Stephen King on cinema is a mixed bag if there ever was one. Truly great films like The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining (well unless you’re King himself of course) or Carrie to name just a few have been made out of his works. Real schlock has come out of these adaptations as well sometimes stuff which has little to no relation to the King original short story or novel except the title The Lawnmower Man anyone? The first Children of the Corn film falls flatly into them middle it’s both a solid horror film but lacks a real auteur to make it one of the greats.
When Children of the Corn debuted in 1984; Stephen King couldn’t have been popular if he tried. Donald P. Borchers went as far as titling the film Stephen King’s Children of the Corn which would in years to come be almost expected from King adaptations especially lower budget ones. The story itself goes way back to 1977 where it was first published in Penthouse and later in his first collection of short stories Night Shift. King himself wrote an early draft of the screenplay but that was scraped early in the pre-production process.
It’s a relatively typical King story, it’s set in a small mid-western American town. The town is fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska has been taken over by a bunch of creepy as hell kids who have killed their parents 3 years earlier and to the outside world it has all but disappeared off the map. The kids have formed a fundamentalist Christian cult and they worship “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”. The young couple Vicky (Linda Hamilton) and Burt (Peter Horton) are driving through and they hit a boy who is trying to escape and they soon find themselves in over their heads in the small town. They find some of the children who want to escape but soon the Children of the Cornled by creepy Isaac Chroner (John Franklin) are after them.
The first film follows King’s story relatively faithfully and especially the opening sequence when they massacre their parents is effective. It’s a quintessential piece of paedophobic horror cinema along with films like The Exorcist and the various versions of Village of the Damned. Linda Hamilton is a pre-Terminator fame role is perfectly fine in the film but Franklin makes the film with his presence of being a little person play much younger than he his true age (he was in mid 20s) which gives his performance an unnerving feeling. His presence is certainly much missed in the sequels he does eventually return for sixth film in the series.
Naturally with any film which is successful a sequel is considered but it took 9 years for Children of the Corn II: The (THE NOT SO) Final Sacrifice to be released in cinemas. It was followed two years later by Urban Harvest which would be the final Children of the Corn to get a theatrical release. The two sequels are utterly forgettable and are extremely dated early ’90s fluffy horror films that are painful to sit through. Urban Harvest is interesting only for the fact Charlize Theron makes her big screen debut in an uncredited role as one of the followers of the corn cult. The films were followed by 5 sequels and a TV remake directed by the original film’s producer Donald P. Borchers.
Despite the fact the sequel are not worth bothering about, the overall set is cheap enough if you are interested in film. The first film is also available if you are only desire to own the original and superior film of the serious. The disc for the first film also includes a feature-length doc on Donald P. Borchers who is quite the character. Urban Harvest includes a VHS sourced workprint and finally the 3rd disc includes a featurette on Borchers remake which is sadly missing from this set.