Saturday, August 23, 2014

He Came For You, Too, Malachi

“Children of the Corn” is a shuckin’ great movie.

The 1984 movie, for all of its dozens of flaws and dated special effects, dares to make the viewer think about a number of issues that we in 2014 have decided are too sacrosanct (or too insignificant, or both) to question in meaningful ways. Arguably, the movie was a cautionary tale our entire country heeded, causing a course correction that, has resulted in entirely different kinds of horror movies.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, the setting is Gatlin, Nebraska. The middle of nowhere in the middle of America. The movie begins with a boy sitting with his dad in the town’s diner. The boy explains that the teenagers have all been acting weird lately. They’ve all been disappearing together in the cornfields, following a kid named Isaac.

The whole town seems steeped in the kind of rural fundamentalism that gripped many a stereotypical Midwestern or Southern hamlet circa 1983.

Next thing you know, the teens have ambushed the adults and slaughter them in ways that would make Jigsaw get a bit queasy. And they thrive as a sort of Lord of the Nebraska Flies, undisturbed and isolated, for three years.

Then, one day, a kid tries to escape. Malachi, the human version of Chucky, slits his throat with a sicle and leaves the kid to bleed out standing in the middle of the road (hint: Malachi isn’t the brightest bulb in Wal-mart), where Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton run over him with their car. Peter is a young doctor who will soon become an English professor on thirtysomething, and Linda is his loyal loving gal until she leaves him for John Connor and learns that the fate of the earth is in her hands.

Peter is unlike any man these Nebraska brats have ever seen. He’s cocky, certain, and intelligent. He has studied science but also has some measurable competence about the Life and Times of Jesus H. Christ. Peter is, in short, the big older brother none of these kids had, with an edjumakashun none of them had.

Linda, not yet trained by Michael Biehn to be a badass, mostly exists to remind you how cool and hot Peter Horton is.

These kids chase Peter. They hunt him like a dog. Hell, one brassy gal who’s clearly sleeping with Malachi even stabs the guy, but Peter is a better man. He shoves the kids a lot, and he constantly tells them what morons they are. But he only even hurts two teens the entire movie, and both of them really really deserve a good whuppin’.

It's just a flesh wound.
It didn't go in. It just impacted on the surface.
In the end, Peter and his young rebel buddy Job work together to destroy the demon in the cornfield and rescue everyone but Isaac and Malachi, because everyone watching the movie wanted to see those two bite it, and you can sense even He Who Walks the Rows enjoyed offing them.

The movie is meant to attack two things: (1) the dangers of indoctrinating kids into fundamental religion without providing them with greater, deeper knowledge and understanding of the world around them; and (2) the dangers of parental indifference.

The cloistered kids are perfect targets for a demon who can pervert the religion they were raised not to question into something horrifying because these kids don’t have enough depth of understanding -- of anything, it seems -- to differentiate the false idol from the real McCoy. The devil was quite gifted at quoting the Bible, even in the damn Bible, but these kids have their own version of Santa Muerta.

The parental indifference provided the time and opportunity necessary to mutate something that began as a dangerous seed and grew into something nuclear.

Of all the remakes we've seen Hollywood lazy enough to consider, why haven't we seen a remake of "Children of the Corn"? Because most of today’s teens are rarely left alone long enough to French kiss, much less plot the destruction of an entire town.

Or, perhaps Columbine and the dozens upon dozens of similar real-life horror movies, where teens use automatic and semi-automatic weapons instead of sicles and machetes, have brought the concept of this film a little too close to home.

The only thing that’s certain is the world could always use more adults like Peter Horton, who can be surrounded by a dozen teens with sharp weapons and bloodlust, yet still keep his cool, his deserved adult condescension, and his ability to wake up the brats to what they’ve become.

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