FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: psychological, sociological
Re-watching the first movie, the only CORN-film based directly on King's work, reinforces that opinion. I don't have much to add to my other CORN reviews except to say that the movie is moderately entertaining whenever it focuses only on the two yuppie protagonists (Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton). However, it's as boring and predictable as hell whenever the story turns to the corn-cult youngsters who menace the twosome. Reportedly King's original draft for the screenplay included more backstory regarding how the cult came to be. It may be a small blessing that such material was cut out.of the completed film.
Unlike the sequels, the original does impart some of the urban-dwellers' fear of the great rural unknown. But otherwise it's a routine outing into the world of hick-horror.
Just under a decade later, King wrote one of his few movie-scripts not based on a prose story, the story of SLEEPWALKERS. Unlike CHILDREN OF THE CORN, the basic idea here has some potential-- which may be why I consider it much worse than the earlier film.
Mary Brady and her grown son Charles move to a small town in Indiana. It's quickly established that they are actually "sleepwalkers," immortal creatures with the metamorphic capacities of old-school vampires. For some reason that King's script never bothers to make clear, the two of them must devour the spiritual energies of virgin girls in order to stay alive. One would think that if their very lives depend on such prey, and they've been doing this since the days of ancient Egypt, that they'd have some better modus operandi that to drift from small town to small town, killing girls as they go. King would later use the germ of this "vampire drifters" concept in his recent novel DOCTOR SLEEP, but in that novel the vampires are immensely wealthy and can afford to paper over their mistakes.
As soon as Mary and Charles move into their new digs, they start screwing up. King's excuse for their precipitate actions is that Mary is "starving" and must use Charles as a stalking-horse to draw young girls to them-- but this excuse, no matter how valid, doesn't make SLEEPWALKERS any more entertaining. It soon becomes just a rambling assortment of gore-murders, none of which has even a tenth of the imagination of the worst NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film.
King may have been thinking of Egyptian myths involving incestuous content when he conceived Mary and Charles, for like Horus and Isis in certain tales, the mother and son are sleeping together. As a plot-point this doesn't add much to the story. But it does allow for the film's one source of merit. Though the other actors put across competent performances, only Alice Krige, playing Mary, distinguishes herself. She brings to the under-scripted role a heady ambivalence, in that she's simultaneously a woman jealous of her young lover's possible affections for their targets, and yet also a mother who cherishes her son and perhaps, on some level, wishes he could have a normal life with someone other than her. But as I said, this is only suggested by Krige's performance, for the thud-and-blunder script gives her no help at all.