Children of the Corn (also known as Stephen King’s Children of the Corn) is a 1984 horror film based upon the 1977 short story of the same name by Stephen King. Directed by Fritz Kiersch, the film stars Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton
By 1984, the Stephen King movie blitz that began in earnest with Salem’s Lot and The Shining in 1979 was showing signs of burning out. One of the world’s top selling authors, King also had the knack of writing extremely cinematic genre novels, and Hollywood producers were eagerly buying up the movie rights to just about anything he’d written.
Unfortunately, few of the resulting films quite hit the mark. Stanley Kubrick’s radical reinterpretation of The Shining had failed to please either mainstream critics nor King fans, and although now hailed as a horror classic, was widely dismissed at the time. This seemed to set the scene for King movies to come.
Appearing in 1984, Children of the Corn was based on a short story from King’s Night Shift collection, originally published in the March 1977 edition of Penthouse. Critics have used the fact that a feature film was spun from a thirty page tale to knock the film, but we should remember that both Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption – two of the most acclaimed King movies – were also taken from short stories. King’s original story was a tightly paced shocker and told the story of a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse and who find themselves lost in Nebraska.
When they hit the body of a young boy whose throat has been cut, they take the corpse to the nearest town, Gatlin. But it soon becomes obvious that all is not right there: not only does the town seem to be deserted, but further investigation shows that a new, strict old testament religion has taken hold – one which demands that followers are sacrificed at the age of nineteen to He Who Walks behind The Rows.
King’s short story plays on fears that urban America has about small, inbred rural communities – fears that have spawned horror movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – and blends in elements of The Wicker Man (a closed community developing their own religion), Logan’s Run (sacrifice at a certain age) and sinister kid movies like Village of the Damned. The story clearly has cinematic potential, and so it was no real surprise to find that it was to be made into a feature film in 1984.
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Mono and 5.1 Audio Options
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary with John Sullivan of childrenofthecornmovie.com and horror journalist Justin Beahm
- Audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- Harvesting Horror: The Making of Children of the Corn retrospective piece featuring interviews with director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- It Was the Eighties! an interview with actress Linda Hamilton
- Return to Gatlin brand new featurette revisiting the film s original Iowa shooting locations
- Stephen King on a Shoestring an interview with producer Donald Borchers
- Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights and Sounds of Children of the Corn an interview with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias
- Feeling Blue an interview with the actor who played The Blue Man in the fabled excised sequence
- Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Collectors booklet featuring new writing in the film.
The Children of the Corn movie didn’t seem to please anyone on its initial release. Although you’d expect mainstream critics to be dismissive, genre fans were equally scathing. Although the film had followed the template of King’s story to a degree, most people agreed that the switch from the original, downbeat ending to a more traditional ‘happy’ one was a blunder, and many people found it hackneyed and unbelievable.
Certainly, audiences weren’t exactly flocking to the film. It’s US box office take of $14.5 million made it the lowest grossing King adaptation of the year, though notably it did better than 1985’s King films Cat’s Eye and Silver Bullet, both of which flopped badly and brought the relentless King movie juggernaut to a temporary halt. Yet the times they were a-changin’, and theatrical box office was no longer the only way for a film to find an audience and make money. Children of the Corn would be one of the earliest movies to show that the long haul to success via videotape could be highly lucrative.
It’s hard to say just why Children of the Corn began to find an audience on video. It’s certainly not down to the director, who went on to a thoroughly anonymous jobbing career, shooting the likes of Tuff Turf (1985), Gor (1988) and Crayola Kids Adventures (1997). It’s more likely that people discovered the film through the cast. Peter Horton would go on to star in yuppie soap Thirtysomething, while Linda Hamilton struck gold later in 1984 when she was cast in a small sci-fi action film called The Terminator. The huge success of that film may well have sent curious fans in search of her other work.
Most likely though, is that the film simply hooked into the post-Goth teen audience which didn’t exist at the time of its original release. It’s notable that, like The Lost Boys, this is one of the few horror films to have a predominantly female fan base, and it’s easy to see how the combination of neo-pagan religion and brooding teen male leads would appeal to self-consciously Spooky Kids.
Whatever the reason, Children of the Corn‘s sleeper success on video had reached a point by 1993 where a sequel – unthinkable when the film was first released – became a viable option. Home video has created many sequels that we might not have otherwise expected to see – by extending the life of a movie beyond the initial theatrical release and occasional TV showing, video ensured that numerous films which failed to make much impact at the box-office would nonetheless become ubiquitous enough to justify follow-ups, particularly as a large part of the video rental market seemed to thrive on familiarity, only too happy to rent films which had some name recognition. Children of the Corn had been a solid renter for the best part of a decade, and so it seemed likely that a sizeable audience would exist for a second instalment.
And so it turned out. Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice appeared in 1993, and although it had little success theatrically (it would be the last of the films to have any cinema playdates worth speaking of), it proved popular on video. A third film appeared the next year, and notably, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) was the first of the series to gain positive notices in the fan press. Going straight to video, the film plugged into the cult surrounding the series, and its success more or less ensured a franchise was born.
Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996), Children of the Corn: Fields of Terror (1998) and Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999) followed.
David Flint, moviesandmania
Buy Children of the Corn: 25th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray Disc from Amazon.com