Children of the Corn is a 1984 American horror film based on Stephen King's 1977 short story of the same name.
It was directed by Fritz Kiersch and starred Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin and Courtney Gains.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
In the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska, Job, a small child who is a resident of the town, tells the story of how the town became a haven for a group of young cultists. The economy of the town is mostly agricultural and the town is surrounded by vast cornfields. One particular year the corn crop fails and the people of Gatlin turn to prayer in an attempt to ensure a successful harvest.
A 12-year-old young boy, Isaac Chroner, takes all the children of Gatlin into a cornfield and preaches to them about the prophecies of a strange, bloodthirsty incarnation of the Abrahamic God called "He Who Walks Behind The Rows". Isaac, through his 17-year-old lieutenant Malachai, leads the children in a revolution, brutally killing all of the adults in the town. Over the ensuing years, the children take any adults passing through as sacrifices.
Three years later, Vicky and her boyfriend Burt pass through Nebraska while driving cross-country to Burt's new job as a physician in Seattle, Washington. As they travel in their car they hit a small boy out on the highway, one of the Gatlin children who tried to escape the iron hand of the syncretistic death cult.
After inspection of the boy's body Burt determines that the child had his throat slit before being hit by the car and had stumbled on to the road from inside the cornfield. They take the blood-soaked suitcase as evidence, load the body in the trunk and set out to find the nearest telephone to call for help.
Pulling into a rundown service station, they encounter an old man who refuses to help due to his secret agreement with the children to supply them with oil and gasoline in exchange for his life. However, Malachai breaks the pact against Isaac's will and murders the old man and his dog once Burt and Vicky leave.
Vicky and Burt finally end up in seemingly abandoned Gatlin. The two enter a small diner hoping to find a phone, but find that the diner is abandoned and strewn with dead corn leaves. While searching an abandoned house, the two encounter Sarah, who explains that she is hiding from Isaac and Malachai.
Burt asks Vicky to stay with Sarah in the house and goes on foot into town to continue searching for a phone. He finds that most of the buildings are in a state similar to the diner; rundown and strewn with corn leaves. Even the school and the town hall are abandoned, with various lines from Isaac's sermons written on the walls in blood.
Meanwhile, at the house, Vicky is ambushed by Malachai and a group of followers, led to her location by the parked car Vicky and Burt came in. Vicky is captured and brought to a clearing in the cornfield where she is lifted onto a cross, ready to be sacrificed.
Downtown, Burt enters the church to find a congregation of children performing a birthday ritual for an older teenager, in which a pentagram is cut into the boy's chest and his blood is consumed by the congregation. The girl named Rachel leading the ritual tells Burt about He Who Walks Behind The Rows, and about the ritual: that it is a preparation for the ritual sacrifice of a child who has grown to adulthood.
Burt is attacked by the girl and flees the church. He is chased through the town and is rescued by Job, who stops him and beckons for him to hide in the fallout shelter built by the siblings' father, now deceased. While caring for Burt, Job and Sarah tell him that Vicky has been taken hostage by Malachai.
Meanwhile, in the clearing, Isaac scolds Malachai for breaking the pact with the old man, whose gasoline is needed by the children. However, Malachai and the others have grown weary of Isaac's arrogance. Assuming command over the children, Malachai orders for Isaac to be sacrificed in Vicky's place. A furious Isaac warns them that they will all be punished for this affront, as by sacrificing him, they will have broken their covenant with He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
Night soon falls and Burt enters the cornfield, stealthily waiting for the right moment to intervene. Suddenly, an unnatural wind descends upon the field and a bright, amorphous light seemingly devours the screaming Isaac. Burt attacks and battles Malachai, telling the children that their minds have been poisoned and their humanity sacrificed in the name of a false god.
As Malachai tries to regain control of the children, a demonic voice calls out to him. Isaac's bloodied corpse appears, seemingly reanimated and speaking in an unnaturally deep and commandingly loud voice. Burt, Vicky, and all the children flee the scene as Isaac seizes and kills Malachai by breaking his neck.
The wind becomes a terrible storm that gathers over the cornfield as Vicky and Burt gather the children inside a barn to protect them from both the storm and the supernatural forces at work. As the storm intensifies all around them, Sarah shows a Bible verse to Vicky and Burt that indicates that they must destroy the cornfield for the evil to cease (it is heavily implied that He Who Walks Behind The Rows is not the God of the Bible but an aspect of the Devil).
While filling the irrigation pumps with gasohol fuel, He Who Walks Behind The Rows (this time in the form of a demonic red cloud) lashes out at Burt, and prepares to destroy the barn. However, Burt is able to spray the fields with the flammable liquid and lights a Molotov cocktail, tossing it into the field, burning it and seemingly destroying the demon.
Vicky, Burt, Sarah and Job survive and are able to leave Gatlin as the cornfields burn. They arrive back at the car but see that it had been disabled by the children earlier. Deciding to walk the 19 miles to the nearest town in Hemingford, Burt sits in the front seat and searches in the glove compartment for a map.
Suddenly, Rachel who was leading the pre-sacrifice ritual at the church earlier jumps out at him from the back seat and attempts to stab him with a hook. Burt grapples with her and manages to escape the car. Vicky knocks her out with the passenger door and the four leave the scene.
- Peter Horton as Burt Stanton
- Linda Hamilton as Vicky Baxter
- R. G. Armstrong as Diehl (aka "The Old Man")
- John Franklin as Isaac Chroner
- Courtney Gains as Malachai Boardman
- John Philbin as Richard "Amos" Deigan
- Robby Kiger as Joby
- Anne Marie McEvoy as Sarah
The filming dates for "Children of the Corn" took place between September and October of 1983.
It was filmed in Sioux City, Hornick, Salix, and Whiting, Iowa. The highway scenes around the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska were filmed in California.
Even though real corn was used for most of filming, polyurethane corn had to be used for the more difficult action sequences in the film.
On March 9, 1984, "Children of the Corn" was given a limited theatrical release, debuting at #4 at the box office, grossing $2,042,821 during its opening weekend.
On March 16, 1984, the wide theatrical release of "Children of the Corn" opened at #5 at the box office, grossing at $2,756,864 during its opening weekend.
Domestically, the film grossed $14,568,989.
On Rotten Tomatoes, "Children of the Corn" was given a rating of 38% based on 24 reviews with an average rating of 4.1\10.
Roger Ebert gave the film one star, saying, "By the end of "Children of the Corn," the only thing moving behind the rows is the audience, fleeing to the exits".
1985 Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival
- Grand Prize: Fritz Kiersch (nominated)
1984 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film
- Best Fantasy Film: Fritz Kiersch (won)
Young Artist Awards
- Anne Marie McEvoy: Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture- Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama (nominated)
- Robby Kiger: Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama (nominated)