Screams From The Crypt: Children of the Corn
Welcome back to Screams from the Crypt, Talk Film Society’s home for horror! This week, Matt Curione takes a look at the new Arrow Video release of Children of the Corn. Plus, as an added bonus special guest writer Brandon-Shea Mutala (co-host of The Edge A Star Trek: Discovery Podcast) highlights one of the many sequels to the 1984 film.
Children of the Corn (1984) d. Fritz Kiersch
I've said it before but I'll reiterate it here: KIDS ARE TERRIBLE! This statement especially holds true in horror films where children are either possessed by a demon, are actually secret adults, or in the case of Children of the Corn, violent little cultists. Based on a Stephen King short story this 1984 adaptation concerns a troubled couple's visit to the quiet town of Gatlin, Nebraska where there are no adults and children reign supreme. Led by the creepy Isaac and his underling Malachai, they worship He Who Walks Behind the Rows, a deity who demands sacrifices in the cornfields.
With such a great concept and source material, it's shame the picture doesn't live up to expectations. Children of the Corn was one of the first horror films I saw as a kid and I still hear stories of how I would try to scare my sisters by yelling "MALACHAI" and jumping out of closets. When I was younger, this ridiculous film gave me nightmares but as an adult it just doesn't hold up for me. I still love this movie as a bit of a trip down memory lane but I do prefer the short story upon which it's based. Which of course leads us to the terrific bonus features that have been included on the new Blu-ray from Arrow Video.
This release is stacked! Not only did Arrow include new interviews with the cast and crew, as well as a new tour of the original filming locations, they've included Disciples of the Crow, an 18 minute short film adaptation of King's original short story. Outside of a few minor changes, this short is more faithful to the original 29 page story. Made a year before the feature length adaptation that received all the fanfare and sequels, this is a quick, gut-punch of a horror film. Here the couple never shows any signs of being happy together and the kids are depicted as true maniacs. With less time for character development, the shock comes hard and fast that these children are not messing around. Completely terrifying and unnerving, Disciples of the Crow is worth checking out not only if you're a Stephen King completist, but if you're a fan of tight horror stories as well.
Children of the Corn is available now via Arrow Video with a pristine 2K restoration that rivals the Starz / Anchor Bay release from a few years ago. Stuffed to the brim with bonus features both new and old it's well worth picking up for the new transfer as well as Disciples of the Crow.
- Matt Curione
Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996) d. Greg Spence
Horror films often suffer from the plague of too many sequels, and 1984's Children of the Corn is no exception. Originally based on a 29-page short story from Stephen King’s Night Shift anthology, this film has had two screen adaptations and seven sequels, with yet another one in the works. Most of the sequels are far inferior to the original; however, the one golden kernel in the bunch is The Gathering, the 4th in the series and the one that has the least to do with the others.
Much like Halloween III: Season of the Witch bears little resemblance to the rest of the Halloween franchise, The Gathering bears little resemblance to the rest of the Children of the Corn franchise – save for its naughty children, sharpened farm implements, misplaced faith, and rows upon rows of overripe Nebraska corn. Due to its lack of continuity, this direct-to-video sequel is one that the viewer can pop in and enjoy without having watched any of the previous three films in the series.
Grace Rhodes (Naiomi Watts) is a medical student who returns to her home town of Grand Island, Nebraska to care for her mother, June (Karen Black), who is suffering from an extreme case of agoraphobia brought on by a recent string of recurring nightmares. Grace returns to her old job as an assistant to the local doctor (William Windon), and soon, all of the children in the town are suffering from extreme fever and identity replacement brought on by the murderous activities of a recently released ghost. The driving force of the film is the motivation of the ghost, who is the spirit of Josiah (Brandon Kleyla). Josiah was a child preacher prodigy whose faith handlers were getting rich off of his oratorical talents and, because they felt the well of cash would dry up if the child were to age, they poisoned him with quicksilver to prevent him from growing up. However, as it turned out, drinking mercury made little Josiah crazy and killed him instead.
Many of the scares in The Gathering are the result of extremely effective dream imagery and rapid editing. The haunting score by David C. Williams truly adds a level of unease and enhances the fear that the visuals evoke. The film is the directorial debut of Greg Spence who would go on to produce/co-produce several projects for HBO, including all 66 episodes of the hit series Game of Thrones. His only other directing credit is the 1998 Christopher Walken film, The Prophecy II.
In my opinion, The Gathering is often written off by casual viewers because it is part of the Children of the Corn franchise. Yet, that same association also draws a select number of viewers, myself included. I often wonder if the film would have had greater success without the cloak of the franchise, as it really doesn't have anything to do with its counterparts.
Watching this film again for the first time in several years, I found myself captivated by the plot, jumping at several of the scares, and chuckling at most of the elaborate kills which will leave even the most bloodthirsty of horror film fans satisfied. I found myself nostalgic for my teenage years of running down to the video store and grabbing several VHS tapes of scary films to enjoy with a large bowl of popcorn, wrapped up in a warm blanket, lights off, and doors locked. While The Gathering isn't a masterpiece of film making, I have consistently recommended this movie to my friends over the years, and I know, in the wake of my latest viewing, I will continue to do so.
- Brandon-Shea Mutala
Brandon-Shea Mutala is a film buff with a special interest in horror films and world cinema. He can be found on the Fandom Podcast Network with a monthly show entitled “Good Evening: An Alfred Hitchcock Podcast”, which is reviewing all of Hitch's films one at a time; and on the Trek.FM Network with two shows, “Warp Five: A Star Trek: Enterprise Podcast” and “The Edge: A Star Trek: Discovery Podcast”. He has also guested on many other podcasts.
Follow him on twitter @BrandonMutala