Based on a Stephen King short story, this dirt-cheap horror tale of eerie kids and their mysterious worship, has a certain piquancy going for it. King was always good at playing on more sensitive notes, and the idea of evil children carries quite a punch. It is a fairly original set-up in a genre dogged by formula, but one that is finally bedevilled by the constraints of budget and a ludicrous monster movie denouement.
Up until then, these hick pickininees conjure up a creepy little gothic pleasure. Led by the doom-dealing Isaac (played with fierce confidence by John Franklin) and ably assisted by the blood thirsty Malachi keen with a scythe, they feed off of King’s religious context (just listen to those names); loosely the film conducts an inspection of the lurid influence religion can have on inexperienced minds. Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton do well in pretty standard roles, the couple who step off the beaten track and right into Hell’s high school. Trapped by these knife clad peddlers of arch mumbo-jumbo, they vainly try to run for it, but those fields, ripe with corn, don’t look too safe.
It’s ragged round the edges, but then Fritz Kiersch is working with a budget Roger Corman would laugh at, and he does a good job. Keeping the big reveal until late, he uses POV shots to plot the movement of “He”, there is an icy dread in the flailing attempts of this couple to best a group of children. But, sad to say, it will all come crashing down around his ears, no pun intended, when he has to bring it all to a heart-stopping crescendo.
The effects are phoney, anticipated by the weakest storm in movie history, a rubbery beastie that tunnels in the earth — it might have been better to keep him hidden. You tune out laughing, and all the hard work is undone. King sneered and ignored it. But, its success on video would lead to no fewer than six sequels, none of which are worth watching.