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October horror movie marathon: Children of the Corn

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Before you delve into this review, be sure to take a look at the rest of the Halloween marathon!

Children of the Corn 

This is the third Stephen King adaptation of my horror marathon so far. It’s damn near impossible to do a month-long horror marathon and not watch some of his work.

Children of the Corn is adapted from King’s 1977 short story of the same name which follows a young couple, Burt and Vicky, stumbling upon the ritual killings of adults by a small cult of children who have overtaken the small town of Gatlin, Nebraska.

The first draft of the script was actually written by King himself and focused more on the uprising of the cult rather than the cult’s exploits while Burt and Vicky are in the town. This idea was disregarded in favour of George Goldsmith’s screenplay which featured more violence and a more conventional narrative structure. King’s idea isn’t bad at all, but is perhaps a better idea for a sequel, once it’s clear whether the story is successful enough as a movie.

Perhaps the strangest thing about Children of the Corn, besides a gang of murdering children, is that it was produced by Hal Roach Studios. This is the studio famous for Laurel and Hardy, as well as the Our Gang kids (a.k.a. The Little Rascals). An interesting turn for the studio to say the least.

Working with child actors can be a huge risk. Sometimes it can pay off and sometimes it can plaque the movie. Luckily for Children of the Corn, it’s a blessing. There are, of course, moments of hammy acting but overall, both the child and adult actors are fantastic. Notably, John Franklin as the sinister young preacher who leads the group, Isaac, who portrays the character in a wonderfully over-the-top fashion. Replicating television preachers to create a terrifying figure of the group. The rest of the cast put in good performances, but Franklin steals the show.

As for the directing, it perfectly complements the acting. Fritz Kiersch clearly understood the story and had the movie perfectly laid out in his head – crafting original set-pieces and building tension that could cut a knife. George Goldsmith’s script no doubt helped Kiersch in the long run. Not only is the script wonderful, but having a pre-written script no doubt allowed Kiersch to direct the film with an open mind.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is the climax. The cornfields create a unique backdrop for the finale and the overall sequence is well done, but the set up for it is a big let down. It comes out of nowhere, going from 0 to 100 in seconds, despite set up throughout to support it, which can be a huge letdown for the viewer and understandably so. 

Children of the Corn is yet another Stephen King adaptation that’s just as strong as the original material. A film jam-packed with suspense and a truly brilliant idea done well.

Rating = 4/5

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