window is the town’s resident #BossBitch AND some would say #BitchBoss Isaac.

Really right in front of my milkshake?

And this poor dude is the resident good boy Job.

We are then introduced to our protagonists Vicky (played by the ICONIC Linda Hamilton) and Burt.

Burt has just graduated medical school and it’s his birthday AND they are taking a road trip. Vicky wakes him up with a serenade but Burt still seems distracted and tense. It is evident she is putting a lot of effort into what could be a failing relationship.

Meanwhile the corn is corning in the fields…

One child tries to flee the corn cult but gets attacked by one of other children. Then Burt accidently hits him with his car while distracted. Vicky is in a state of shock and clearly upset. But Burt is already like…

But then Burt realizes the child’s throat had been cut. They drive away with the body in the trunk to try and look for help.

Job and his sister Sarah are so bored they are playing Monopoly. Their game is ended by Malachia throwing a knife into the board.

Honestly a completely acceptable way to end Monopoly

Vicky and Burt stop by a small gas station and get a really subtle Harbinger of Impending Doom. He insists they should skip attempting to go to the nearest town named Gatlin for help since it really has nothing and the people there are very religious and not open to outsiders. He instructs them to instead take the fork to the nearest other town Hemingford, but they end up getting turned around in the corn and going to Gatlin anyway.

The Harbinger’s dog disappears into the corn and he showcases the pitfalls of respectability politics when dealing with a dangerous cult by yelling out, “we have a deal and I kept our bargain!” But something or someone still kills his dog off screen before killing him as well.

In Gatlin, Burt and Vicky stop by the diner which has ominous corn strewn about but no people. They eventually meet Job’s sister Sarah, who functions as a child Harbinger of Impending Doom. Unfortunately Sarah is just tossing small child word salad out with phrases like “all the adults are in the fields” because “our leader Issac put them there.” Vicky stays with Sarah while Burt continues to wander the town.

Malachai and some of the teenage boys go Resident Evil 4 village on Vicky – surrounding the house and scaling the walls to kidnap her.

Burt returns, and when he realizes something has happened to Vicky he shakes Sarah and demands that she tell him what happened which is always an effective strategy when working with a small child.

Meanwhile in the fields, Isaac chastises Malachai for his reckless behavior and stupid plans. Isaac is evil but practical. Malachai believes “the corn could be their fuel” and therefore killed their fuel supply (the gas station attendant).

Malachai as a character has set gingers back so far

Searching for Vicky, Burt stumbles upon the church where Rachel is conducting a ceremony with Amos aka the biggest pick me in the whole cult. Amos is excited because it’s his 19th birthday so he is going to be willingly sacrificed to the cult’s god He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

Look at how hyped he looks! Also love that they probably meant to draw a pentagram and drew a star in a circle instead

Burt asks what’s going on and Amos said “celebrating my birthday” to which Burt immediately responds “you’ve got a pretty sick way of celebrating it, pal” in the best line delivery in the whole movie.

Burt starts arguing with Rachel about the validity of their religion instead of staying on brand and trying to find Vicky. Rachel tells some of the kids to go get Isaac but THEN she goes “NOOOO bring Malachai!” to shocked gasps because they all know Malachai is loco.

Burt looks like he’s ready to start drop kicking kids, but Rachel manages to stab him and he’s forced to flee.

Malachai and Isaac start arguing again, and Malachai pulls a coup, saying they are sick of listening to him anyway.

To be fair the suit jacket was a little much

Malachai commands the other children to put Isaac up on a cross to sacrifice to He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Meanwhile Burt gets Job and Sarah to tell him where the sacrifice is taking place.

That night, Amos goes into the fields begging for He Who Walks Behind the Rows to destroy him. He obliges!

Isaac begs the entity to spare him given his loyal service, but Isaac is killed anyway by 80s pixelation.

WHY AM I PERSECUTED?!

How can I describe the next series of events?

Burt gets Vicky to safety because the children are seemingly very intimidated by being yelled at by an adult despite having murdered an entire town of adults three years prior.

Burt and Malachai fight, but then zombie Isaac returns to kill Malachai, claiming He Who Walks Behind the Rows wants Malachai too.

Burt, Vicky, and all the children flee to a barn. They realize they need to burn the field to destroy He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Burt works with Joby (they are already on a nickname basis at this point apparently) and the others to flood the fields with fuel and light He Who Walks Behind the Rows up. He leaves this world as an anguished CGI cloud.

We get one last jump scare from Rachel before Vicky knocks her out and basically laughs about it. Then Burt and Vicky, their relationship seemingly restored by their newfound trauma (lucky lovebirds!), leave town with Sarah and Job while hinting they might adopt them. Also they just leave all the other traumatized kids behind. The end.

Random Observations:

  • My favorite trivia from IMDb: Though real corn was used for most of filming, polyurethane corn had to be used for the more difficult action sequences.
  • Isaac is definitely a highlight and I wish he was in the movie even more. Also the actor John Franklin is from Blue Island, Illinois and was 25 when he played 12 year old Isaac!
  • A lot of the scenes reminded me of Silent Hill (2006), particularly the empty town where you feel you are being watched, the threat of being burned on a cross, and the church/field scenes where Burt tries to tell the cult what’s what
  • A lot of horror films play with rural horror and fear of insular small towns because they need to isolate the protagonists to put them in jeopardy. But this movie really plays up fears of rural areas and religious fanaticism. Early in the film, one of the only radio stations Burt and Vicky get is an irate preacher railing against “fornicators, homosexuals, and drug abusers” to the amusement and chagrin of our main characters. The movie is clearly connecting the behavior of the cult to more punitive forms of Christianity.
  • The movie drastically changes the incredibly bleak ending of the short story that has both Vicky and Burt being sacrificed to He Who Walks Behind the Rows. It is also revealed in the short story the teenagers are reproducing before being sacrificed in order to keep the town’s population up. The ending we get is a typical “heteronormativity/the nuclear family is restored!” Hollywood ending
  • These movies seem like a great ad campaign for just staying on the highway whenever possible!
  • But also were the kids just eating corn the entire time? Did they eat or grow anything else? So many unanswered questions. I guess that’s why they need so many movies to explain things!

Verdict:

Was this as good as I remember from when I was a kid? No. But I still think it is worth a watch, even if they should have gone with the French title:

“I like the way they think

I can already feel what little maternal instinct I had left ejecting itself from my body and this is only the first movie in the series. I’m also strangely excited to see where the series goes from here. Only one theatrically released movie left till the eleventh film so buckle in.

One thought on “Corn, Linda Hamilton, and Death by 80s CGI: Revisiting Children of the Corn (1984)

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