Follow TV Tropes


Film / Children of the Corn (1984)

Go To

Vicky: What do you want?
Malachai: We want to give you peace.

The first full-length film adaptation of the Stephen King short story of the same name from his Night Shift collection, directed by Fritz Kierch and released in 1984.

While driving through Nebraska, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) find themselves in Gatlin, a town in which the entire adult population has been killed by its children, who worship an entity known as He Who Walks Behind The Rows.

"Outlander! We have your examples!"

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original short story ends with Vicky being killed by the children, Burt being trapped and devoured by He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and the latter punishing the children for their failed sacrifices by lowering the age of favor to 18. As all the 18-year-olds prepare themselves for sacrifice, He Who Walks Behind the Rows instructs the children to "be fruitful and multiply." In the film, Burt and Vicky survive, convince most of the children to leave the cult, kill He Who Walks Behind the Rows by torching the cornfield, defeat Isaac and Rachael, and leave with the freed children.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film shows the death of Gatlin's adults as prologue, and the story continues beyond Vicky's crucifixion. Also, the film takes place only a few years after the massacre of Gatlin's adults, whereas the short story takes place 12 years later. It also shows a lot more of the cult's practices and their social dynamics—in the story, Burt figures out their deal mostly from reading the records in the church, whereas the movie actually shows a gathering, how they prepare to sacrifice people, and the birthday ceremony. It also adds the conflict between Malachai and Isaac to give the kids more to do.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The film versions of Burt and Vicky (who are driving cross-country to Burt's new job) are a lot more sympathetic than their short story counterparts (who are driving to get marriage counseling and spend most of the story bickering), and the "heroic" part is especially notable because in the short story, Burt leaves Vicky behind without much of a thought.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the original short story Burt looks in the ledger that lists the names of the children in First Name Last Name (Alternate First Name). No real proof is made on if the Alternate name is their birth name before change or not, but it is the implication. As Eve and Adam don't have alternate names listed. Thus the main two characters real full names are listed as Isaac Renfrew (William) and Malachi Boardman (Craig) respectively. This movie seems to lead us that they were always Isaac and Malachi.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Burt and Vicky spend the whole time nastily squabbling with each other in the story.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Rachel, Malachai's girlfriend. In the short story, she's not exactly heroic, but she also doesn't do much, and ends up coming to hate He Who Walks Behind The Rows because the lowered age limit means Malachai must sacrifice himself. In the movie, she's something of a miniboss, like Malachai, actively leading cult ceremonies and attacking Burt, and remains faithful to the cult until the end.
  • Alien Kudzu: Played with, since the corn is native and not alien, but corn seems to be growing into everything in the town, especially things related to adults, including Burt's car, rendering it undriveable. The corn in the fields also seems sentient, parting ways to direct people through it, usually to doom.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy
  • Arcade Sounds: Malachi plays a 1981 solid state Medusa pinball in the diner right before the adults are killed, but it has electro-mechanical sounds dubbed over it.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: He Who Walks Behind the Rows and Isaac.
  • Canon Foreigner: Diehl, the gas-station owner, who is the only surviving adult in the area before Burt and Vicky arrive. In the original short story the children killed every last adult in Gatlin.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: You can't use Diehl's restroom if you don't buy Diehl's gas. Diehl has no gas to sell.
  • Chain Pain: One of the children carries a chain. Later, Malachai takes it from him when he is fighting Burt.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: It's right there on the poster.
  • Children's Covert Coterie: The children of Gatlin, Nebraska, have all been indoctrinated into a cult that has successfully murdered every adult in town. They are under the thrall of "He Who Walks Behind The Rows," an entity that requires regular Human Sacrifice.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Literally in the house, as well as the diner. The payphone in the town hall is simply disconnected, apparently.
  • Culture Police: Music and games are outlawed among the children. One of the pictures Sarah draws shows kids burning things like TVs, video game consoles, and boomboxes in a large bonfire.
    • Sarah, and by proxy, Job, get to play games and music, because Sarah has "sight", which is very useful to Isaac.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: One of the children provides one last scare in the film by attacking Burt from the back of his car.
  • Death of a Child: Joseph, who tries to escape Gatlin, is punished with death.
  • The Dragon: Malachai is Isaac's most ardent follower, and is also the one relaying orders to other children.
  • Enfant Terrible: The eponymous children.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Diehl's dog Sarge senses the children hiding in the corn nearby, and goes after them. He is killed.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Isaac, of course.
  • Evil Redhead: Malachai.
  • Fun-Hating Confiscating Adult: Inverted in that it's actually coming from Isaac.
  • Going in Circles: When Burt and Vicky try to drive into Hemingford as instructed by Diehl, they end up going in circles and are forced to enter Gatlin.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Throughout the film the camera will cut to a raised weapon, then cut to a nearby surface that will get splattered with blood. Apparently watching children massacre their parents was a bit too much.
  • Human Sacrifice: Children who reach the age of 19 are prepared and sacrificed to He Who Walks Behind The Rows.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Used, like with other Stephen King adaptations.
  • Kill It with Fire: He Who Walks Behind The Rows is destroyed when the cornfields sustaining it are burned down.
  • Large Ham: Isaac.
  • Lighter and Softer: Unlike in the original story, Burt and Vicky are much more sympathetic characters, their relationship is not falling apart, and not only do they both live at the end, but the evil cult is actually defeated.
  • Lost in the Maize: Joseph tries to escape Gatlin by going through the surrounding cornfields, but he is chased down and throat-slitted by Malachai.
  • Narrator: Job acts as a narrator for the film.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The opening credits are superimposed on pictures of the Gatlin massacre that were drawn by Sarah, with Creepy Children Singing in the background.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Malachai seems to be able to head back to Gatlin just after killing Joseph, surprise Job and his sister playing in their home, report to Isaac, then reach Diehl's place... all this before Burt and Vicky driving.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Plays in the background when the children kill Diehl the gas-station owner.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Diehl the gas station owner is kept alive in exchange for his fuel deliveries, and so he can help keep the town's secret by dissuading people from entering via the only road... until Malachai decides there are no exceptions.
  • The Quisling: Diehl is heavily implied to be this, supplying fuel to the children and misdirecting any strangers who arrive in the area in exchange for keeping his life.
  • Religious Horror: The children practice a murderous, pseudo-Christian Religion of Evil.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: All of the children are named after Old Testament figures (Job, Sarah, Isaac, Malachai, etc.)
  • Running Over the Plot: Borrowed from the short story, Burt and Vicky accidentally run over a boy who stumbles out in the road and take him to their nearby town. His throat was already slit, though, because he was trying to escape from there.
  • Self-Made Orphan: The children in the opening scene.
  • Shaming the Mob: How Burt ultimately convinces the children to rebel against He Who Walks Behind The Rows.
  • Sinister Scythe: Some of the children are armed with sickles and scythes. It's even there on the poster.
  • Something That Begins with "Boring": As Burt and Vicky pass rows and rows of corn, Burt jokingly starts playing the "I spy" game.
    Burt: I spy, with my lttle eye, something that starts with C.
    Vicky: Corn.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Both Burt and Vicky died in the original short story.
  • The Starscream: Malachai decides that Isaac doesn't follow He Who Walks Behind The Rows properly (read: doesn't kill everything outright like he does), and takes over. Until Isaac returns from the dead. "HE WANTS YOU TOO, MALACHAI..."
  • Southern Gothic: A rare Midwestern example with an Amish feel; however, the decay, staring unnatural inhabitants, and eerie isolation are still present.
  • Stupid Evil: Isaac might be a sinister cult leader who encouraged mass murder and regularly sacrifices people to his dark god, but he's also smart enough to realize they can't risk being found out by the public at large, so they need at least one adult alive in order to get outside supplies and keep outsiders away. Malachai, on the other hand, doesn't see the logic and is just a Blood Knight who believes their god wants them to simply kill, kill and kill. His god shows him he's quite wrong about that.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The massacre of adults in Gatlin begins when some customers at Hansen's diner drink coffee laced with poison.
  • Teenage Wasteland: Closest adult to Gatlin is the gas-station owner Diehl, and even he bites it thanks to Malachai's zealousness.
  • Tentacle Rope: The cornfield itself comes alive to tie down Burt as he tries to burn it.
  • Unseen Evil: He Who Walks Behind The Rows is never properly shown.
  • Wormsign: He Who Walks Behind The Rows appears to claim his sacrifice as a shape traveling underground.
  • Would Hurt a Child: While Burt wouldn't go so far as to kill any of the children, he has no qualms about punching them out cold.