Sunday, February 21, 2010

Beware! Children at Play (1989)

Beware! Children at Play

Written by Fred Scharkey
Directed by Mik Cribben

John DeWolfe...Michael Robertson
Julia DeWolfe...Lori Tirgrath
Sheriff Ross Carr...Rich Hamilton

NOTE: This is the fifth in my series of Netflix Challenge posts, in which you the reader challenge me the reviewer to watch the absolute worst pieces of cinematic garbage that Netflix has available to Watch Instantly.  Today's film was forced upon me by TimTE01 of Mondo Bizarro.  If you would like to learn more about the Netflix Challenge, or better yet, suggest a title yourself (my queue is looking pretty slim!), then just click here.

A small town near the fabled Pine Barrens in New Jersey has a problem: like clockwork, a local child goes missing every two months, leaving behind not even a trace. They're up to an even dozen (not to mention the numerous adults that have gone missing as well) before Sheriff Carr realizes that his standard operating procedures just aren't cutting the mustard anymore. Deciding to think outside the box, Carr calls in his old military buddy John DeWolfe.

John DeWolfe isn't the first person you would think of when you hear the word 'ringer'. I mean, for most of his professional life he was a respected literature and poetry critic--not exactly a Fox Mulder, you understand? But in order to make ends meet, DeWolfe has in recent times taken up a new profession: writer of lurid tabloid paperback books about such subjects as UFO's, satanic cults, and unexplained phenomenon. So while he's no Fox Mulder, he is a poor man's Kolchak (who was Mulder's spiritual godfather anyway), and the Dynamic Duo team up to solve this Merry Mystery.

This is a low budget movie, and it shows in some spots. Some of the acting is pretty poor, and there are a few scenes that rely far too heavily on dialogue to explain the story to the viewing audience; The special effects are cheap but practical, and offer more than a handful of memorable moments--key among them a salesman who gets sliced clean in half but still attempts to crawl away. You gotta love that gumption!

There's no denying that this is just a bargain basement version of Children of the Corn, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed on some level for its own merits. The children here on occasion share the lumbering gait of zombies, and their creepy chanting is constantly heard on the soundtrack. When they're not creeping around the barrens, they're spouting ancient poetry like it was the gospel and preparing for their uprising. There's also an undeniable air of sleaze and trashiness that major studio fare just can't produce. And who can pass up so much violence performed by...and aimed at...children!? The final showdown is an insane and bloody massacre that you absolutely must see, even if you commit that cardinal sin of fast forwarding through the rest of the film.

It's not a great film, but it's quite a bit of fun and is heads and tails above most Troma fare. It's not about to take over the head spot in anyone's Top Ten list, but in a pinch, you could do a whole lot worse.

Hell, you could be watching the Sci-Fi Channel's remake of Children of the Corn.

Now THAT is scary idea.

Rated R
94 Minutes
United States

"You Bible-thumping moron!"

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


  1. Hey!

    For some reason, I'm not able to comment on the actual "Netflix Challenge" I'm leaving my suggestions here instead.

    You are REALLY tempting me here...I feel kind of bad for subjecting you to some of these:
    -Graduation Day (so cheap it's nauseating)
    -The Baby (just too icky)
    -The Forest (unwatchabley stupid)
    -Backwoods (Haylie Duff...need I say more?)

    ...all of these are horror and have sadly graced my own Netflix list, so I know they're there.


  2. Wow, this movie is about what I thought it would be. I was expecting more of 'The Children' than 'The Children of the Corn.'

    Well, it's good to know that I didn't torture you too much. Good review.

  3. Not too shabby. I'll be checking this one out fo sho'.

  4. Tower Farms--Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately, The Baby and The Forest no longer seem available to 'Watch Instantly'. The other two, however, are now on the official queue! And thanks for letting me know that the Netflix Challenge page wasn't accepting comments. It should be corrected now.

    TimTE01--I would have to say that this was the easiest of the Netflix Challenges yet. We'll see if your next selection, Zombie Death House, is any tougher.

    Planet of Terror & Sarah: Hope to hear what you thought about it. The ending is a real jaw-dropper!


  5. The ONLY thing watching this shitpile for is the final kid slaughter. The rest is damn near unwatchable.

  6. Watched it last night and agree: not nearly as bad as it seems like it should be, though most of the acting (save for the lead) is truly awful. LOVED that final massacre, since it's so terribly executed you can't do anything but giggle. And like you said, the film is EONS better than the SyFy Children of the Corn (but so is Jingle All the Way, so go figure).


What do you got to say about it!?


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