Children of the Corn (Fritz Kiersch, 1984, USA)

Children of the Corn is perhaps the most unlikely film to spawn a franchise in the Stephen King canon. Based on a short story that King wrote for Penthouse, the original film has gone on to spawn 10 sequels. This is far more than any other Stephen King property. Revisiting the original 1984 adaptation by Fritz Kiersch, I was struck that the simplicity of the film's premise lent itself to this enduring appeal. The film essentially has the feeling of being "Jaws in a cornfield," and no doubt terrified a generation of midwestern children. 

The film tells the story of a couple who end up getting trapped in the town of Gatlin, Nebraska, which has been taken over by a cult of children who obey "he who walks behind the rows." The cult, led by a preacher figure named Isaac, must sacrifice every person over the age of 18. The film is notable for perhaps being the first "micro-budget" Stephen King adaptation, with most of the film's budget going to King for the rights. Despite the low-budget feel, the film still works remarkably well. 

Like Texas Chainsaw, the film relies more on the suggestion of what is seen, than what is shown. The film was shot on location in Iowa, and most of the sets were organically found abandoned buildings, dressed up with eerie props. The film has a palpable and weird sense of abandonment, enhanced by Jonathan Elias's memorable score. Overacting aside, the performances are very memorable, especially John Franklin as Isaac and Courtney Gaines as Malachi. And though it is clear the film ran out of budget to fulfill the script's vision of a grand apocalyptic finale, the low-budget feel of it all makes it more charming. Overall, Children of the Corn is a solid piece of 80s horror.



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