Stephen King's Children of the Corn (1984)

R | 93 mins | Horror | 9 March 1984

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HISTORY

The film begins with a title card that reads: “Gatlin, Nebraska, three years ago.” Voice-over narration by young “Job” states: “It was about three years ago and I was the only kid in church that day. The others were with Isaac at the cornfield. I didn’t get to go cause dad didn’t like Isaac. He was pretty smart, my dad. After church, we went to Hansen’s, just like always. Sarah was home sick. She’d come down with a fever real sudden. Dad was worried, so he went to call mom first thing. That’s when I saw Malachai and the others. I guess their meeting with Isaac was over. They were acting real creepy. It happened everywhere in Gatlin that day. That’s when Sarah started drawing these pictures…”
       On 14 Jul 1980, Box announced that producer Joseph Masefield had optioned Stephen King short story, “Children of the Corn,” which was first published in the Mar 1977 edition of Penthouse magazine and was later included in King’s 1978 anthology, Night Shift. However, Masefield did not remain with the project. Two years later, a 29 Jul 1982 DV news item reported that Hal Roach Studios had optioned an original script by Stephen King. Roach maintained the property just over one year before selling distribution rights to New World Pictures, as announced in a 12 Sep 1983 DV brief, which noted that Roach’s board chairman, Earl Glick, was hired as executive producer. Gatlin Productions was named the new financial backer of the project, and King was still credited for ... More Less

The film begins with a title card that reads: “Gatlin, Nebraska, three years ago.” Voice-over narration by young “Job” states: “It was about three years ago and I was the only kid in church that day. The others were with Isaac at the cornfield. I didn’t get to go cause dad didn’t like Isaac. He was pretty smart, my dad. After church, we went to Hansen’s, just like always. Sarah was home sick. She’d come down with a fever real sudden. Dad was worried, so he went to call mom first thing. That’s when I saw Malachai and the others. I guess their meeting with Isaac was over. They were acting real creepy. It happened everywhere in Gatlin that day. That’s when Sarah started drawing these pictures…”
       On 14 Jul 1980, Box announced that producer Joseph Masefield had optioned Stephen King short story, “Children of the Corn,” which was first published in the Mar 1977 edition of Penthouse magazine and was later included in King’s 1978 anthology, Night Shift. However, Masefield did not remain with the project. Two years later, a 29 Jul 1982 DV news item reported that Hal Roach Studios had optioned an original script by Stephen King. Roach maintained the property just over one year before selling distribution rights to New World Pictures, as announced in a 12 Sep 1983 DV brief, which noted that Roach’s board chairman, Earl Glick, was hired as executive producer. Gatlin Productions was named the new financial backer of the project, and King was still credited for writing the screenplay. One month later, however, the 12 Oct 1983 Var reported that George Goldsmith had scripted the film adaptation of King’s story. Onscreen credits in the final film list Goldsmith as the sole screenwriter. By mid-Oct 1983, Fritz Kiersch was hired to direct, and Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton had been cast in the starring roles of “Burt” and “Vicky.” The $3 million production was filmed from late 1983 to early 1984 in and around Sioux City, IA, and in CA.
       One month before the picture’s national release, a 10 Feb 1984 HR column announced that the title was changed to Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.
       The film garnered lukewarm critical reception, with the 9 Mar 1984 LAT complaining it was “too dumb and grisly to be taken as an allegory on the evils of religious fanaticism,” and the 16 Mar 1984 NYT calling it “fairly entertaining” despite its reliance on horror film clichés. Reviews in the 1 Mar 1984 HR and 14 Mar 1984 Var both predicted the picture would perform well at the box-office due to the name recognition of Stephen King, who had gained a devoted audience after the success of Carrie (1976, see entry), The Shining (1980, see entry), and Cujo (1983, see entry). Children of the Corn, which was King’s eighth screen adaptation, grossed $2 million in its first weekend of release, according to a 14 Mar 1984 Philadelphia Inquirer report, and $2.7 million in its second week at 653 theaters, as stated in the 22 Mar 1984 Philadelphia Daily News. On 2 May 1984, the Boston Globe listed earnings of $12.4 million in eight weeks.
       Stephen King’s Children of the Corn marked Fritz Kiersch’s directorial debut on a theatrically released feature film.
       The picture sparked a franchise, which has produced seven sequels and one remake as of 12 Jun 2016, with a ninth set to be released in 2016. However, only the first two productions were released theatrically: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993, see entry) and Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995). Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996), Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998), Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999), Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001), and Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011) were released straight to DVD. A television film remake titled Children of the Corn aired on the Sci-Fi Network on 26 Sep 2009.
       Singer-songwriter Aaron Collins is credited as "Arron" Collins.
       End credits state: “Gatlin Productions and New World Pictures would like to thank the following for their valued assistance in the making of this picture: Destinations Unlimited Travel; Doubleday & Company, Inc.; Frontier Airlines; Howard Johnson’s Hotels; Iowa Film Commission and Mr. Bill Lindstrom; Otto Nemenz International, Inc.; Parker Brothers; Sequoia Equipment Rentals; Sweet’s Studio Suites; Sioux City Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Gary Owens; the towns of Sioux City, Whiting, Salix & Hornick.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Boston Globe
2 May 1984
p. 1.
Box Office
14 Jul 1980.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1982.
---
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1983.
---
Daily Variety
29 Feb 1984
p. 3, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1984
p. 6, 15.
Los Angeles Times
9 Mar 1984
p. 13.
New York Times
16 Mar 1984
p. 7.
Philadelphia Daily News
22 Mar 1984
p. 42.
Philadelphia Inquirer
14 Mar 1984
Section F, p. 7.
Variety
12 Oct 1983.
---
Variety
14 Mar 1984
p. 22, 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
In Association With Angeles Entertainment Group, Inc./Inverness Productions, Inc.
Hal Roach Studios and New World Pictures present
A Gatlin Production
Produced in association with Cinema Group Venture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d cam op
2d cam asst
Cam apprentice
2d unit dir of photog
2d unit cam asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Elec
Key grip/Dolly grip
Best boy grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept asst
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Prop master
Prop asst
Sarah's drawings
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus arr, orch and cond by
Mus assoc
Rec and mixed at
Rec and mixed at
Exec mus prod
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd des
Mag City, Inc.
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Mag City, Inc.
Asst sd ed
Spec sd eff
Mag City, Inc.
Spec sd eff
Mag City, Inc.
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Visual eff coord
Asst opt cam
Addl opt eff
Titles and opticals by
Titles and opticals by
Titles and opticals by
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod exec
Prod supv
Prod auditor
Dial coach/Extra casting
Voice casting
Scr supv
Asst to the prods
Asst to the prods
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Driver
Security
Animal trainer
Caterer, "The Arrangement"
Caterer, "The Arrangement"
Honeywagon driver
Studio teacher
Completion guarantee provided by
The Completion Bond Company representative
Insurance provided by
Computer accounting services
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Children of the Corn" by Stephen King in his Night Shift (Garden City, 1978).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"School Is Out," courtesy of Frank Guida/Rockmasters International Network
"Foot Stompin'," written by Arron Collins, published by Symbol Music, Inc., and Velvet Touch Music
"Runaway," performed by Del Shannon, courtesy of Mole Hole Records, written by Del Shannon and Max Crook, ©1961 Mole Hole Music, Bug Music and Rightsong (BMI).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Children of the Corn
Release Date:
9 March 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 9 March 1984
New York opening: 16 March 1984
Production Date:
late 1983--early 1984
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the corn farming community of Gatlin, Nebraska, a nefarious boy preacher named Isaac believes he is the human intermediary of an all-powerful, demonic deity called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Isaac, and his lieutenant, Malachai, brainwash the town’s children into carrying out a daylong massacre, killing everyone over nineteen years of age. Witnessing the killing, an adolescent named Job remains secretly defiant of the cult. He protects his prescient sister, Sarah, who draws pictures of future slayings. Three years after the bloodbath, a young couple happens upon Gatlin on a road trip to Seattle, Washington. Burt, a recent medical school graduate, has won an internship at a Seattle hospital and his doting girl friend, Vicky, is joining him on the journey in the hope he will one day commit to family life. As they lose their way in the cornfields, the car collides with a boy named Joseph, and Burt is startled to discover that his throat was slashed before the accident occurred. Unbeknown to Burt and Vicky, the adolescent was killed by Malachai when he attempted to escape Gatlin. Burt is eager to report the murder and proceeds to town, despite reproval from the last remaining adult in the area, an elderly mechanic named Diehl. Meanwhile, preacher Isaac warns his disciples about the arrival of “Outlanders” and orders them to kill the intruders. In town, Burt and Vicky creep into the abandoned Hanson’s Café, where the massacre began three years earlier, and are alarmed when several children try to steal their car. As the youths run away, Burt and Vicky give chase and stop at ... +


In the corn farming community of Gatlin, Nebraska, a nefarious boy preacher named Isaac believes he is the human intermediary of an all-powerful, demonic deity called “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Isaac, and his lieutenant, Malachai, brainwash the town’s children into carrying out a daylong massacre, killing everyone over nineteen years of age. Witnessing the killing, an adolescent named Job remains secretly defiant of the cult. He protects his prescient sister, Sarah, who draws pictures of future slayings. Three years after the bloodbath, a young couple happens upon Gatlin on a road trip to Seattle, Washington. Burt, a recent medical school graduate, has won an internship at a Seattle hospital and his doting girl friend, Vicky, is joining him on the journey in the hope he will one day commit to family life. As they lose their way in the cornfields, the car collides with a boy named Joseph, and Burt is startled to discover that his throat was slashed before the accident occurred. Unbeknown to Burt and Vicky, the adolescent was killed by Malachai when he attempted to escape Gatlin. Burt is eager to report the murder and proceeds to town, despite reproval from the last remaining adult in the area, an elderly mechanic named Diehl. Meanwhile, preacher Isaac warns his disciples about the arrival of “Outlanders” and orders them to kill the intruders. In town, Burt and Vicky creep into the abandoned Hanson’s Café, where the massacre began three years earlier, and are alarmed when several children try to steal their car. As the youths run away, Burt and Vicky give chase and stop at a farmhouse. There, they find Sarah, who cryptically explains that her cult leader, Isaac, has banished the adults to the cornfield. Failing to realize the townspeople were murdered, Burt is convinced Gatlin is safe and returns to town. Vicky stays behind and learns that music and art have been prohibited. She encourages Sarah to draw and is disturbed by her portrait, which depicts Vicky as the victim of a cornfield massacre. Just then, Isaac’s young disciples surround the house with scythes and take Vicky to the cornfield, where she is suspended from a cornhusk crucifix. Although Malachai has procured one of the “Outlanders” as ordered, Isaac complains that his henchman’s bloodlust is compromising their covenant with “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Isaac believes Malachai displeased the deity by failing to perform a sacrificial ritual when he killed young Joseph, and by murdering the mechanic, Diehl, after he spoke with the “Outlanders.” Diehl was kept alive because he provided the community with its only source of fuel, and now the town will struggle to survive. Isaac hopes to appease the demon by sacrificing the “Outlanders,” and orders Malachai to detain Burt. Elsewhere, Burt realizes the town has been taken over by murderous zealots and races back to the house. Sarah remains mum about Vicky’s disappearance, but her drawing leads Burt to the cornfield. However, he is distracted by the sound of church bells and runs to the chapel where Rachel, a knife-wielding priestess, carves a pentagram into the chest of an ecstatic teenaged boy named Amos. Using his blood as ink, she adds his name to a list of teenagers that have been sacrificed to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” on their nineteenth birthdays. As Burt protests, Rachel attacks, but he seizes her knife and escapes. Although Malachai gives chase, Burt defends himself with the blade and is rescued by Sarah’s older brother, Job. The boy hides Burt in a nuclear fallout shelter built by his father and tells him the story of the Gatlin bloodbath. Back in the cornfield, Malachai commandeers Isaac’s authority, ordering the disciples to release Vicky from the crucifix and replace her with Isaac. Holding Vicky at knife-point, Malachai returns to town, hoping her screams will convince Burt to come out of hiding, but Burt cannot hear her from the underground shelter. At nightfall, Job and Sarah lead Burt to the cornfield. As Malachai continues to hold Vicky hostage and prepares for Amos and Isaac’s sacrifice, the supernatural fury of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” manifests itself in an invisible underground force that tunnels through the earth. When Isaac is consumed in bright light and beamed into the stormy sky, Burt begs the children to question their faith. Malachai attacks, but the youths ignore his orders to fight. Just then, Malachai’s first victim, Joseph, is resurrected from the dead, possessed by “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” Speaking in the demon’s voice, Joseph declares that he must sacrifice Malachai, and chokes the boy to death. The terrified children take shelter in a barn, and Burt is finally reunited with Vicky. However, the storm worsens, and the building is near collapse. As Burt struggles to plot their escape, Job remembers that a police officer named Sheriff Hotchkiss once tried to save the town by reciting a page from the Bible. Isaac told his disciples that Hotchkiss was the fearful “Blue Man,” and had him crucified. When Job reports that Hotchkiss had a particular interest in the town’s gasohol still, Vicky realizes that he was planning to burn the cornfield. With the help of the children, Burt attaches hoses to the gasohol still and guides the tube into the field. Job helps him connect the hose to sprinklers and they spray the field with flammable liquid. As the menacing spirit of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” materializes in storm clouds overhead, Burt throws a burning Molotov cocktail into the cornrows, igniting an explosion. The field detonates into a mushroom cloud, and a mystical force is projected into the universe. Burt, Vicky, Job, and Sarah run away to Burt’s car and find it inoperative, so they resolve to walk nineteen miles to the nearest town. As Burt steps inside the vehicle for a map, Isaac’s surviving disciple, Rachel, jumps up from the back seat and attacks. Vicky slams the door on her head, knocking her unconscious. Burt does not wish to leave Rachel in a wounded state, but Vicky urges him to escape. With Job and Sarah in their care, the couple resumes their journey to Seattle as a newfound family. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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