Film Review: Children of the Corn (1984)

Also known as: Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (complete title)
Release Date: March 9th, 1984
Directed by: Fritz Kiersch
Written by: George Goldsmith
Based on: Children of the Corn by Stephen King
Music by: Jonathan Elias
Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R. G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains

Angeles Entertainment Group, Hal Roach Studios, New World Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Any religion without love and compassion is false! It’s a lie!” – Burt

Linda Hamilton had a big career making year in 1984 between this film and The Terminator, which was released months later.

I was never a big fan of this movie, even as a kid, but I guess I appreciate it more now. I mean, it’s certainly eerie and effective. However, everything in it seems kind of pointless, other than it’s cool seeing fucked up, murdering children that pray to some evil god birthed from the mind of Stephen King.

This is an example of why some things work much better as a short story, as this was originally written. There just isn’t enough here to justify a longer story and seeing it adapted into a movie turned it into a slow, drawn out affair where almost nothing really happens, except in the prologue and at the end.

Other than that, half the movie is driving around cornfields and then the other half is hiding from killer kids carrying farm tools.

The story is about kids in a small town following a child preacher who convinces them to kill all the adults. Whenever other adults wander into town, they get sacrificed to the bizarre cornfield god that travels through dirt like the monsters from Tremors.

I do like Isaac, the primary villain in this, though. I always thought he was scary but he also had something a bit off about him. I didn’t know until years later that the actor was actually in his 20s when he played this role. He dies in this but he would return years later in the sixth film. However, I’ve never seen any of the sequels but I may dive into them to review because why not?

Overall, this is slow as hell but I wouldn’t call it boring. As for Stephen King film adaptations, this is one of the poorer ones of the ’80s. A lot of people liked it, though, and I could be in the minority. I just feel like it doesn’t come close to holding a candle to the best of King’s adaptations or the horror classics of its decade.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as other Stephen King film adaptations.

Film Review: Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Also known as: Boy Rents Girl (alternative title)
Release Date: August 14th, 1987
Directed by: Steve Rash
Written by: Michael Swerdlick
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Patrick Dempsey, Amanda Peterson, Dennis Dugan, Tina Caspary, Darcy DeMoss, Cort McCown, Eric Bruskotter, Courtney Gains, Seth Green, Ami Dolenz

Apollo Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III, Touchstone Pictures, 94 Minutes

Review:

“What happened to us? We were all friends in elementary.” – Ronald Miller, “That’s because we were all forced to be in the same room together. But, hey, Junior high, high school. Forget it. Jocks became Jocks. Cheerleaders became cheerleaders. We became us. I like us.” – Kenneth Wurman

I always had a soft spot for this ’80s teen comedy but I guess I never realized how good it is when compared to all of the other films like it. Outside of the work of John Hughes and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, this one is probably the best of the lot.

This is a movie that carries a real message and does a fantastic job of delivering that message through the journey of its main character.

It’s also a message that’s timeless and maybe even more relevant today, as so many young people are willing to give anything just for their fifteen seconds of fame. Social media has probably just made this more of an issue, as “going viral” is a lifegoal of too many young people.

The story is about a geek named Ronald that has a hard time understanding why half of his friends from elementary school became the cool kids in high school and why he and his other buds are dorks, pushed away from the cool circle. He is also crushing hard on the most popular girl in school. When she finds herself in a bad financial situation, he bails her out. But he does so with the agreement that she’ll date him for a month, as he believes it will make him cool.

Of course, things can’t be that simple. While he does become “cool”, he turns his backs on his geeky friends and even breaks the heart of the popular girl he was in love with in the first place. As the story rolls on, his ruse is exposed and everything backfires. With that, he has to find a way to be himself, fix his old friendships and earn back the cool girl, who fell in love with the sweet guy she knows is inside Ronald.

As a young person, I got the message of the film loud and clear and it’s a simple one but this movie does a pretty good job of letting it play out in a lot of different ways, showing how it effects Ronald in every facet of his life, as well as the other kids around him.

Additionally, I think it’s a good message. High school aged kids generally want the same thing Ronald wanted but it’s important to understand the cost and what being “cool” actually means.

While this doesn’t have the magic of John Hughes best pictures, I think it is as well written as his high school movies and that’s why I consider it to be in the same ballpark of quality for ’80s teen comedies.

I like Patrick Dempsey in this but it’s Amanda Peterson that stole the show for me. I wish she had gotten better work after this film but she retired from acting in the mid-’90s, moved back home to Colorado and her life tragically went to shit until she died of an overdose in 2015.

Sorry to end this on a sad note but it’s kind of a punch to the gut when watching this film, knowing what happened to the high school goddess in real life.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s teen comedies.

Film Review: Ratboy (1986)

Release Date: October 17th, 1986
Directed by: Sondra Locke
Written by: Rob Thompson
Music by: Lennie Niehaus
Cast: Sondra Locke, Sharon Baird, Robert Townsend, Christopher Hewett, Larry Hankin, Sydney Lassick, Gerrit Graham, Louie Anderson, Billie Bird, John Witherspoon, Gary Riley, Courtney Gains, M.C. Gainey, Jon Lovitz, Bill Maher

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 104 Minutes

Review:

After seeing the trailer and checking out the critical consensus on this film, I thought that I might still enjoy it due to how weird it looked. But honestly, it was kind of hard to get through and the novelty of it wore off really quick. But hey, the French liked it.

This was Sondra Locke’s directorial debut and man, it was a complete misfire. So much so, that she never really bounced back from it and only had four total directing credits to her name, one of which was a television movie. She also got nominated for a Razzie for her performance in this, although she lost out to Madonna’s performance in Who’s That Girl?

I had read that this was made as a sort of allegory to her long relationship with Clint Eastwood, which was dissolving at the time. She saw herself as victimized and exploited and for whatever reason, this script spoke to her. I’m not entirely sure if she saw herself as the Ratboy character and Clint Eastwood as her character but this vapid Taylor Swift moment seems pretty petty and immature.

Locke also had Eastwood’s production company produce the film, so maybe that was her final “fuck you” to the guy.

Anyway, apart from Rick Baker’s solid effects used to create the Ratboy character, there is next to nothing about this film that is impressive. Hell, it even has a great cast with several talented character actors but they can’t come close to saving this, as it’s a complete dud from top-to-bottom. Granted, I do like Gerrit Graham in everything and I did enjoy him here, even if the film felt like a waste of his time.

This is just slow, drab, predictable and boring as fuck. There are a few amusing bits like the scene with John Witherspoon trying to hustle Ratboy but these moments are far and few between and it’s not worth sitting through the whole, dull picture to pull out the good bits. Besides, the clip is probably on YouTube.

I had hoped that there would be something worthwhile in this. Other than the few things I already mentioned, there isn’t.

The end.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: I honestly don’t know, as it’s so bizarre and unique.

Film Review: Back to the Future (1985)

Release Date: July 3rd, 1985
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Thomas F. Wilson, Claudia Wells, James Tolkan, Marc McClure, Wendie Jo Sperber, George DiCenzo, Frances Lee McCain, Casey Siemaszko, Billy Zane, Jason Hervey, Maia Brewton, Courtney Gains, Buck Flower, Huey Lewis (cameo)

Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.” – Dr. Emmett Brown

Back to the Future is a classic, which makes it kind of hard to review. It’s a film I’ve put off reviewing for awhile because I can’t really come up with anything other than paragraphs of praise. It’s perfect.

Do I need to run through all the regular tidbits about it having a great story, script, director, cast, composer, cinematographer, special effects department and everything else under the sun?

I’m reviewing this right after I reviewed RoboCop, which I also gave a 10 out of 10. But don’t take that score lightly, it is really hard for me to give out 10s but this film certainly deserves it and maybe even a score slightly beyond that. The only other movie from my childhood that can really compete for this as the best film from that era is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

While the Roger Eberts, Gene Siskels and Pauline Kaels have their Citizen KaneVertigo and Seven Samurai, I have Raiders of the Lost ArkEmpire Strikes Back and Back to the Future. These are my generation’s classics and even though they are much more modern, their greatness can’t be denied. Well, unless you’re completely devoid of taste.

This film was a perfect storm, even if it had some major production issues early on. But those issues led to this and it’s hard to imagine that a film with a slightly different cast would have been as good as this ended up being.

If you haven’t seen this film already, I don’t understand what you’ve been doing with all of your time on this planet. If you have seen it and don’t like it, we probably won’t be friends.

This is, hands down, one of the absolute best films of the 1980s, regardless of genre or style. There are other movies that one can refer to as “perfect” but how many are actually this fun?

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other two Back to the Future movies, as well as ’80s Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante Films.

Film Review: The ‘Burbs (1989)

Release Date: February 17th, 1989
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Dana Olsen
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman, Wendy Schaal, Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore, Courtney Gains, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, Nicky Katt, Billy Jacoby (voice)

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Studios, 101 Minutes

Review:

“[finds a femur] Ray, there’s no doubt anymore. This is real. Your neighbors are murdering people. They’re chopping them up. They’re burying them in their backyard. Ray… this is Walter.” – Art Wiengartner

The ‘Burbs is a rare dark comedy that hits all the right notes. Joe Dante was the perfect person to direct the script and the film was also perfectly cast.

While Tom Hanks was already building a name for himself and was a really good comedic performer that could handle more serious or dramatic material, it was this picture that really cemented his status, at least for me.

Hanks wowed people with a dramatic turn in Nothing In Common and even though The ‘Burbs doesn’t get as serious as that film, Hanks could flip the switch from comedy to serious on a dime, which he did here flawlessly. This and Big, which came out just a year prior, are the two films that made me a Tom Hanks fan. Following this up with the underappreciated Joe Versus the Volcano was also a great move by Hanks.

The cast is rounded out by Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman and Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun – a guy that probably should have had more prominent roles like this. The Klopek family, who were the focal point of suburban curiosity, were played by Henry Gibson – who is always fun, Brother Theodore – who was tailor made for this film, as well as Courtney Gains, who creeped out audiences a few years prior in Children of the Corn. You also get to see a young Nicky Katt, before he would become more recognized in his work with director Richard Linklater. Joe Dante also dips into the well of his regulars and gives us cameos by the great Dick Miller and the awesome Robert Picardo.

Mundane suburban life is at the center of the movie, as it follows three very bored suburban men and their wariness over the strange new neighbors who moved onto their street: the Klopeks. As the story progresses, they suspect the Klopeks are murderers. The plot escalates to the point that they can’t resist the temptation of digging up the Klopek’s yard and breaking into their house when they leave one day.

The film is highly comedic but is also a mystery and a thriller with a touch of horror added in. It is a pretty awesome mix and Dante worked his magic to great results.

It is also a highly stylized picture but in a subtle way. It was filmed on the Universal backlot and utilized some of the houses seen in famous sitcoms and other films. In fact, the house that Hanks lives in was used a few years earlier in another Hanks film, Dragnet. The generic suburban look makes it so that this neighborhood could be any neighborhood but it also has a sort of fantasy feel to it. It’s grounded in reality but it skews reality.

The ‘Burbs is solid, through and through. While it has gotten more popular over time, it wasn’t a critical success in 1989. When I first saw it, most of the kids I talked to hadn’t seen it. As I got older and time rolled on, I found more and more people that loved the film after discovering it on video or cable. Still, it surprisingly only has a 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

While not explicitly horror, this is a film I have to pop on almost annually around Halloween.

Rating: 9.25/10