Children of the Corn also known as Stephen King's Children of the Corn is a 1984 American horror film based upon the 1977 short story of the same name by Stephen King. Directed by Fritz Kiersch, the film's cast consists of Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, John Franklin, Courtney Gains, Robby Kiger, Anne Marie McEvoy, and Julie Maddalena. Set in the fictitious rural town of Gatlin, Nebraska, the film tells the story of a malevolent entity referred to as "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" which entices the children of the town to ritually murder all the adults in town and a couple driving across country, to ensure a successful corn harvest. Stephen wrote the original draft of the screenplay, which focused more on the characters of Burt Stanton and Vicky Baxter and depicted more history on the uprising of the children in Gatlin. This script was disregarded in favor of George Goldsmith's screenplay, which featured more violence and a more conventional narrative structure. Filming took place mainly in Iowa, but also in California. 8 sequels have since been produced, and it has gained a cult following.
The film is set in the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska an agricultural community surrounded by huge cornfields. When the corn crop fails 1 year, the townsfolk turn to prayer to ensure a successful harvest. However, 12 year old Isaac Chroner takes all of the children in Gatlin into the cornfields and indoctrinates them into a religious cult based around a bloodthirsty deity called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”. Isaac and his subordinate Malachai Boardman lead the children in a revolution, murdering all of the adults in town as human sacrifices. Only Job and his sister Sarah refuse to participate, as they can see visions of the future, drawing them on paper. 3 years later, Vicky Baxter and her boyfriend Burt Stanton travel through rural Nebraska for Seattle, where Burt will start working as a physician. Elsewhere, a young boy named Joseph tries to flee Gatlin, but is attacked in the corn, stumbling out into the road and is run over by Burt’s car. However, Burt discovers his throat has been cut beforehand. They place the boy and his suitcase in the trunk and search for a phone to call for help. They come across an elderly mechanic, the last adult in Gatlin, but he refuses them service. The mechanic is actually in an agreement to supply the children with fuel in exchange for his life. However, the merciless Malachai breaks the pact and murders him, against Isaac’s wishes. Vicky and Burt explore the abandoned town, finding Sarah alone in a house. Burt searches the town, while Vicky stays with Sarah. Malachai and his followers appear, capturing Vicky and taking her to the cornfield, where they place her on a cross to be sacrificed. Burt enters a church where a congregation of children, led by a girl named Rachel, are performing a cultural birthday ritual for her boyfriend Amos by drinking his blood. Burt scolds the children, enraging Rachel and is chased by Malachai and others. Job rescues Burt and they hide in a fallout shelter with Sarah, learning Vicky was captured. The zealous Isaac scolds Malachai for his treachery, only for Malachai to grow tired of Isaac’s preaching and he takes over, ordering Isaac’s sacrifice instead of Vicky. Isaac warns Malachai that sacrificing him will break their pact with He Who Walks Behind the Rows and the children will be severely punished. At night, Burt sneaks into the cornfield to rescue Vicky. During Isaac’s sacrifice, a supernatural light appears and devours the screaming Isaac. Burt emerges and fights Malachai, but Isaac suddenly reappears, revived by He Who Walks Behind the Rows, tells Malachai that he wants him too, he seizes and kills the terrified Malachai by breaking his neck. A storm appears over the cornfield, and Burt and Vicky shelter the children in a barn. They read a passage in the Bible that implies the cornfield must be destroyed to stop the false god. Burt sprays the cornfield with gasoline and tosses a Molotov cocktail into the field, setting it alight and destroying the demon. Vicky, Burt, Job, and Sarah return to their car to leave Gatlin, only to find it disabled. Rachel attacks Burt, but he knocks her out with the car door. Just before the survivors set out on foot, Burt quips that they should all send Rachel a get-well card from Seattle, with Burt and Vicky ostensibly decide to adopt Job and Sarah.
- Linda Hamilton as Vicky Baxter
- Peter Horton as Burt Stanton
- R. J. Franklin as Diehl
- John Franklin as Isaac Chroner
- Courtney Gains as Malachai Boardman
- Robby Kiger as Job
- Anne Marie McEvoy as Sarah
- Julie Maddalena as Rachel
- Jonas Marlowe as Joseph
- John Philbin as Amos
Film rights were originally optioned by Hal Roach Studios and Stephen King wrote a script based on his own short story. Hal Roach executives did not want to use Stephen's script and George Goldsmith was hired to rewrite it. George says Stephen's script started with 35 pages of Burt Stanton and Vicky Baxter arguing in a car, so he decided to tell the story visually through the eyes of 2 new characters, children Job and Sarah. Stephen was unhappy with the changes but Hal Roach went with George. Hal Roach eventually sold the project to New World Pictures who decided to go with George's script, although they tried to remove his name from the credits in favor of Stephen.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 36% based on 25 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Children of the Corn's strong premise and beginning gets shucked away for a kiddie thriller that runs in circles." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 45 out of 100, based on 6 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun Times awarded the film 1/4 stars, writing, "By the end of Children of the Corn, the only thing moving behind the rows is the audience, fleeing to the exits."
In June 2008, it was confirmed that Donald P. Borchers would begin writing and directing a remake of the first film, which would premiere on the Syfy channel. Production began in August, filming in Davenport, Iowa. However, it was later moved to Lost Nation, Iowa. The cast included David Anders, Kandyse McClure, Preston Bailey, Daniel Newman and Alexa Nikolas. The film aired on September 26th, 2009, and the DVD was released on October 6th, 2009, by Anchor Bay. The television remake closely follows the original storyline present in the short story, and not that of the original film.
Pop Culture Reference
An audio clip of the character Isaac Chroner yelling "Don't you sit there, seize him, punish him, cut him down! I command you!" is used at the end of the song "Scream For Silence" in Children of Bodom's 2013 album "Halo of Blood".
- Linda Hamilton got an early start at acting in this film and would later become a star with James Cameron's The Terminator, released later the same year.
- John Franklin returned as Isaac Chroner in the 1999 direct-to-video sequel "Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return".