Forty-six years after publication, Stephen King’s Children of the Corn has become a B-horror institution. The short story, which first ran in a 1977 issue of Penthouse, follows a bickering couple who run afoul of a murderous cult of corn-worshiping children on a back road in Nebraska. A bleak example of horror in the daylight, the original text plays out like the bastard child of The Wicker Man and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. A 1984 film adaptation adds a sunnier tone while kicking off the story with a brutal massacre in which the children of Gatlin murder their parents. But this jarring tone is not the strangest thing to happen in the corn.
The franchise’s eleven entries are a cinematic cornucopia of ludicrous scenes and sequences. The following is a list of the most bonkers moments in the Children of the Corn series.
The eleventh installment in the franchise, simply titled Children of the Corn, first arrived in theaters earlier this month, and up next it comes to at-home Digital on Tuesday, March 21.
Fritz Kiersch’s adaptation of the story begins with the coffee shop murder of all the town’s adults before shifting to a motel room in the early morning. A suspicious person places a Do Not Disturb marker on the door and quietly creeps up to a sleeping man. This stranger slowly opens a drawer and pulls out …. A party horn! Vicky (Linda Hamilton) is surprising her boyfriend Burt (Peter Horton) to celebrate his completion of med school. After handing him a gift that heavily hints she wants to get married, Vicky surprises Burt with a serenade of “School’s Out” by Gary U.S. Bonds. She pushes play on a mini tape deck then stands up to sing and dance for her grinning boyfriend. It’s an intimate moment clearly meant to celebrate a major milestone, but it’s incredibly bizarre, especially considering the fact that the song has fallen out of public consciousness. Hamilton loses steam about midway through and you can almost feel her dying inside. With The Terminator released the same year, the legendary actress would fortunately move past this kind of cinematic humiliation.
Remote Control Killers – Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992)
In the aftermath of the massacre and corn field explosion in the first film, residents of the neighboring Hemingford Home are understandably hesitant to take in the kids from Gatlin. And it seems they are right to be nervous. Under the direction of new leader Micah (Ryan Bollman), who’s cellular transformation from shy teen to the reincarnation of Isaac is strange in and of itself, the children of the corn cult target the elderly Mrs. West (Marty Terry) who’s been vocal about wanting them out of town. Following her down the street, they taunt her with a remote control car running under the wheels of her motorized chair. Micah somehow gains the ability to control her wheelchair remotely and sends her careening into the street. Her chair finally stops directly in the path of a giant semi truck that sends her flying through the storefront window of the local community center. Adding insult to injury, an occupant of the community center punctuates her death by timidly standing to declare “Bingo?”
Super Spine – Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)
Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, brings the horror into the city as Josh (Ron Melendez) and Eli (Daniel Cerny), two boys from Gatlin, are taken in with a Chicago foster family. The Porters try to help them adjust to life in the city with new clothes and enrollment in the local high school. However the brothers, who act more like a jealous couple drifting apart, reject their help and Eli begins to convert his classmates to an anti-adult agenda. Breaking away from his brother, Josh befriends a student named Malcom (Jon Clair) and the two try to steal a powerful bible that holds the key to Eli’s undoing. Unfortunately the corn has other ideas. Josh watches as Malcom’s body is ripped apart. While this is par for the course in corn-based horror, this unfortunate teen’s death defies logic. Stalks and vines weave their way around his body and tear his head from his shoulders. It looks like his spine is slowly being pulled out of his torso, but another wider shot reveals an even more bizarre transformation. Malcom’s body seems to disappear and he’s left with a corn-riddled head atop a six-foot spine. Where did his arms and legs go? Just how long is a human backbone? Why is his head still screaming? Unfortunately the monstrous corn god is more concerned with killing the unfaithful and it seems these questions remain unanswered.
Death in the Doctor’s Office – Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)
The fourth chapter in the Corn Saga is known for starring Naomi Watts and Karen Black, attempting to give a biological explanation for corn mania, and little else. Grace (Watts) is a medical student who travels back to her hometown in Nebraska to tend to her agoraphobic mother and younger siblings. Her visit coincides with a mysterious illness that seems to turn the town’s children into homicidal minions of a ghostly child preacher. One distraught mother brings her twin boys to Dr. Larson (William Windom) when they begin calling themselves Ezekiel and Scott (Jonathan and Joshua Patterson), two town boys killed by their father decades ago. Hoping to help, the good doctor offers to let the boys stay in his office overnight then threatens to give them spankings after their mother leaves. The creepy twins retaliate by taunting him from a gurney. One boy sits atop the wheeled bed while the other rides it through the office, slashing the doctor with a sickle. Materializing elsewhere, they stand and watch the doctor as the gurney rushes toward him on its own. A blade pops out at the head of the moving bed and slices the old man in two. His legs fall to the floor while his head and torso tip forward onto the hospital sheets. It seems there is no cure for the summertime corn.
Corny Car Crash – Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)
Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror begins with one of the strangest car crashes in cinematic history. A group of college students are on a road trip to scatter the ashes of their friend when they pass through the town of Divinity Falls, Nebraska. The occupants of the first car in their caravan have been using inflatable sex dolls to mark the way. Unfortunately what one of them thinks is a harmless joke not only enrages the local community, but proves to seal the fates of his friends. A deflated doll flies in front of the dashboard of the second car, causing the driver to lose control of the wheel. They swerve all over the road, eventually crashing the car into the corn. While being stranded in the middle of nowhere is bad enough, they emerge from the ruined vehicle and realize that the urn is now empty. In the jarring collision, they spilled all over passenger Kir (Eva Mendes). With town about a mile down the road and their car inoperable, she’s got no choice but to walk to Divinity Falls covered in the remains of her dead friend.
Short Family Tree – Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999)
The sixth corn caper in this storied franchise features the return of original cult leader Isaac (John Franklin) and a plot that makes absolutely no sense. In the aftermath of the massacre, a young follower gave up her baby to avoid the fulfillment of a horrific prophecy. Decades later, Hannah (Natalie Ramsey) has returned to the tiny town of Gatlin to find her birth mother, now played by Nancy Allen. What she finds is a town full of creepy old meanies and attractive twenty-somethings. While driving down a dirt road surrounded by corn, one of these hotties careens toward her in his own car and drives her off the road. Drunk, he hands her a shovel and says, “My lineage goes back to Isaac. Go find yours.” Given the fact that Isaac is probably around 30 years old, he could have just as easily said, “Isaac is my father” rather than imply a history dating back multiple generations. Nevertheless, Hannah searches for her origin story by digging up the body of stillborn Baby Colby. After uncovering the tiny (and empty) coffin, she notices blood dripping onto her arm from the body of a spooky preacher who haunted her in the opening scene. It seems he’s no longer interested in whether or not she plans to have children and is now hanging, slaughtered, from the branches. Perhaps another of the town’s women got fed up with his invasive questions about family planning and took matters into her own hands.
Elevator Stare Down – Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001)
While many of the Children of the Corn movies are filmed on sets that have never grown actual veggies, Children of the Corn: Revelation takes this leeway to the extreme. City girl Jaime (Claudette Mink) travels to Omaha, Nebraska to check on her grandmother who has mysteriously moved to a rundown apartment building. Jaime arrives at said building to find a deserted lobby strewn with trash. Determined to find her grandmother, she raises the gates on the industrial elevator and hops in. On the second floor she encounters two ghostly children in old-fashioned clothes. They stare malevolent daggers at her, never breaking eye contact as the elevator passes through multiple wall-less doors. This is merely one of Jaime’s bizarre encounters with these children. While walking to the only other building in town, the spooky girl approaches her, points, and screams “KILL!” Jaime responds by handing the child a quarter which seems to appease her. She disappears into the night without her intended victim, but twenty-five cents richer.
Missing Course – Children of the Corn (2009)
In a bizarre twist, the 2009 remake of Children of the Corn seems to have vanished from all streaming platforms. Written and directed by Donald P. Borchers, the made-for-TV adaptation stars David Anders and Kandyse McClure as the doomed couple, plus voice acting by Isabelle Fuhrman. Though extremely faithful to King’s original story, this adaptation is now unavailable to watch save for a Spanish-language version rumored to be available on YouTube. It’s as if someone, perhaps He Who Walks Behind the Rows of the Video Store, doesn’t want us watching …
Flying Law Enforcement – Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011)
This bizarre entry in the long-running franchise sees the return of a stranded couple, but little more of the original story. When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Tim (Tim Rock) and his pregnant wife Allie (Kelen Coleman) walk to a nearby farmhouse and all but demand entry to use the phone. They’re greeted by a creepy old man and his young Ukrainian wife who invite them to stay the night in their remote farmhouse. When Allie discovers a cult-like chapel and a young boy held prisoner in a nearby shack, an invisible force prevents them from fleeing. It seems this boy has telekinetic powers and is able to keep them trapped in a quasi-time loop on the rustic farm. When a police officer arrives to investigate, the unfortunate man simply flies into the air before he can reach them. After a bizarre conclusion involving a car crash that leaves Allie a widow, she wanders into the barn and hugs the powerful boy who has just killed his mother. The boy raises a doll made of corn husks high above his head then drops it, the body of the poor policeman simultaneously smashing into the dirt outside the house.
Bleeding and Dying – Children of the Corn: Runaway (2018)
The final “Children of the Corn” sequel follows a young mother desperate to escape her past in the murderous corn cult. Ruth (Marci Miller) and her now teenage son Aaron (Jake Ryan Scott) are transients moving from town to town on the run from a mysterious little girl in a yellow dress who seems to want her child. Ruth is laying on the couch one afternoon when she hears distant voices coming from the nearby woods. She goes outside to investigate and hears children chanting a barbaric rhyme ending with endless repetitions of “bleed and die.” She enters the clearing to see a handful of kids gleefully slaughtering a sheep and playing in its blood. One child holds up a section of intestines while another leans over and takes a bite out of the corpse. Even worse, she is horrified to see that Aaron is a member of this bloody circle. When she asks him about the bizarre ritual, he claims not to know what she’s talking about. Ruth begins to chase after him, but runs directly into a scarecrow. End scene.
Red Queen Surprise – Children of the Corn (2023)
Warning: This entry includes spoilers for the new movie.
The newest iteration of the King’s original text dramatically changes the cultish narrative. Writer/director Kurt Wimmer locates the action in the small town of Rylstone with a story much more sympathetic to the murderous kids. Ringleader Eden (Kate Moyer) forms a protective relationship with He Who Walks Behind the Rows, a giant monster made from corn stalks, leaves, and husks. The film concludes with a defeated Eden walking into the cornfield linking arms with the pagan god, but this is not the last we see of the girl who thinks of herself as the Red Queen. When final girl Bo (Elena Kampouris) returns to the burned fields, she’s startled to see a pair of shoes appear out of nowhere. She looks up to see Eden’s burned and bloody face just inches from her own, reminding Bo of the film’s catch phrase: “Nothing ever truly dies in the corn.” It’s a fun, but mostly pointless scare likely intended to either set up a sequel or mirror the final jump scare in Brian DePalma’s Carrie. However, as the most exciting element in a middling remake, Eden would be a perfect character to follow behind the rows for another schlocky sequel.