To kick off this year’s Summer of Horror air conditioned movie marathon I’ve decided to finally knock out a couple of staples in the storied “Evil Kid” subgenre: Village of the Damned (1995) and Children of the Corn.
Village of the Damned (1995)
No! Not the 1960 original! This entry was included on this year’s list at the request of my wife (who didn’t know this was a remake), but had childhood memories of the John Carpenter film and – as far as I can tell – wanted to see how it held up. John Carpenter obviously has a stellar track record with remakes from The Thing alone, so I was down.
Christopher Reeve stars in one of his last acting roles before the accident. In a tiny, close-knit rural town, an unexplainable phenomenon occurs during a town fair/festival/carnival thing that causes every person and animal to lose consciousness for several hours. Later, it’s discovered that every woman in town is now pregnant regardless of their sexual activity, subsequently giving birth on the same day to near-identical, pale white toe-heads. And wouldn’t you know it – there’s something very wrong with all of them.
This hits all the familiar beats of your classic creepy kid stories. They wear suits, have severe haircuts, rapidly develop adult level intellect, and display a peculiar lack of empathy and understanding of emotion. Oh, and psychic powers too. This… is bad.
There are some decent kill scenes as various adults in town attempt to eliminate the children but are forced into grotesque suicides through said psychic powers. However, none of the famous Carpenter suspense and paranoia is really pulled off here. It also often resembles a TV movie in the cinematography and dialogue. It’s definitely not scary, and that’s pretty much the kiss of death around these parts.
Next year perhaps I’ll try the 1960 version.
Children of the Corn (1984)
Moving on to a different sort of evil kid movie, we’ve got Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.
To me, this felt fairly similar to Village of the Damned in the sense that it came off a bit like a TV movie. It’s got Linda Hamilton in the same year she broke out in the original Terminator, but other than that everyone else is a complete unknown. Unlike the extraterrestrial-origin telepathic kids of Village, the Children of the Corn are “normal” kids who happen to form their own cult at the outset of the movie and subsequently murder all the adults in town while speaking in biblical folk fashion.
Honestly, I didn’t find anything remotely scary about this movie. Every time a squeaky-voiced pre-teen bellowed “SEIZE HIM” it never failed to make me laugh. It’s not that kids can’t be scary – the formula became pretty well perfected in the early 2000’s – but there wasn’t enough done to make these kids seem malevolent. One of them seems to be able to predict the immediate future via her crayon drawings, and it made me wonder whether this movie kicked off the “creepy crayon drawings” trope that shows up in virtually every supernatural horror movie involving children.
According to Wikipedia there have been a couple of attempts to reboot/remake Children of the Corn but I never even heard about them. After the massive success of It there was a brief gold rush to remake Stephen King properties a couple of years back, and I’m surprised we didn’t get a bid budget theatrical remake a la Pet Sematary. Honestly, I’d welcome it.