Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Children of the Corn.”
The Movie: “Children of the Corn”
Starring: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, RG Armstrong
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believe that everyone over age 18 must be killed.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39 percent
Brown: For as long as we’ve been doing the JOE-DOWN, I’m surprised we haven’t done more Stephen King movie adaptations.
We’ve done a few throughout the years, with the cocaine-fueled “Maximum Overdrive” being the last one back in January 2021.
So after doing the aptly titled “Maniac Cop” last week, I figured we should do another horror movie with a literal title.
Enter “Children of the Corn.” There’s children, and they’re in a corn field.
I guess it’s deeper than that, with some good ol’ Stephen King religious fundamentalism and one of the most memorable performances in ‘80s cinema with Courtney Gains as Malachai.
Sadly, the kids in this movie don’t love corn as much as this kid.
Now, I have seen this movie previously and remember thinking it was pretty dumb, even for someone not into horror movies. And well … yeah, that hasn’t changed. We’ll get into it.
Froemming, give us your initial thoughts while I draw with my crayons.
Froemming: How much cocaine was Stephen King on to become paranoid of corn fields?
I have seen this many times. It is one of the weirder horror movies in that I can’t for the life of me take little children menacing adults all that seriously. I watch horror movies for the scary, not for the unbelievable.
But for a King horror adaptation, it is at the top of the list next to “The Shining.” Those are the only two horror adaptations of his worth watching. The rest are lousy, even the new “It” movies.
Has time changed my mind on this movie? No, no it has not. But what the hell, let’s talk about some corn and the children of which belong to it. And not Korn with a “K,” corn with a “C.” We will not be talking about Korn. I cannot stress that enough.
Brown, as I crucify Linda Hamilton on a crucifix of, you know, corn, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: We’re whisked away to
Maine Gatlin, Nebraska, which could be substituted with a number of midwest towns I’ve driven through where if you blink, you miss it.
Froemming: It looked a lot like Nobles County, Clay County, Kandiyohi County, Stearns County…
It looks like (REDACTED) rural Minnesota. Not the cool rural like Bemidji and Duluth, but the rural with all the (REDACTED) corn fields.
Brown: Yes and no. If this took place in those counties, the movie would have to be renamed to “Children of the Soybeans.”
Anyways, we begin with a stop at Hansen’s Cafe after church. Our narrator, Job, is there with his dad. While dad makes a phone call home to see how his wife and daughter are doing, we start seeing a bunch of sinister-looking teenagers make their way into the cafe.
Froemming: One of those teenagers is Malachai, who looks like the guy who sold you pot in high school. Every high school and time in America, the guy who sold pot looked like Malachai.
Brown: One look at Malachai would freak Jimmy Stewart the hell out.
During this, I was really bothered by the dad’s reaction to what his wife is telling him.
Mom: “Her fever’s gone from 101 to 104!”
Dad: “Uh huh.”
UH HUH?! OK, you deserve to die. That’s a dangerous (REDACTED) temperature to run for a (REDACTED) child. Sorry this is taking away from drinking frosty strawberry shakes with your doofus son (and CLEARLY, the favorite child), but for the love of God, show some actual concern!
Froemming: Movies like this make me really appreciate my parents when I was growing up in the 1980s.
Anyway, we start seeing people start to choke after drinking coffee. Since I am allergic to coffee, if I were there, I would have been doomed to be stabbed to death by the local pot dealing ginger, Malachai.
And as the teenagers do start hacking away at
Gob’s Job’s dad, we see the creepiest little kid ever, Isaac, watching through the window.
Seems Isaac is Lil’ Walter White, in that he takes care of all the adults in this town the same way the Albuquerque Meth Kingpin took out potential squeelers in prison.
Brown: Question: Was Isaac wearing his lucky stabbin’ hat for this occasion?
Froemming: Had to be. When the children turn on him later, that hat is suspiciously missing.
Brown: After this massacre, we get the opening credits. And this movie uses crayon drawings from Sarah, the girl running the fever, to give an exposition dump. Kids have taken over the town. Adults have been killed. Current technology like TVs have been burned. And kids are frolicking around in corn fields for reasons.
Now, Wikipedia says that the town turned to prayer in hopes of a successful harvest. And Isaac’s religious takeover is also to ensure a corn harvest.
… I picked up on NONE of that during the movie.
Froemming: I will tell you were that was in the script:
Brown: Also, what benefit is it of the kids and only kids to have a successful corn harvest? Is corn all they eat? Are they making money from harvesting corn? Do Nebraskans just LOVE corn that much?
*deep sigh* I’m expecting a movie called “Children of the Corn” to make sense.
Froemming: Now let’s get to our protagonists in this: Burt Stanton and
Sarah Connor Vicky Baxter, who are in a hotel room, it is Burt’s birthday, and for reasons he blue balls his girlfriend because he is in a rush to get to Seattle.
Dude, enjoy the sunshine and hotel room sex while you can. You are about to enter the shithole city that cursed the world with Nirvana, heroin chic and Starbucks.
Then we have them in the car, where Vicky is rightly upset about Burt’s intimacy issues and we learn that even though he looks like he is 40, he has the commitment issues of a 22 year old. Why do we learn this about these two? No idea, it does not come into play at all for the rest of the movie. We are just saddled with this information.
Brown: Look, I get that Vicky is an asshole for waking you up with a noisemaker while in a deep sleep. But this is prime Linda Hamilton, buddy. Put a (REDACTED) ring on it.
But no, he’s openly hostile to, again, prime Linda Hamilton. At this point, I hope VIcky leaves Burt for some Great Plains trash like she’s Dennis Reynolds on a layover in North Dakota.
Froemming: As someone who lives in North Dakota, I can attest that it is, indeed, a barren wasteland of a state.
Brown: Speaking of things they’re openly hostile toward, Burt and Vicky turn on the radio to get some local color. The first thing they hear: fundimentalist Christian preaching about lakes of fire. You know, all the greatest hits. This sermon is probably this preacher’s “Thunder Road.”
I don’t know why I’m bringing this up. Honestly, I’d be mocking these sermons the same way.
We go back to the kids, and one of them is looking to escape Gatlin.
The kid’s name: Joseph. He’s one of us, Froemming. And the movie kills him in the (REDACTED) cornfield.
It probably didn’t help that Sarah was yelling “NOBODY’S LOOKING! NOBODY’S LOOKING!” I feel like at age 6, you should probably know how to shut the hell up.
Froemming: Sarah and Job are the worst (REDACTED) lookouts one could have. Everytime anyone they are helping needs to be stealthy, these dingdongs start yelling at the top of their lungs.
Sarah, you killed Joseph with your loud talking. He was doomed from the start.
Now, how does Joseph eat it? Well, he is running through the cornfield, which I will say those are not that scary and were tactical escape routes when the police would bust up keggers in high school. But all that yelling, I am 100 percent confident Malachai heard that from a country mile, thus the hunt was on. He finds Joseph, slashes his throat and then Joseph walks onto the highway were Burt — being a distracted driver — runs him over.
Now, we are told Burt is a doctor. But when he examines Joseph’s lifeless body on the highway, he says “He was dead before I hit him” or something to that effect.
Burt, turn in your medical license, Dead bodies don’t just walk on their own, you damn chucklehead.
Brown: I’m more troubled by how both Burt and Vicky are nonplussed about hitting a human being with their car, let alone a child. You’d expect someone to freak the (REDACTED) out. But no, they have the confidence of the attorney general of South Dakota after they hit a (REDACTED) child.
Between this and the fever from earlier, this review is turning me into Helen Lovejoy.
It also doesn’t help Burt’s case that he stuffs Joseph’s dead body and blood-soaked suitcase into the trunk of the car. Kid is dead and you’re tampering with a crime scene, pal. Innocent or not, you’re getting in trouble, bro.
Panicked, Burt tries turning on the radio, but gets flustered when it’s more of the loud-mouth preacher.
… Does he not know how a car radio works? He didn’t even try to change stations to see if there was a news channel. I’m supposed to trust a man to remove an appendix when he doesn’t know how a car radio works?
Froemming: Maybe he was fiddling with the radio knob when he cut down Joseph in his prime with his car?
Not only does he stuff the lifeless body of a child in his trunk like he is Ted Bundy, he also has Vicky rifle through this recently deceased child’s belongings. And Vicky finds the corn crucifix to be disturbing, while Burt calls it folk art.
I call it “these two are real assholes.” This is not the time to debate art. This is the time to call the authorities.
But they are in the middle of Nebraska, a state so depressing that Bruce Springsteen named his most bleak album after it.
After driving some, they come across an old mechanic and his dog. The mechanic wants them to move along, what with all the homicidal children and whatnot around those parts.
Brown: Yes, they run into the only gas station for miles… and there’s no gas.
The old man is utterly useless, save for telling the couple to go to another nearby town instead of Gatlin. Also, in a movie full of child actors of varying quality, the old man is the worst actor in the movie.
With that said, I empathize for him because these monster children killed his dog. If we’ve learned anything from John Wick movies, it’s that if you kill someone’s dog, you deserve all the bad things to happen to you.
But… nothing bad happens to the kids yet. Because the old man is killed by Malachai and the rest of the “Annie” orphan rejects for swaying Burt and Vicky away from Gatlin.
That won’t matter, though. Because all the signs are screwed up and the two end up driving through cornfield after cornfield.
Froemming: Now, you and I used to live in Southwest Minnesota which has a lot of corn and soybean fields. I, for one, can say that at no point did I ever end up lost and driving through a (REDACTED) cornfield. I do not see how that even happens! Roads do not magically turn into cornfields.
Brown: This leads to one of the major problems of this movie: CORN ISN’T SCARY.
Froemming: If you are on the amount of cocaine King was when he wrote this, maybe corn is scary? Not sure, that seems like a Scarface pile of blow to get to that point.
Anyway, these two end up in Gatlin, which looked suspiciously like a lot of towns in Southwest Minnesota. It is abandoned, and yet Burt walks into the diner assuming people would be there. Dude, look around. No cars, or the ones there look like they have not started in years. The place is a ghost town. But, you know, white people have to white people and demand that someone is around.
Brown: Burt and Vicky walk into a random house looking for help! This movie came out after “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Everyone should have learned that you DON’T walk into a random country home.
Froemming: Leatherface was just standing his ground, Brown. And the children here are doing the same. Don’t like it? Take it up to the suits in Washington.
Brown: Did we mention that Burt and Vicky’s appearance in Gatlin was foretold? Because apparently, it was.
We get some of that with a drawing from Sarah, who has *checks notes* the power of sight? … You can check “child with powers” off your Stephen King bingo card.
Also, Isaac says he has been told of the coming of two outlanders by their corn god, or, He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
I will say this: The actor playing Isaac just GOES for it, which makes this movie watchable at the very least.
Froemming: Not only is Isaac a little kid who looks like an old, old man, he does ham it up like you mention, which makes him wildly entertaining. I also suspect this is how Ted Cruz was as a child. Exactly like this.
Brown: I don’t know, Froemming. Isaac has charisma.
Froemming: Do you think Ronald Reagan saw this movie with the Christian fundementalist children and saw hope for the future of America? These kids gave me vibes of the GOP convention when Trump got the nomination.
Brown: Unclear if Reagan saw the future. These kids did kill their parents and potentially, any hope of funding for Reagan’s reelection. Granted, it wouldn’t have mattered since the only state Walter Mondale won was Minnesota.
Back to the movie, Burt tells Vicky to stay with Sarah as he wanders into town to look for a phone. During that time, Burt is repeatedly stalked by the children of town. He eventually ends up at a church where one of the older kids is celebrating his 19th birthday by *checks notes* getting a pentagram carved into his chest before becoming a sacrifice to He Who Walks Behind the Rows?
Froemming: Oh HELL YEAH, BROTHER!
See, at 19 the children age out of the group. Like when Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriends turn 25. Minus the human sacrifice part.
Brown: Meanwhile, Vicky gets abducted by Malachai and co. and is eventually crucified on stalks of corn.
It was at this point where I questioned whether “Children of the Corn” or Nic Cage’s “Wicker Man” made more sense. And while this movie has a child acting as a religious zealot, “Wicker Man” has this:
Man, using that clip is like seeing an old friend and just picking up where you left off.
Froemming: One of my happiest memories was when we saw that together when we did Nic Cage Month. So strange, so crazy, so perfect for a Cage movie.
Now, much like a lot of cults, there are sometimes a power struggle. See, Malachai wants to use Vicky as bait to get Burt, but Isaac wants to sacrifice her to the corn. And because Malachai has, what, probably 10 years and 50 pounds on Isaac, he easily knocks this zealot down and gets the others to turn on the little weirdo. My guess as to why: Malachai looks like he is about to hit that 19 age and probably does not want to be sacrificed to the God of High-Fructose Corn Syrup. So, you know, the turntables and whatnot.
So they crucify Isaac and he is screeching like a crazy person. Or a person who does not want to be crucified. It can be two things, I guess.
Brown: Isaac’s scream is pretty much like Eric Cartman’s.
There’s a chase in town between Burt and all the kids. And it’s… hilarious that all these kids have blunt objects and farm equipment as weapons and Burt just shoves them out of the way.
Gob Job finds Burt and brings him down to a fallout shelter (this was the ‘80s; Cold War and what-not) to hide. While down there, Malachai, looking like an angry, young Dave Mustaine offers up a threat in perhaps the most memorable scene from this movie.
At dusk, Burt,
Gob Job and Sarah head to a barn and make their move. When it turns to night, the sacrifices begin. And a big pile of dirt starts going through the cornrows.
… Is He Who Walks Behind the Rows a tremor?
Froemming: Sure seems like it. Meanwhile, Burt confronts the kids as one of them is going to sacrifice themselves to the corn monster. And, again, I love how easily he pushed these children around because they should not be a threat to a full grown adult. I imagine if this were made today, they would try to convince us the children are a strong as Burt, which is stupid.
Anyway, he yells at them about their religion that demands death and unhappiness. Which, I assume, some of them were relieved that SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT. And then the corn monster eats up Isaac in a special effect that has not aged well at all.
Now, if I were Burt and Vicky here, I would be less concerned about the religious and political points of these childrens’ cult and more concerned about that (REDACTED) thing that ate Isaac.
Brown: I think Burt was more concerned about finally getting to assault Malachai like he was Mac and Charlie to their bullies.
Froemming: I saw this fight more like:
Brown: With Malachai subdued, the kids abandon the cult and run for the hills as something is rummaging through the corn.
Also, Isaac becomes possessed and kills Malachai. Honestly, I just forgot about this. The last 10 minutes of this movie is one bad effect after another. The possessed Isaac has bad makeup and a doofy demon voice.
After reading a passage from the Bible, Burt decides that they need to burn the corn fields down using the *checks notes* gasohol in the town.
… Is that an actual thing? Is gasohol a filler term they never removed from the script, or is that what they called ethanol in the ‘80s?
Froemming: Let’s leave that to the suits in Washington to decide, Brown.
This was the original plan one of the adults had before he was crucified with corn. So Burt and Job decide to light this corn up. Which, if we are looking at some of the crimes Burt has committed in this movie (such as running over a child and stuffing the body in the trunk of his car; breaking and entering; assault on minors) I guess a little arson is not going to hurt.
So they get the sprinkler system to shoot gasohol (?) onto the corn and Burt makes a *checks notes* Molotov Cocktail…
What kind of med school did this guy go to?
Brown: I’m sure it was Hollywood Upstairs Medical College, like Dr. Nick Riviera.
Seriously, baby, he can prescribe anything!
And in a movie with all sorts of terrible effects, the final explosion has to be the worst one.
Seriously, they put a face in the explosion. It looks like the troll face. Or some reject design from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” movie.
With the corn (??) defeated, Burt, Vicky,
Gob Job and Sarah all walk back to the car. Vicky jokes about taking the kids with them, and Burt kind of dismisses it beyond, like, a week.
This dude refuses to commit to anything, Vicky. You should probably leave him.
Another good reason for leaving him comes up shortly as I’m pretty sure Burt kills another child.
Seeing that this is an ‘80s horror movie, we need one last jump scare. One of the kids from earlier tries jumping out of the back seat to attack Burt. And the dude crushes her head with the (REDACTED) car door!
Burt’s reaction “Oh man, she’s really knocked out.” AND THE CREDITS ROLL!
Brown: That car-bashing and abrupt “The End” had me dying from laughter.
Froemming, we should get to recommendations. Some red-headed kid keeps calling me Outlander and claims he has my woman.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: It’s got a charm to it, but it’s really, really stupid. If you’re bored on a weekend and it’s on cable, sure. Otherwise, pass.
Froemming: Yeah, it is not the greatest horror movie, but it has its moments and the actor playing Isaac is a lot of fun.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN:
1 thought on “The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Children of the Corn’”