EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally covered this movie all the way back on May 26, 2018. We’ve updated this article with some new material thanks to the inspiration we received from watching Arrow Video’s new UHD release. Want to learn even more? Check out our interview with star Courtney Gains!
Children of the Corn started as a short story first published in Penthouse Magazine that was later collected in the 1978 book Night Shift. It’s a story incredibly similar to Tom Tryon’s novel (and the film) The Dark Secret of Harvest Home. You could also draw parallels to Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s Who Can Kill a Child? or Village of the Damned.
Did you know that Children of the Corn was filmed once before? A short film called Disciples of the Crow was made in 1983 that’s an abridged version of this story.
This one was produced in 1984, with Gor and Tuff Turf director Fritz Kiersch at the helm. Burt and Vicky (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton) are on their way to California when they drive through the cornfields of Nebraska and accidentally hit a young boy. However, when Burt exams the kid, it turns out that his throat had already been slit. Uh oh.
As they examine the boy’s suitcase, they discover a crucifix made of twisted corn husks. They head to the next town, Gatlin, to alert the authorities.
They come across a mechanic who refuses them service. The truth is that he is the last adult in Gatlin. He’s agreed to supply the children with services and fuel for his life, but the enforcer of the town, Malachai breaks the pact and murders him, angering their leader Isaac.
When Burt and Vicky get to town, everything is out of date and there’s a bad feeling in the air. Even worse, no one seems to be in town. They find a little girl named Sarah alone in a house, where Vicky stays while Burt explores. Malachai soon appears, capturing Vicky and taking her to be sacrificed in the cornfield.
The only thing in town that’s in shape is the church. Inside, Burt learns the truth of Gatlin — twelve years ago, everyone over nineteen was killed and the children took Biblical names after their murders.
Now, they live under this religious order that demands that everyone over nineteen must be sacrificed. During a blood-drinking ritual, Burt starts to yell at the children. They chase him until another young boy named Job rescues him and they hide in a fallout shelter.
Isaac and Malachai argue, with the older boy taking over and ordering his leader to be sacrificed. Isaac warns that this will anger their covenant with He Who Walks Behind the Rows and the children will be severely punished.
That night, Burt goes to rescue Vicky and a horrible special effect devours Isaac. Seriously, this weird chroma key fuzz looks incredibly dated. Anyways, Burt fights to save his wife and a possessed Isaac reappears and breaks Malachai’s neck.
A storm appears as Burt, Vicky and the two children decide that they must destroy the cornfield with gasoline and fire. They escape the town, taking the kids with them, their marriage somehow saved and they even discuss adopting the kids (but not before a sneak attack by Ruth is foiled).
This overly happy ending stands in marked contrast to the downbeat tone of the novel, where Vicky is sacrificed and Burt is killed by the creature in the cornfield. The creature punishes the town by lowering the sacrifice age to eighteen, so Malachi and the elders all walk into the cornfield to die as Ruth wishes that she could kill He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
If you’re wondering where Gatlin is in regards to King’s connected universe, the next town over is Hemingford Home, where Mother Abagail gathered her forces in The Stand.
There are six sequels to this film — Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering, Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return and Children of the Corn: Revelation — as well as a 2009 remake, the Children of the Corn: Genesis reboot, Children of the Corn: Runaway and the 2020 prequel/remake that nobody seems to be talking about.
If you’ve never seen this before, the Arrow Video release is the perfect way to start. The film looks great and it’s a great reminder of just how frightening this movie was when it came out way back in the 80s.
Starting with a brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films, Children of the Corn is a great purchase for the UHD lover. It has two commentary tracks, with one by horror journalist Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan and another with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains, as well as Harvesting Horror: The Making of Children of the Corn; interviews with Linda Hamilton, producer Donald Borchers, production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias; a new visit to the film’s original Iowa shooting locations; the theatrical trailer and an interview with the actor who played “The Blue Man” in a sequence that was cut from the film. You can get this from Arrow Video.