Though many consider Children of the Corn a bad film (I do) it’s a perfect example of Stephen King’s ability to world-build. Chew on this kernel, Children of the Corn has a made-for-TV-remake and SEVEN SEQUELS with another on the way! This was a short story with a strong enough concept to generate nine adaptations. A story short enough to fit in a 1977 issue of Penthouse. If that’s not the product of a talented mind I don’t know what is. It’s a shame not much of that talent translates to the screen.
Children of the Corn opens with a bang. In the fictional town of Gaitlin, Nebraska, a young boy, Joby (Robby Kiger), narrates how the children killed all of the adults. We see this in a diner scene where children kill off the proprietors and guests. It’s a disturbing sequence that segues well into a credit sequence of violent crayon drawings. Then everything goes downhill.
There’s a couple, Vicky (Linda Hamilton) and Burt (Peter Horton), traveling across the midwest. The couple is full of love and Burt has a new job as a physician in Seattle. This is where the film stalls. Linda Hamilton is good, but they take FOREVER to get to Gaitlin. They run into a few odd occurrences outside of Gaitlin. They meet a spooked gas station attendant, find a corpse in the road, and drive their car through a bunch of corn rows. It all feels like a desparate attempt to stretch out the story. You know what we came to see.
To counter balance the couple scenes, we see glimpses of the children’s society. Their leader is Isaac (John Franklin ), a creepy kid who dresses like the Quaker Oats guy. Isaac is played by the excellent John Franklin. Franklin had a growth hormone deficiency, so he could play the part of the child despite being twenty-five at the time. Isaac with his bodyguard Malachi (Courtney Gains), convinces the children to sacrifice adults and anyone unworthy to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” It’s original (thanks, Stephen King) but clumsily executed with melodrama and pacing problems.
When Vicky and Burt show up, they become parental figures for Joby and his sister (Anne Marie McEvoy). What follows is an unmemorable battle against Isaac’s forces and creepy chanting and fires. The end sucks too with an “Isaac’s dead but he’s not” jump scare and Joby and Sarah going off to live with Vicky and Burt.
I don’t understand how nobody outside of Gaitlin caught wind of an entire town being slaughtered. I understand this is in the middle of nowhere but you think SOMEONE would hear something. Whether it be a missed phone call or a truck driver passing through. I’ll buy this concept in a short story, but there are too many holes for a feature. Stephen King’s base concept and story are great, but there’s a reason he wrote it as a short story and not a full novel. Unless “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” told him to do it.