Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is not the book. In Stephen King’s Children of the Corn , a short story, Burt Stanton and Vicky Baxter are driving cross-country between corn fields through Nebraska when the car runs over a child in the road. The movie, contrary to custom, provides additional background and depth. This came out in 1984 from Angeles Entertainment Group, among others. Peter Horton is Burt. Linda Hamilton is Vicky. It was recently available on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes in the movie show a peaceful Sunday morning in Gatlin, Nebraska, some time previous. The townspeople leave morning church and many head for the local diner. It is then the evil Isaac Chroner (John Franklin), outside on the sidewalk, gives a signal through the window. The children in the diner begin to massacre the adults. Some are poisoned with coffee, others are cut down by sharp weapons. We later learn Isaac is the leader of a religious cult based on corn, hence the title.

Back to the present, a young boy attempts to leave the cult. With his suitcase he makes his dash toward freedom among the rows of corn. But he is waylaid by Malachai Boardman (Courtney Gains) and stabbed with a kitchen knife. He makes it to the road. That is when Burt hits him with the car.

Seeking help, Burt and Vicky stop at Diehl’s (R. G. Armstrong) shop. Diehl advises Burt and Vicky to go on to the next town, and he is subsequently killed by Malachai. Burt and Vicky attempt to make it to the next town, but their car ends up on a dirt path between rows of corn.

Going back to Gatlin, Burt and Vicky encounter Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy). She and her brother Job (Robby Kiger) are not part of the cult. They can only give clues as to what is going on and what will happen. The town is apparently abandoned, all adults having previously been killed by the children, and cult member roam the town, stalking Burt and Vicky.

Vicky gets taken by the cult and posted on a cross among the corn as a sacrifice. A conflict ensues within the cult, and Malachai usurps Isaac, posting him on the cross in place of Vicky.

Burt works with Job and Sarah as the cult members attempt to trap Burt, using Vicky as bait.

The movie culminates in a showdown among the corn, as an evil entity moves beneath the fertile ground, carrying doom to all it encounters. Burt and Job defeat the evil and the cult by setting the corn ablaze.

Horton and Hamilton are the front-line players in the production, both turning in lackluster performances. Hamilton is mainly good looking throughout. She turned in a significantly better performance as Sarah Conner in The Terminator the same year. The plot has a lot to ask for, as well.

Gatlin, Nebraska—the children kill all adults in the town except Diehl. And nobody notices. Storms of state cops are not all over the place wanting to know what went on. Fortunately this was before cell phones became prolific. Else, Burt would have merely dialed 911 when he found the murdered kid on the road, and that would have been the end of the story.

Viewers of my ilk will experience long stretches of frustration as Burt and Vicky become needless mired in the children’s plot. Viewers obviously know what is going on in the background, but any reasonable person would have dumped all that naiveté after a couple of minutes. Makes the thing agonizing  to watch.

While there is a smidgen of reality with the children cooking up a religious cult and committing murder, the thing beneath the ground in the corn field is pure fantasy. All of Stephen King’s stories seem to have a load of supernatural, but this is a corn crib too much—not essential to the plot and becoming manifest only in the final minutes. In the book the hidden force plays a pivotal role.

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Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This was Stephen King‘s big breakthrough. Before there was The Green Mile, before there was Pet Sematary, before there was The Shining, there was Carrie, a notable piece of horror. This came out in  1976, and I don’t remember where I saw it  the time before. I just now viewed it on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is shy and unremarkable. She is maladroit and poor at sports. She fumbles a critical play, and her team loses a volleyball match. Back in the locker room the other girls taunt her or ignore her completely. Steve, here’s your chance to see naked teenage girls in the locker room.

Carrie is dangerously unworldly. Her mother is a religious psychopath and has not informed Carrie on basic feminine development. When Carrie’s first menstrual period is manifest in the shower, she panics and turns to the girls for help. Instead, they taunt her, chase her into the shower and throw towels at her.

Back home, Carries mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie) is worse than the girls. She screams at Carrie that she is living in sin and must repeat that aloud.

In class, Carrie is the only one to respond after the teacher reads Tommy Ross’s (William Katt) poem. Tommy, with long, blond hair, is a certified hunk.

The girls who taunted Carrie are severely punished. Their gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) manages their detention, forcing them to do rigorous exercises.

The girls complain. One, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), drops out, forfeiting her ticket to  the senior prom. Another, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) doesn’t drop out. She stays in. And plots revenge.

Meanwhile, Carrie has grown  angry, particularly when Principal Morton (Stefan Gierasch) persists in calling her “Cathy.” Objects move on his desk. Carrie investigates, pulling books from  the library. She comes across the concept of telekinesis. She can do it.

Sue works her revenge on Carrie. She connives to have her boyfriend Ross take Carry to the prom. She also connives to have the voting compromised so that Carrie and Ross are elected queen and king of the prom. She has set Carrie up, bringing her to the high point in her life.

Then Sue unleashes her plot. She has incorporated other students, including Billy Nolan (John Travolta) to slaughter some pigs and collect a bucket of blood. The bucket is rigged, and a pull at a rope dumps the blood on Carrie as she stands in her place of honor. Additionally, the bucket falls on Ross, knocking him out.

Carrie unleashes her fury on everybody. She leaves the auditorium engulfed in fire with everybody locked inside. Everybody, that is, except for the perpetrators. As Carrie walks home in her blood-drenched dress, she encounters Billy Nolan and Chris Hargensen, who attempt to run over her with the car. The car veers to one side and overturns. The two die in the burning car.

Carrie has defied her mother by going to the prom. Back home her mother embraces Carrie, then stabs her in the back with a kitchen knife. Carrie responds. Knives and other objects fly from the kitchen and pin her evil mother to a door frame.

Their house dissolves in flame.

Afterward, Sue is the sole survivor of prom night. She has a dream. She is placing flowers at the site of Carrie’s burned  house. There is a cross, really a for sale sign. On it are painted the words “Carrie White burns in Hell.” An arrow points down.

A bloody hand comes up from the ground to drag Sue down.

And that was our introduction  to the mind of Stephen King. He has taken our worst experiences of high school and amplified on them. You want to see how nasty high school girls can be? Come see this movie and be glad you have moved on.

Since this is a work of fantasy, there is not much that can be argued against the plot. If you want any of it to make sense, then you have to make sense of somebody setting an auditorium on fire and killing everybody through mind power alone. Beyond that there are some stretches of imagination.

Sue thinks she is going to pull of this business with the bucket of blood and then ever graduate from high school? Or live in this town?

Yeah, high school kids have done stupid things, thinking about five seconds into the future, but breaking into somebody’s pig business and killing some pigs is something that’s going to earn time in the clink, and screw all thought of going to college. Example: About the time I was starting at the University of Texas, some frat kids thought it would be cute to kidnap the Baylor bear mascot. They wound up killing  the bear (a cub). End of college for those guys.

Stephen King is an excellent writer, and his stories have enough reality to ground them while the remainder of his plots fly off into the stratosphere. If you can stretch your mind enough, you can appreciate a vicarious journey into the netherworld.

If I can obtain a copy, I hope to review Cujo.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Hard to believe this one is over 30 years old. It came out in 1985, around the time my movie going was beginning to  slack, and it never came on HBO or Turner Classic movies. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video in February.

It’s Silver Bullet, by Stephen King, who also did the screen play. It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis and distributed by Paramount pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, this is a Stephen King story, so you are seeing  this, a human head lying between the rails on a railway line. There is prior footage that shows how this gentleman got into this predicament, but I’m being spare on the graphics today.

The story is told by teenager Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows), who by the time of the telling has grown up, the movie being set in 1976. She tells of how the killings started in her small  home town on the night of the last full moon before the end of the spring school term. This killing was passed off as an accident, the victim being a railway worker noted for heavy drinking on the job.

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Jane is burdened by her crippled brother Marty (Corey Haim), for whom she is the designated caretaker. We see Jane as she witnesses a disagreement between two locals, one of whom accuses the other of getting her pregnant.

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Pregnant and contemplating suicide is Stella Randolph (Wendy Walker). Just as she swallows the fatal dose of sleeping pills or whatever, the werewolf, for this is a werewolf film, bursts through her bedroom window and tears her apart.

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The Coslaw family is beset by Uncle Red (Gary Busey), a heavy drinker and also feared to be a bad influence on Marty.

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Marty’s friend, Brady Kincaid (Joe Wright) is next. He’s been mean to Jane, so he may have been coming his due. Flying his kite in the park is the last we see of him alive, and his body has been found torn apart.

Sheriff Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) tries to dissuade a mob from going into the woods to look for the killer. To no avail. Three more victims fall to the werewolf in a dark and foggy swamp.

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Uncle Red is losing his wife (she’s leaving him), and he dotes on Marty. He constructs a super motorized wheelchair for Marty, which he names the Silver Bullet. It is fast.

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Marty is told to never take the Silver Bullet out by himself. So that very night he takes the Silver Bullet out by himself. He brings along some fireworks with the idea of shooting them  off on a wooden footbridge. The werewolf attacks. Marty shoots the werewolf in the eye with a rocket and escapes.

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Grownups won’t believe Marty’s story, but sister Jane goes looking for somebody in the town with one eye out. Horrors, it’s the Reverend Lester Lowe (Everett McGill).

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Again, grownups won’t believe what Marty and Jane suspect. Then, on the road, the Reverend chases Marty with his car and tries to kill him.

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Shown the matching paint scrapes due to a collision with the Reverend’s car, Sheriff Haller goes to investigate. The werewolf kills him.

Uncle Red takes matters in his own hands. He accepts two silver pendants from the children and takes them to a gun shop. Here the gunsmith melts them down and constructs an actual silver bullet.

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Then Uncle Red lays a trap. He tricks Jane and Marty’s parents into taking a vacation, leaving him in charge of the kids. They wait in the house for the werewolf to attack. By nearly the end of the night Uncle Red is giving up, and he removes the silver bullet from the pistol.

Then the werewolf attacks,  bursting through the wall. The silver bullet goes flying, falling through a floor grate. The werewolf tosses Uncle Red about the room and goes for the two children. Marty fishes the bullet out of the grate and loads it into the pistol. A single shot does it for the werewolf, and everybody is saved. As the werewolf dies he re morphs into the Reverend, now missing both eyes.

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And that’s the end of the movie.

There is nothing wrong with this movie except that it is about 100% predictable. It’s a straight-line werewolf story with victim following victim, until the principle characters confront the danger and eliminate it.

Except that there is a certain lack of reality, in addition to the werewolf bit. Multiple murders are occurring in the town, and there is no call for outside help. The story does not include any expected police procedures, gathering forensic evidence, talking to forensic experts.

Marty tells of shooting the werewolf at the footbridge, but nobody follows up to examine the evidence of the  rocket being fired and werewolf blood samples collected from the bridge.

The Reverend now is lacking his left eye, and nobody asks him what happened to his eye.

The story came from King’s  Cycle of the Werewolf, which might be worth reading. King is an excellent writer, his The Green Mile being a prime example.

Corey Haim parleyed his child star beginning into a successful acting career, but he died at 38 of a drug overdose.