‘An adult nightmare.’
Children of the Corn is a 1984 American horror feature film directed by Fritz Kiersch from a screenplay by George Goldsmith (Blue Monkey aka Insect), based on the 1977 short story of the same name by Stephen King. The Gatlin production stars Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin and Courtney Gains.
Jonathan Elias (Leprechaun 2; Grave Secrets; Parents; Vamp) provided the soundtrack score.
Film rights were originally optioned by Hal Roach Studios, and Stephen King wrote a screenplay based on his own short story. However, Hal Roach executives rejected King’s script and George Goldsmith was hired to rewrite it. Goldsmith has said King’s script started with 35 pages of lead characters Burt and Vicky arguing in their car.
After the release of Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992) and the series’ acquisition by Dimension Films, subsequent sequels were released directly to video, and bore little to no narrative continuity, beginning with Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995).
In 2009, a television remake of the original film aired on the Syfy network. A sequel to Children of the Corn: Genesis and tenth overall, titled Children of the Corn: Runaway, was released on March 13, 2018.
As physician Burt Stanton (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend, Vicky (Linda Hamilton), drive across the Midwest to his new job, their trip comes to a sudden halt when they encounter the body of a murdered boy in the road.
In trying to contact the authorities, Burt and Vicky wander into a small town populated only by children, followers of sinister young preacher Isaac Chroner (John Franklin). Soon the couple is fleeing the youthful fanatics, who want to sacrifice them to their demonic deity….
Reviews [contains spoilers]:
“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.” Empire
“Incidentally, the inclusion of a battle against a real demonic power is what helped to make Children of the Corn one of the best horror films of all time. Tangible enemies are one thing, but when you’re battling against a force of darkness that lurks among the corn, devours children and adults and has a pretty good sense of direction, you’re really in for something.” Horrorfreak News
“Though definitely an imperfect film thanks to some blatant padding (lots of driving and walking around here), iffy acting at times, and a very underwhelming monster reveal during the climax, Children of the Corn is an oddly haunting and potent film with its ferocious religious angle (delivered by children, of course) giving it quite a bit of punch.” Mondo Digital
“As happens too often in fiction of this sort, the resolution fails to top the buildup. There is one arbitrary resurrection from the dead, and when we finally do see He Who Walks Behind the Rows, it turns out to be He Who Burrows Between the Rows, like a gopher. Gophers, even satanic ones, aren’t terribly intimidating.” Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“At the end, those of us who are left in the theater cling to one faint hope: That our patience will be rewarded by an explanation, no matter how bizarre, of the thing that moves behind the rows. No luck. Instead, the movie generates into a routine action sequence involving lots of flames and screams and hairbreadth escapes.” Roger Ebert
“The story might have been more chilling if there were no supernatural element, but as it is this is a fairly strong entry into the stream of King adaptations, which is mostly down to its trappings rather than its narrative.” The Spinning Image
“A late lurch from Lord of the Flies-ish mass psychosis to silly supernatural SPFX topples the film into total cornetto.” Anne Billson, Time Out Film Guide
“Had the film stayed away from special effects at the end and kept to the idea of a religious cult it would have been a far more satisfying ending. As it is, it gives the impression that the kids actually knew something we didn’t and maybe weren’t so mental after all… a pretty weak end to a fantastic story.” That Was a Bit Mental
” …by the time “He Who Walks Behind The Rows” awakens and the corn comes to life, the whole thing starts to seem too — well, corny to take very seriously. Which would all be fine and good if Kiersch were playing things tongue-in-cheek throughout, but given that he opts for the straight-forward approach, the film’s “climactic” final act just comes off as being uninspired at best, embarrassing at worst.” Trash Film Guru
“Considering that Children of the Corn is a thirty page short by King just goes to show how dedicated Kiersch must have been to stretching it out to a full length feature film. No mean feat, I’m sure you’ll agree. As far as gory moments go, there are some, but […] they’re mainly ‘off screen’ which only adds to the atmosphere.” UK Horror Scene
Cast and characters:
- Peter Horton … Burt
- Linda Hamilton … Vicky
- R.G. Armstrong … Diehl
- John Franklin … Isaac
- Courtney Gains … Malachai
- Robby Kiger … Job
- Anne Marie McEvoy … Sarah (as AnneMarie McEvoy)
- Julie Maddalena … Rachel
- Jonas Marlowe … Joseph
- John Philbin … Amos
- Dan Snook … Boy
- David Cowen … Dad
- Suzy Southam … Mom
- D.G. Johnson … Mr. Hansen
- Patrick Boylan … Hansen’s customer
- Elmer Soderstrom … Hansen’s customer
- Teresa Toigo … Hansen’s customer
- Mitch Carter … Radio preacher (voice)
On October 3, 2017, Arrow Video released a Special Edition Blu-ray disc with the following special features:
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary with horror journalist Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan
- 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
- …And a Child Shall Lead Them a brand new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin
- It Was the Eighties! an interview with actress Linda Hamilton
- Field of Nightmares a brand new interview with writer George Goldsmith
- 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
- Cut from the Cornfield an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg on the infamous lost Blue Man Scene
- Disciples of the Crow 1983 short film adaptation of Stephen King’s story
- Storyboard gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- First pressing only: Fully illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Sullivan and Lee Gambin
California and Iowa
The movie took $14,568,989 at the US box office against a reported budget of $800,000. Strong video rentals ensured that a franchise was spawned.