Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Flashback: Children Of The Corn (1984): HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS Wants You Too!

Children of the Corn is one of those films I saw during my tender teenage years, and therefore I have fond memories of watching HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS wreak havoc on poor little Gatlin.
While certainly not the prize apple in the Stephen King adaptation pie, COTC is still a fun and sometimes unintentionally hilarious flick.

That said, it truly is my belief that kids can ruin a horror flick quicker than you can say Chucky.  I tend to steer away from horror movies rife with little ones, as just like in television - when you add kids to the mix, it all goes to shit.  Now I know you parents are pissed at me stating that view, but I'm just being honest.  (Devil-children or other such possessed or evil mini-humans are a different story altogether.  I actually like films in which kids are offing adults, go figure. Probably why Children of the Corn works for me.)

As the film starts, I'm already pissed when I hear a kid doing a voice-over to describe the situation in Gatlin.  I despise voice-overs in most situations, they are a cheap-ass way to move a story along or give details. (*I do however, give a pass to Suspiria, in which a quick voice-over tells you all you need to know in the first five minutes!)

Regardless, Job (Robby Kiger) speaks over a flashback to a horrific event in the past in which the children of Gatlin take it upon themselves to rid the small town of all the adult supervision.  So with scythes and knives and other implements of destruction, the older teens slash, stab, and chop their way into orphandom (Is that a word? It is now.)  Seems the children's leader, Issac (John Franklin), and his lead crony Malachai (Courtney Gains, a hopelessly unattractive soul) are determined that the children in Gatlin follow their uber-religious ideals and their deity of choice: HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS.  Which is apparently some kind of god of corn or what have you.  The quick analysis is that it's a cult.

Back in the present, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) are traveling through Nebraska to reach the west coast where Burt has accepted a position as a physician in Seattle. (Of particular note is the scene in which a battered copy of King's Night Shift - the book in which Children of the Corn appeared as a short story - is lying on the dash of their car. Nice move.)  When the radio starts to pick up only bible-thumping preachers ("NO room for the fornicators! No room for the homosexuals!"), the couple quickly deduce they're not in Kansas anymore. Matter of fact, they seem to have gotten stuck in the Twilight Zone when every sign they pass is for the town of Gatlin, and the only scenery they witness is giant corn stalks closing in on every road.  Their cross-country adventure takes a dreadful turn when they strike a young boy with their car. Examining the boy, Burt uses his astute medical skills to determine that the boy didn't die of injuries sustained in the car mishap, he had his throat slashed.  After stashing the dead kid in the trunk, they drive around looking for help. 

It's important to know that the boy struck by the car is from quirky, cult-happy Gatlin and was trying to escape the wacky sect, only to be cut off at the pass by followers of Issac, who do not allow any of the children to escape leave town.  When Job and his sister Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy) are caught playing games and listening to music in one of the abandoned houses, Malachi brings them to Issac, demanding that they be punished.  Isaac lets them off the hook because Sarah has "the gift of sight" and has foretold the coming of "interlopers" who will try to interfere with their way of life.  In their eyes, all adults must die.  Naturally, Burt and Vicky are the interlopers.

When all roads seem to lead back to Gatlin, Burt and Vicky are forced to check out the small town and soon happen upon Job and Sarah in the aforementioned house.  When the couple splits up to try to find an another adult or at least a phone, Vicky is taken by Malachai and hung ceremoniously on a primitive cross - directly in front of the only other adult in town - a very dead police officer dubbed The Blue Man.  Issac's intention is to sacrifice Vicky to HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS, which pretty much leaves her as valuable as anyone who turns eighteen in the fucked-up hamlet.

Meanwhile Malachai is terribly pissed off at Issac for wasting time continuously preaching and not taking action.  He demands that the other kids string Issac up on the cross instead of Vicky, which is just about the time Burt (along with Job and Sarah) is plotting the big rescue scene.  Suffice it to say, HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS is hungry and accepts Issac readily.  But we've not seen the last of our creepy, unorthodox leader, oh no....

The climax of Children of the Corn is not exactly earth-shattering.  If you would have told me that HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS was some kind of fire-demon or whatever the hell they were going for in those last scenes, I probably would have thrown my hands in the air and walked away. 
Hollywood's penchant for happy endings is at work here as well as sadly, the film's ending deviates a great deal from King's short story so that the finale is tied up with a big happy bow. 

The reason I have a special affinity for this movie is probably the time period in which I saw it.  I saw this one in the theater before I was age-appropriate, and I recall some parts of it actually being rather scary, at least back then. Truly, one of my greatest fears would be a bunch of kids killing off adults and trying to play God. Some of the lines from the film I am still using today, such as "Outlander! We have your woman!" and "He wants you too, Malachai!!"  Of course I am not using them in every-day sentences, but I am someone who extensively quotes movies, and sometimes you just have to say: "What hath the lord commanded?"