Kids are scary. Steven King knows that. His SHORT story about some kiddos who find religion and decide adults need to die just proves how twisted Mr. Sunshine can be. But who knew Children of the Corn (1984, 92 minutes) would sprout into one of the more prolific horror franchises around? Almost 10 years later there's Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993) with a whole new batch of murderous young'uns and a poor old biddy in a wheelchair who gets launched through a plate-glass window. Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1994) takes the show on the road to Chicago when a couple of country killers are adopted and shipped to the Windy City where they raise corn and hell. In Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996) the violence once again turns toward the medical community with a doctor who gets cut in half and a gal who gets crucified with hypodermic needles. It's widely appreciated as the best of the iffy series. Next, nosey college students wander into town asking too many questions in Children Of The Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998). And finally, for the moment, John Franklin reprised his role from the first film in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (1999, also available on DVD). But word is that Mulder and Scully-types will track a serial killer to Cornville in the yet to materialize Children of the Corn 7: Resurrection.
The movie: One day after church the children of Gatlin, Nebraska decide they're not going to EAT their vegetables anymore, they're going to worship them. And for some reason that means everyone older than 18 must be sacrificed to He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Cornrows, to be precise. Three years later, a doctor named Burt (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend Vicky (Linda Hamilton) are flying along the Nebraska back roads when -- WHAMO! -- they pancake a kid who staggers onto the road clutching his slit throat. Burt stuffs the flattened pedestrian into the trunk and heads to nearby Gatlin for help. But the town's deserted except for the dried-up cornstalks the children insist on having strewn around. Things continue getting stranger, and rather than high-tailing it out of there, the dim-witted couple keep snooping around until a gang of knife-wielding youths finally decides to welcome them to Gatlin -- permanently. They're greeted by the group's leader Isaac (Franklin) a screeching boy-pastor and his blood-thirsty enforcer Malachai (Courtney Gains). But Horton and Hamilton are so horrible in the film that it's EASY to root for the homicidal religious zealots. CineSchlockers who'd like to see the diversity of Gain's talent should check out Hardbodies which he made the same year. Gains was the flap-hatted goofus ogling a jiggling bevy of bikini babes.
Notables: No breasts. 10 corpses. Creepy Crayola drawings. Meat-slicer defingering. One dead dog. Possessed corn. Multiple explosions. Excessive wind machine footage. One rat. Multiple shots of light glinting off blades. Tremors-like dirt demon.
Quotables: Are we SURE this Burt guy went to medical school? He isn't that observant, "There's something very strange about this town ... It's a little weird here, but it's safe."
Time codes: Ms. Hamilton sings (8:25). Isaac delivers a chilling sermon (37:00). A major shift in the cult's balance of power (1:07:50). Perhaps the WORST special effects in a mainstream Hollywood picture (1:14:50). Cornstalks animate and try to strangle our inept hero (1:21:45).
Audio/Video: Hazy, poorly defined widescreen (1.66:1) print. Night scenes get chunky, but even during bright sunlight an overall fog persists. Few if any artifacts. The nicely mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a welcome surprise.
Extras: A 16-page "collector's booklet" with nine blurry stills and an essay. Animated menus with audio. Insert card features original movie poster. Theatrical trailer.
Final thought: King's premise is great, but somehow THIS can't be the best interpretation of it. Still, it has legs. There's no denying that. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.