Welcome to our countdown to the most anxiety-inducing horror films for parents!  Today is day twenty two!

Each day, we are covering the films I both love and hate because they’re awesome and they give me panic attacks now that I’m a mom.

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So, today I thought we would take a drive through another, similar story to yesterday’s escape from Silent Hill.  Another dynamic horror duo came along, long before Alyssa and Sharon with a story that preys upon our anxiety when it comes to children, manipulation, religious insanity and death.  Your death, not theirs… sorry for any confusion, there.

Disclaimer: Trigger warnings are a given when you talk about horror, but I’m going to say it anyway.  Many subjects covered by horror films are disturbing to parents in ways we can’t possibly understand and each is unique to the parent and his/her experiences. Tread carefully and know your limits.  If this begins to be too much, there’s no shame in closing the window.  Also, this post contains some spoilers throughout. 

10. Children of the Corn

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Another film I’ve not seen since having children, this movie strikes a chord I’d not expected.  From the first scene to the last, there are new things to think about, new aspects to consider and a new perspective, a parent’s perspective… that I’d not had the last time I saw this film.

I first saw it at about 14 years old.  It was gross and I hated it.  The ugly, mean kids were awful and insane. The adults were stupid and it made me angry.  When I was about 19, I saw it again.  Malachai, a crazy red head and was kind of awesome in a weird, Joker/Lord of the Flies kind of way.  I still thought the adults were stupid.  I saw a television miniseries version of it back in 2009 and LOVED it.  It was way creepier, much more in-depth with the story and with updated surroundings, as well as several filled holes from the original, it left me with a much creepier feeling and I had more empathy for the adults now that I was one, but they were still pretty stupid.

So, I’m seeing the original again, now as a parent.  Five minutes into it and it’s not only a little frightening, but also deeply sad.  The coffee shop scene… there’s an unseen baby crying as adults are murdered all around.  Where is that baby?  Are the kids going to take care of it?  Do they even know how?

The couple that wanders into town is still stupid in this version, but I think this is largely because of the era.  We take so many things for granted now with current technology.  They have no cell phone to contact someone after the child in the road dies.  They have no GPS to tell them where they are.  They are lost, deep in corn country with no one around and nowhere else to go except the creepy town run by cult member children with the body of a dead 8 year old in their trunk.

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I also saw a continuing theme in this film, one I’ve seen in almost every single movie so far this month: A wife or girlfriend who is being wise, cautious and making intelligent choices while asking for help, with a man who patronizes, dismisses and laughs at her concerns.  The only reason they even end up in the stupid town to begin with is because he refused to listen to her when she told him the town was off somehow and recommended they leave.  His arrogance and inability to just trust her instincts and leave is what causes the entire issue to begin with.

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So, what’s the deal then?  Why is this less than spectacular movie with bad effects on my list of films to horrify parents?  Besides the issue with every child in town turning against the adults and murdering everyone over 18?  Let’s take a look.

  1. Overzealous fanatics can easily brainwash kids who have no context and no sense of the outside world.  We have seen it before – the “camps” kids get sent to… the ones that tear them down both emotionally and physically in order to build them back up again in whatever mold the people in charge want them to fit into.  This happens in places where children are often isolated from modern ways of living and technology, but you would be surprised just how “progressive” these groups are and how easily they are hiding in plain site, preying upon children by coaxing families into thinking they are helping.
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  2. Malachai and Isaac.  Two creepy boys who cannot be reasoned with have convinced an entire town of children to murder everyone they know and every stranger who comes into town.  Even the younger ones who are barely old enough to be away from their mother’s breast are comfortable with killing their families because these two boys say so.  This begs the question; how easy is it, really, to sway the conscience of a child?  If something horrifying seems acceptable to so many, will they be so easily diverted from normal, compassionate behavior?  Is our human nature so close to cruelty that it can easily shift away from love to a life of murder?  Some say yes…
  3. There really was something out there in that corn!!!  Granted, the special effects were laughable, but it still wasn’t JUST terrible, murderous children, they were motivated by “he who walks behind the rows”.  They were being manipulated by a dark force, which is actually kind of comforting when you realize it’s not just because they are evil children…but what is it?  They never explain that. Was it alien?  Was it demonic?  Was it the corn itself, become sentient and angry for being used by humans for so long?  No one knows…

In all honesty, this movie doesn’t give me too much anxiety, except for the reality of overly zealous religious fanatics.  That is a genuine concern in our culture today and we are seeing the signs of this kind of dark, close-minded thinking on all sides.  Children are swayed all the time to do terrible things for some idealistic goal, to fit in with friends, they join groups and plot to hurt people for status, for fun, because they think some dark force beyond their grasp will see them and give them favor.  I see this movie now and I see the many teens who have been lost to cults, to have have stood idly by while others are hurt, raped, killed, bullied… and do nothing because fear and the desire to fit in is stronger than their sense of justice and compassion.  These fresh-faced babies watching the horror all around them with apathy instead of fear or compassion is truly was is most frightening about this film.

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This film can be a warning to all parents, one we desperately need to hear right now.  Be sure you raise your own children to be strong in their understanding of true right and wrong.  Teach them to value compassion over power, inclusion over submission.  Teach them to turn away from cruelty and rage-filled revenge.  Teach them to be warriors of peace and to value everyone’s right to a quality life no matter who they are, where they live or how old they are.  If we don’t do this, how long before they’ll be coming after us?

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