Plot: Gatlin was once a lively town, at least by rural standards, but these days, it sits mostly empty and visitors are scarce. The town is now led by Isaac (John Franklin) and his right hand man Malachai (Courtney Gaines), the former being a child preacher who shares his visions with the other residents. At Isaac’s call, the town’s children rose up against the adults and killed them all, leaving only one man on the outskirts of town to assist them with certain needs. Isaac rules out of fear, warning the others about “he who walks behind the rows” and reminds them that he is the voice of this powerful presence, so he is not to be disrespected. Meanwhile, a young couple passes through the area and accidentally runs over one of the children, who was beaten and placed in the road for acting against Isaac’s wishes. The couple wants to go to Gatlin to get help, but the lone adult warns them to bypass the town and head to a further city instead, which raises the ires of the children. Will the couple heed the warning or visit Gatlin and if they do, can they survive the supernatural horrors within?
Entertainment Value: Based on a Stephen King story, Children of the Corn was a hit and spawned countless sequels, turning into a reliable video rental franchise for Dimension Films. But this is where it all started and while the movie isn’t a genre classic, it does have a lot to offer horror fans, I think. The Amish-like children are super creepy, especially Isaac and Malachai, who head up the flock. The religious aspect makes things even more creepy, as the idea of a child preacher who leads his congregation into murder and sacrifice is a wild premise. John Franklin is terrific as Isaac, with a quiet menace and strong presence that conveys why he was able to rise to power, while Gaines is also effective as the brute Malachai. Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton are fine as well, as normal people thrust into this highly bizarre situation. The movie has good mood and atmosphere, with the mostly vacant town and eerie corn fields, but falls apart toward the finale with some awkward special effects that dampen the tension. Even so, the journey is a solid one and I think most horror fans will have fun with this one. As for the sequels, well…that’s another tale.
No nakedness. A little blood here and there, but no graphic violence or big set pieces. So a stab wound here, a little mutilation there, none of which is over the top and most of the gore happens off screen. So we see the blood aftermath, but rarely actually see the actions that cause the bloodshed. But man, we get some of the laziest, least effective visual effects you’ll ever see toward the finale, when Isaac is smothered by some kind of 70s video game graphics. Quite odd, but I appreciated how terrible and out of place the effect was, so I liked it from that aspect. The dialogue is overly dramatic and fun at times, especially when Isaac or the other kids spout their religious nonsense. I like all the creepy religious talk, especially when Horton’s character seems so confused by the kids and their beliefs. I also liked R.G. Armstrong as the surly old gas station owner, the lone adult the kids allowed to survive their purge. In terms of craziness, outside of the creepy kids and religious slant, this one stays within genre boundaries. But we do get an awkward, but super fun dance routine from Hamilton, so there’s that.
Overall Insanity: 2/10