The Stephen King adaptation “Children of the Corn” turns 30 years old this weekend, March 8th, and while it was a wild success back in 1984, inspiring several sequels and Simpsons references, the film has mostly receded over time. While horror fans will never forget Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, or Michael Myers, the creepy kids of “Children of the Corn” failed to become icons and their film has mostly faded from memory.
Here are five reasons we’ve forgotten about “Children of the Corn.”
Before he became a handsome, shaggy haired TV star on “Thirtysomething” and then a prolific writer, director, producer, Gary Horton made a very brief and failed attempt at being a movie star. His break out role was set to be Burt, the hero of “Children of the Corn.” Unfortunately for Horton, and indeed the movie, Burt’s blandly handsome face and condescending manner made him that rare horror movie hero we kind of root to see tied to a corn stalk cross.
Linda Hamilton was a star on the rise in 1984 and while “Children of the Corn” was her coming out party, her first big hit became an afterthought when her next major role as Sarah Connor in “The Terminator” arrived in theaters in October. Whereas Vicky was absent from the many “Children of the Corn” sequels, Sarah Connor became an icon following “The Terminator” with the epic “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
Stephen King Adaptations Generally Stink
It’s tough to recall a truly great Stephen King adaptation and it would be impossible to call “Children of the Corn” even a passable one. King’s works are so uniquely his own that attempting to translate his work on the big screen is nearly impossible, especially without King’s direct influence on the filming. Fans of King’s short story on which the film is based despised the various ways the film deviated from King’s text. As for King himself, he was happy to cash the checks from “Children of the Corn” but beyond that he’s not had much to say about the film in the 30 years since its release.
Cheesy Special Effects
There are a few effectively creepy moments in “Children of the Corn;” especially the vicious, well-staged, multiple murders that open the film. That said, the movie is entirely undone by the extraordinarily cheap special effects that sap the suspense from the movie. Yes, special effects technology has taken extraordinary leaps in the 30 years since “Children of the Corn” and yes the film had a very small budget, but there is no excuse for the ill-conceived rudimentary effects that close the movie.
No Iconic Bad Guy
For a horror film to stand the test of time it needs a memorable villain and “Children of the Corn” simply doesn’t have it. Whether it’s the simpering snottiness of John Franklin’s forgettable Isaac, or the dull-witted, empty eyed performance of Courtney Gains as the machete wielding Malachai, none of the child villains of “Children of the Corn” rise remotely close to the level of iconic horror movie baddies.