Children of the Corn (1984)
Children of the Corn. The one that started it all. After a really cheesy voiceover of a cute kid talking about Isaac and Malachai, we get a strong opening with evil kids going wild on a bunch of adults in a diner. There’s a cool kiddie satanic score during the opening credits and soon after, Linda Hamilton is dancing and singing for Peter North in a hotel room.
So the couple is on a road lined with corn stalks. They run over this little kid who comes out of the corn. We’re treated to a cheap sleep scare then the couple ends up in a town filled with scary children who’ve killed all the adults.
There are also two “good” children who become the allies of the couple. This is what really ruins this movie. Why not just commit to all children being evil little fuckers? There are satanic rituals, scarecrow-like crucifixions, that freaky kid who plays evil Isaac, that freaky looking ginge kid who plays evil Malachai, Linda Hamilton getting her face sliced, and Peter North getting shirtless. There’s also a pretty good jump scare at the end.
Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)
It took them eight years…just enough time to create another 90s crap horror sequel? Actually, Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice is what I guess you could call a sellout. It’s pretty much a teen slasher. It’s also deliciously gory with tons of awesome kills—and some bad special effects.
Adults in a small town are killed, an investigator and his son come to see what’s going on, and the remaining adults are systematically harassed and killed by the creepy kids of the town. Isaac from the first film is mentioned, but he has been replaced by a new dark twerp named Micah.
The movie is cheesy campy and so over-the-top 90s, but it’s incredibly watchable. And all that matters is that it all ends in the corn!
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
The title says it all. Two of the “children” (brothers) from the town in the last movie are sent to live in Chicago with a couple. Before long, they’re in school dealing with a very urban crowd, complete with knives, fights, and basketball. Then the younger brother plants a new field of corn in an abandoned warehouse courtyard (I kid not), his new mom starts to have messed up horror dreams, numerous people die pretty cool deaths, and there’s a whole crap load of religious stuff. Oh. And bugs. And then the film turns into a teen slasher in the cornfield—with a big demon monster thing and fun gore. Notable is the Omen-esque satanic choral score.
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)
Based on the subtitle, I thought Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering was going to be a nice Thanksgiving installment. Instead, Karen Black is living in this small town, the local kids start acting weird, and her daughter Naomi Watts comes to visit.
This one is slasher city. Grisly deaths galore, the cornfield is back, the clan of creepy kids is back, there’s a barn, there are sacrifices, and loads of cheap dream scares. Plus, one of the kids is a young Mark Sailing of Glee.
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)
In the tradition of Scream, Urban Legend, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, I bring you…the cover for the Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror DVD.
It so cashes in on the late 90s practice of using artwork with the pretty slasher cast on the front. And that’s just what this is. A group of friends comes to a small town…and gets knocked off one by one by the “masked killer,” in this case, the children.
There’s some plot about a sister looking for her brother, who has been inducted into the kiddie cult, David Carradine weasels his way into the flick as some adult leader of the kids (there goes the whole premise of the series), and we have a pretty awesome cast: Alexis Arquette (looking wicked butch), Eva Mendez, Fred Williamson, Kane Hodder (as a bartender—so hot), another Frank Zappa spawn, and a chick from Knot’s Landing as the final girl.
Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999)
Seriously, Isaac’s back. Like, the creepy little kid from the original movie. The actor is 15 years older, but still little. And now he’s a writer. He co-wrote this script about a chick going back to her hometown (I don’t know how many more of these movies I can take).
Our leading lady’s first mistake is picking up a crazy Bible dude. Before you know it, she needs to be treated by a doctor…played by Stacy Keach! It’s out of the corn and into the hospital, where Isaac is in a coma. But not for long.
This one is heavy on atmosphere and jump scares. It also has Nancy Allen, who has turned her back on Isaac in an attempt to stop his madness. Yet any horror prowess the film has isn’t even really reliant on Isaac’s return. Although we do eventually end up back in the corn with the children.
Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001)
A chick comes to this condemned building where her grandmother lived, finds a Bible, and knows there’s trouble because grandma was a lifelong atheist. There are also two creepy children stalking our leading lady. Michael Ironside is walking around acting all creepy. There’s also a cornfield outside the building that chuckles like a gaggle of children (chuckle patch?).
There are also neighbors to contend with in the apartment building (supplying us with a body count). And our leading lady has a lot of visions and dreams. I guess some of it is effective and eerie and it might be a pretty spooky haunted apartment building movie, but at this point, I just can’t take the corn or the kids serious anymore.
Children of the Corn (2009)
Interestingly, although it’s been over a quarter century since I read the original Stephen King story, I actually think this remake sticks closer to it than the 1984 film. The film is set in 1975, which makes it logical that the husband in the film is a Vietnam vet. Interestingly, his wife is African-American, but there’s something so NOT groundbreaking about portraying an interracial couple in 1975—in a 2009 movie! What is also really distracting is that Kandyse McClure, the female lead, looks exactly like Rihanna! I was convinced that at any second they were going to use “Disturbia” as the theme song.
Why does an African-American woman in 1975 look like Rihanna instead of like an afro-sporting Pam Grier in Foxy Brown??? Not to mention, McClure is falling into a sort of Stephen King remake rut…she played Amy Irving’s role in the remake of Carrie as well.
The first part of the film makes you feel like you are on the road trip from hell (not in the way the movie intends), stuck in the backseat of a car with this constantly bickering couple that, like in the short story, is having marital problems. TOO MUCH character development! Once they reach the scary town where all the evil kiddies live, it seems like the suspense is going to build, but the film simply sux due to some of the most not-scary kids EVER. Freaky leader Isaac from the original film ROCKED that part—and looked pretty much the same in 1999’s sequel “Isaac’s Return.” Here, we get some adorable actor just waiting to be written onto a hit sitcom as the shark-jumping cute neighbor or adopted child. He recites the chilling dialogue like he’s practicing for the elementary school production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Then there’s Malachai. The original Malachai defined the type of role every redheaded kid would get for eternity, ie.:
In the 80s, if you were a redheaded actor, you either looked like the evil Malachai from Children of the Corn or the evil Scut Farkis from A Christmas Story (although—Zack “Scut” Ward grew up to be one hot piece of pink meat—I’d suck the freckles off his face any day). Here, the kid cast as Malachai comes across as the high school punk from every teen horror flick that has gone directly to DVD in the past decade.
The first real laugh of the film comes when little Isaac is standing on a roof of a building and FLINGS a knife across the street, it misses every kid in his cult as they surround the main guy, but gets him right in the arm. The main guy calls Isaac a little bitch or something like that and then military music plays and he goes into this monologue about serving in the army!!! WTF??? It’s all downhill from there, including Vietnam flashbacks in the cornfields, with military soldiers crawling alongside our hero as he takes on an army of…children. The highlight of the film really has to be the “fertility” ritual in the church, when the oldest boy and girl in the kiddy cult go up onto the altar and have SEX in front of all the little kids, who are jumping up and down with a bad case of ADHD giddy embarrassment while having giggling fits. Yeah sure. These holy terrors look like a real job for the shell shock army. Good thing corn is a natural fiber, because you don’t want this hard piece of crap stuck in your system.
Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)
I don’t think I can bear to walk behind the rows another minute. But I have to make it through another hour and twenty minutes. That’s the great news. This sequel that ignores the reboot and brings us back to the original series (I guess) is really short!
It has a very eerie opening flashback scene of an army guy coming back from war and finding his family dead and eerie children in his house. I have to say, this one is dark without relying on gore like some of the previous sequels. I also have to say, there are really no children, there’s really no corn. The whole movie is about a couple stuck in a house with a creepy preacher dude and his hot wife and hoping to save a boy locked away in the barn.
Please! It’s been almost 30 years. Let this franchise go already.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN: RUNAWAY (2018)
Despite the title, the franchise did not runaway. Here it is, back again.
I learned something fascinating when it came time to blog about this installment. John Gulager, who got his start in horror on Project Greenlight with Feast, which he then turned into a trilogy, went on to direct Piranha 3DD and Zombie Night and happens to be son of Clu Gulager of Elm Street 2. I had no idea, but it would explain why Clu is in all his movies.
As for the movie itself, it’s about as Children of the Corn as a film in the franchise can get, so if you like the series, I can’t see what’s not to like about it. If you ask me, it kind of feels like a direct sequel to the 2009 remake, as it is eventually mentions what happened 10 years ago.
But before that, we meet a woman on the run with her son. We don’t know why and won’t find out until the big reveal at the end. The woman is played by Marci Miller (Most Likely to Die), who is pretty much a flawless clone of Amy Steel.
She also suffers from dreams of children coming out of the corn and killing the locals, keeps seeing a little girl in a yellow dress, and is given shit by locals for buddying up to a black guy.
However, anyone in town who is mean to she or her son also sees the little girl in the yellow dress…right before they are brutally murdered.
So it’s essentially a slasher right up until the Children of the Corn lore comes into play at the end. It’s so true to the style of the sequels in this long-running series that it has a very retro 90s vibe to it.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (2020)
This film that everyone seems to hate has revitalized my love/hate for this cheesy franchise. It sort of borrows from aspects of a bunch of the previous installments to make a totally fun CGI corn monster prequel that takes us back to how it all began.
The children in a small town start going psycho when the locals decide they’re going to rake in the subsidies from the government by killing all their own cornfields.
The children don’t like that, and neither does “he who walks”. WTF? This movie totally blows it and truncates the classic line “he who walks behind the rows”. WHY would they do this? He who walks? There’s nothing fricking creepy about the line “he who walks”. How do you remove the whole point of the quote referring to rows of corn?
Good thing the kids are awesomely evil this time around. In particular, their leader Eden is a horror queen!
Young actress Kate Moyer tears this role up. It’s actually kind of frightening that someone so young can tap into such “bad seed” vibes so perfectly.
After the kids do some violent and gory torturing and killing of adults, the final act introduces us to “he who walks”–a big creature made of cornstalks! Awesome.
After almost forty year, the Children of the Corn franchise totally delivers on the popcorn movie fun with an action-packed final act.