Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Children of Corn

Children of the Corn. You all know this one: a hapless couple wanders into a remote small town where the kids have murdered their parents in the name of some ominous pagan deity, He Who Walks Behind the Rows. The movie stars a pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton and is based on a classic Stephen King short story, made during the period when King was transitioning from being the enfant terrible of horror into its reigning sovereign. Sounds like a recipe for a baller-ass horror movie to us, and we’re not the only ones. But as any loyal Scorehard should know, flesh is a weak and fallible thing, and the only true metric of movie quality is the pitiless gaze of science.
  • Getting a 9-year-old to narrate your horror movie. = -9pts
  • Job’s milkshake mustache during the malt shop massacre. = +11pts
  • Sarah, the obligatory child with psychic powers. = -5pts (A time-honored Stephen King standby.)
  • Credit sequence using Sarah’s drawings provides an excellent means of visual exposition for the events following the slaughter of Gatlin’s adults, while also contributing to the overall atmosphere of dread. = +24pts
  • Male lead Burt is a poor man’s James Woods. = -3pts
  • It’s difficult to tell, because the writing is so subtle and nuanced, but we THINK that the filmmakers want us to understand that Linda Hamilton is feeling unfulfilled in her relationship because of Burt’s unwillingness to commit. = -12pts
  • Although, Burt’s reluctance is understandable, since we’re pretty sure her character is bipolar. = -7pts
  • Burt doesn’t have time to have birthday sex with Linda Hamilton because he’s got to drive a bunch more miles to get to his medical internship, or whatever. John Connor is never going to get conceived at this rate. = -6pts
  • We keep waiting for Michael Biehn to show up from the future and warn Linda Hamilton not to star in this movie. = +4pts
  • Burt and Linda Hamilton have a copy of Night Shift on their dashboard. = +10pts
  • It’s a sign of a quality screenplay when you use voiceover narration to explain things that the characters say literally fractions of a second afterwards. = -13pts
  • While helping an older boy escape from Gatlin, Job demonstrates his skills as a lookout by yelling “OKAY! GO! NOBODY’S LOOKING!” at the top of his tiny little lungs. = -11pts
  • Upon running over a dying child in the middle of the highway, Burt does the logical thing and stows the corpse in his trunk. = -8pts (Cops are very understanding about things like that.)
  • We realize that Malachi is supposed to be the kiddie cult's scary enforcer, but this dude is basically Napolean Dynamite with a machete. = -30pts

  • Linda Hamilton and Burt encounter the requisite crazy old coot who tries to convince them to drive past Gatlin. = +5pts
  • The guy playing Isaac, the leader of the kiddie cult, was apparently in his twenties but suffered from a disorder that retarded his aging process. This explains why he's so much better of an actor than every other child in this movie. = +14pts
  • Some of the kids in this cornfield revival are clearly pushing thirty. = -9pts
  • Remains of a cop nailed to a cross made out of corn. = +28pts
  • '80s fashion alert: pleated Bermuda shorts. = -3pts
  • We honestly cannot tell if the mixed-up road signs Burt is following are supposed to lead him to Gatlin or away from it. = -4pts
  • Murdering a crazy old coot is one thing, Malachi, but leave his dog out of it! = -2pts
  • “Hey, a creepy abandoned house standing vacant in the middle of a town where a bunch of feral children tried to make off with my car. Let's do the logical thing and explore it.” = -11pts
  • “And now, Linda Hamilton, you should stay here alone with this little girl we found while I ignore every sign of danger surrounding me and go look for city hall.” = -7pts
  • The defaced portraits of Christ in the abandoned city hall are way creepy. = +8pts
  • All the kiddie cultists snuck into the house where Linda Hamilton and Sarah are waiting through different entrances, yet they all approach her from the same direction. = -4pts
  • Burt finds a group of kids in the town church celebrating a blood ritual with Amos in honor of the passage of his 19th year. In 2014 = +10pts; in 1981 = -19pts. Net score = -9pts (AIDS was going on, man.)
  • With the kiddie cultists on his tail, Burt takes shelter in a dark old workshop. Getting the drop on his pursuers, Burt shins Malachi with a mallet then proceeds to drop his weapon and smash his face on a pillar on the way out. We're not sure how this guy survived puberty, let alone made it through med school. = -13pts
  • Neither the threat of violence to Linda Hamilton, nor Malachi’s Chewbacca impression can draw Burt out of hiding. = +12pts
  • Job and Sarah protect Burt in their dad’s doomsday bunker. Thank God for preppers. = +6pts
  • Malachi turns the kiddie cultists against Isaac, and the revolution eats its own. = +4pts
  • Isaac's death. = -50pts
  • Burt lays Malachi low with a savage pimp slapping. = +10pts
  • Zombie Isaac consumes Malachi, and the revolution eats its own (brains). = +8pts
  • “Burt, you survived! I guess we still have to have that commitment talk.” = -9pts
  • He Who Walks Behind the Rows is vulnerable to fire. We should have known; fire is the natural enemy of rotoscoped visual effects. = -3pts
  • The corn field tries to reenact Evil Dead tree rape scene. = -7pts
  • Seeing as how Burt managed to completely douse himself in ethanol, he should go up like a candle as soon as he strikes a flame. = -18pts
  • Angry monster mushroom cloud. = -34pts

  • The movie’s denouement just sort of shuffles off the screen with all the abruptness of a C-student concluding a speech in a remedial public speaking class. Was Children of the Corn a comedy this whole time and we just didn’t realize it? = -40pts
  • Hey, wait, was there ANY point to Sarah having psychic powers? Their impact on the plot was so negligible they might as well not have existed. = -22pts
  • Also, as lame as that kiddie voiceover was at the beginning, it’s kind of tacky that it just disappeared entirely after the first 20 minutes of the movie. = -13pts
Total Score = -218pts
Available On: Netflix streaming

Despite the inherent creepiness of its premise, Children of the Corn ends up being a real shit show. Amateurish performances and clunky storytelling hamper it throughout, but it’s in the last twenty minutes where the wheels fall off the bus entirely, where terrible monster effects and a comically perplexing ending propel this flaming car wreck into unheard of heights of camp glory. Maybe instead of remaking The Thing and Robocop, Hollywood could turn its attention towards this little piece of unrealized greatness. In the hands of the right director, there’s no reason why this couldn’t be scary as hell.

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

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