17 September 2012

children of a much lesser god.

1.  Children of the Corn (1984).

I would guess that, ever since the city was invented by the parking garage industry, there has existed a mutual distrust—if not outright enmity—between larger urban centers and their sprawling hinterlands. For rednecks, white trash, and inbreds alike, city life has often been synonymous with moral decadence, crime, ostentation, pretense, and H&M stores as far as the eye can see—while, conversely, faggots, spades, and kikes from the inner cities have long been wary of the ignorance, superstition, and savagery thought to be lurking in the shadows of the bait-and-tackle shop just off the interstate.

When I watch a film like Deliverance—in which the dichotomy between urban vs. rural is so clearly drawn, in favor of the former—I can't help wondering if Ned Beatty's anal rape in the bucolic Appalachian wilds was what Jean-Jacques Rousseau had in mind as an antidote to the pernicious effects of society. Let's face it—it was the civilizing effect of his education which (ironically) allowed Rousseau to formulate an intelligible position against civilization in so many of his writings.

They call them FLY-OVER states for a reason, honey.

At the outset, it would seem that Children of the Corn charts a familiar course: an educated urban couple (played—very badly, I might add—by Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton) drives through the wastelands of Middle America and finds devilment at work out in the cornfields, where a cult of children—some of whom are a little long in the tooth to deserve that name—spend most of their time skulking and killing people with farming implements. The cult is led by an androgynous boy with an apparent iron deficiency named Isaac and his chronically over-emoting henchman, a creepy ginger named Malachai. (Is 'creepy ginger' redundant?) 

Now I might court controversy here, but I would argue that the children of said corn are implicitly Amish—or they are at least intended to make viewers incorporate some of what they know about Amish people in the backstory. (In other words, they ride in buggies and make apple butter.) Maybe I'm totally off-base here... I don't know... Do you see any similarities?

Isaac from Children of the Corn.

Real-life child of the corn, out for a stroll.

Children of the Corn tricks us into thinking that this is just another in a series of films giving expression to liberal America's fear of religious extremism and backwoods 'justice.' But then the film does a strange thing—from an ideological standpoint, at least: it validates these children's odd and uncivilized beliefs. The weird Jesus-Devil that they worship and commune with actually does exist, although—without any apparent concern for theatrics—he manifests himself as a moving bump in the ground—kind of like an earthen Adam's apple. When the kiddies suddenly turn on their master Isaac and hang him from a cross in the field like a scarecrow, this marauding lump of dirt assails the cross and blasts it up into the sky like a bottle rocket.

Well, now. This makes Children of the Corn perhaps one of the vehemently anti-rural films I've ever seen—because not only are these half-wit cornshuckers dangerous in and of themselves; they are also able to summon a demonic hellbeast from the depths of Hades. So there you have it: hicks are both an evil unto themselves (of course) and conjurers of a greater supernatural evil. Unfortunately, the supernatural powers of the devil seem largely restricted to making the clouds move rapidly through the sky and starting small electrical fires, the likes of which can usually be snuffed out with a common household fire extinguisher—but this doesn't diminish the fact that bumpkins apparently have a hotline to hell. And a dearth of Starbuckses. If that's not enough to make the average city-dweller hide under the covers of his IKEA bed with a shiver of dread, then I don't know what is.

I haven't actually seen Children of the Corn since the 1980s. So it was obviously a great shock to me when I watched it last night and discovered it was a complete piece of shit. Veering in tone between cheesy sitcom and an episode of The Hitchhiker, this is the kind of movie that you space out during. You start thinking about your life: Where has it gone? Where is it going? Are there any Nutty Bars left? And then you remember the movie is still on, and Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton are still wandering around a deserted town, being stalked by some kids who—and I'll be honest here—look like a bunch of pussies to me. The only weapons these Jr. Luddites seem to have at their disposal are scythes—a dramatic weapon, to be sure, but maybe not the most practical one. I hate to celebrate the Second Amendment, even fictitiously, but—c'mon, Peter Horton—go get your ass a Glock or something and let's spill some brains outside the Tastee Freeze.

When a dead child wanders in front of your
car, check all nearby cornfields for clues.

There are so many stupid and annoying things about this film that I can't really devote sufficient outrage to each of them individually. I'll have to content myself with listing a few and then trusting you to be outraged for me. Be my surrogate outrager.
  1. The film begins with a little prologue in which the kids murder all of the adults in town. (We're never told why—but I'll let that slide.) Then, the story flashes forward three years. The kids are living in the cornfields and the abandoned houses, I guess, and have somehow managed to eke out an existence for themselves over this time. Apparently nobody in the world ever thought about any of the murdered adults ever again. Nobody ever tried to contact them or find out what happened to them. Nobody happened to drive through the empty town in three years and notice that something might be wrong. The IRS never noticed that all the townspeople stopped paying taxes and filing tax returns. No nearby or affiliated law enforcement agencies noticed that the local police were no longer in communication. People from outside the town that have business there—truck drivers, postal employees, utility workers—none of these people alerted the authorities about this suddenly abandoned town. COULDN'T SOMEONE JUST FUCKING DRIVE OUT THERE FOR CHRISSAKE AND SEE WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?? Oh—and take a gun. When an entire town disappears, it usually isn't because they're all at the Ice Capades...
  2. When Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton are driving down the highway, a bloody child abruptly darts in front of their car, and they mow him down. (Eat grille, twerp!) Linda wonders what happened, and Peter explains that the kid was dead and he wandered into the road. (That's right. The wandering apparently happened after the death. Genius.) This couple is incredibly jaded; they take vehicular homicide in stride. You'd think they'd just hit a possum. They throw the corpse in the trunk and—oh, what the hey, they'll probably find someplace to report the death along the way, right? But before they hit the road again, Peter Horton has this brainiac idea to walk out into the cornfield for—a clue? Luckily for him, the screenwriter leads him straight to a blood-spattered suitcase within this immense cornfield. A crueler screenwriter would have made him walk around for three hours, get lost, and then die of starvation.
  3. I hate to bring up the obvious here, but it needs to be said: Children are not scary! I'm sorry. They just aren't. Push them over. Kick them. Throw heavy or sharp things at their face. Set them on fire. This is freestyle pubescent homicide; it's your choice! They're just kids, for God's sake. If you can't lay waste to some hormonal tweens, then I don't know what the fuck you're good for, Peter Horton.


  1. This film is shit. But I don't agree that kids can't be scary. Have you ever seen a Spanish film called El Orfanato? It is one of my favorites.

  2. Doesn't Reagan, the girl from The Exorcist (not the president) count as a kid? And wasn't she scary. One might argue (as I find myself obliquely doing right now) that it was the demon within her which was scary, and not the child which was scary.. but when you see the vomit, and the backward crawling and the neck twisting... that's all the kid's body, not the demon's, and it is an indispensible part of the horror, so yeah... kids can be scary.

    1. But I ain't scared of no kids.

    2. Oh, and those creepy twin sisters from The Shining.

  3. I guess you've never seen an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras. Those kids freak me out.

  4. No, what I mean is that the kids in Children of the Corn are JUST kids. They aren't possessed by the devil. They aren't ghosts. They aren't deformed mutant babies. They're just ordinary (and not terribly smart) kids. What's to be scared of?