Children of the Corn (1984) - Fritz Kiersch


Directed by

Fritz Kiersch

Produced by

Donald P. Borchers & Terence Kirby

Written by

George Goldsmith


Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton and John Franklin


Angeles Entertainment Group,
Cinema Group,
Hal Roach Studios,
Inverness Productions and Planet Productions

Release date

March 9, 1984

Budget - $800,000

Box office - $14,568,589

Children of the Corn is a horror film directed by Fritz Kiersch. It’s adapted from the Stephen King short story of the same name. The story had been told in the short film, Disciples of the Crow from 1983. That telling had changed the names and location of the events. It was also far too short. This version of the tale hits much closer to the source material. It serves as the reason that this had achieved cult status, pumping out many sequels and remakes. The cast is also very intriguing, Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton alongside a load of creepy kids led by their off-putting leader, John Franklin. 

Gatlin is a small religious society surrounded by vast rows of cornfields. It sits, nestled into Nebraska's flat farmland like a tick burrowed into a giants thigh. The children of Gatlin have been possessed by some dark spirit called “He who walks behind the rows.” A twisted messiah that influences the youth to sacrifice their elders. The “chosen” leader is Isaac, a power hungry little shit that is maniacal and treacherous. His equally creepy right-hand kid is Malachi, the muscle of the town. Everything was going as well as it could until Burt and Vicky showed up. They are two adults in a crumbling relationship driving through Nebraska. They have an accident, hitting and killing a young kid that had been running from the strange town. This gets them caught up in a trap in the mysterious town. Can they make it out of Gatlin alive?

It’s a passable production for such a low-budget. The studios had only given the filmmakers a budget of $800k, but it did well enough at the box office to loosely construct a series of sequels. Those sequels helped the franchise gain popularity on the cult market. But I wasn’t looking forward to watching them as I was already getting a headache watching this one. The concept of Children of the Corn is the most interesting part. It can sometimes be a dreadful film that leaves you with an overhanging fear. Could kids be plotting against you? Could you take on three or four children at a time? The best scene in the movie has Linda Hamilton trying to fight off a group of crazed kids. I was genuinely frightened for her. It was terrifying and properly suspenseful. She kicked and screamed, but their ropey little arms just carried her away. Disturbing. 

There are better Stephen King stories that have been adapted, but Children of the Corn is one of the more popular features. It lightly ties into the Castle Rock shared universe, as it was mentioned in the IT novel and “He who walks behind the rows” might be our favorite Stephen King villain, Randall Flagg. At least that is one of the stronger fan theories. And it has some memorable performances. I couldn’t become invested in the picture. I appreciated what they tried to do, but this isn’t a favorite of mine.