In March 1977 the men’s softcore pornography magazine Penthouse ran a peculiar short story by Stephen King about a ghost town in Nebraska where a generation of creepy children worship the corn. The next year “Children of the Corn” would be published in King’s short story collection Night Shift. Short — especially by King standards — but chilling the story was adapted into a feature film name in 1984. No one expected a few thousand words about scythes and ears of corn to turn into eleven movies, let alone one starring Linda Hamilton but here we are.
The Children of the Corn follows Burt and Vicky, a couple who are driving through Nebraska on a long road trip and accidentally hit a child on a rural road. Looking for help they are disturbed to find the nearby town, Gatlin, appears to be abandoned except for a cult of feral children who seem to follow a corn-based religion. Their leaders are the “pious” Isaac and the bloodthirsty Malachi. A brother and sister, Job and Sarah, are the only children who resist the cult. While Burt and Vicky explore Gatlin, Vicky is captured and the children plan to sacrifice her to the corn god “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”.
Here are some fun facts about Children of the Corn:
- Before the movie most people know came a 1983 short film called Disciples of the Crow.
2. The actor who played Isaac, John Franklin, was actually 24-years-old at the time of filming.
3. The original trailer misspelled Stephen King’s name as “Steven”.
4. When Vicky meets Sarah, she says “What a beautiful name!” Vicky is played by Linda Hamilton who is most famous for playing Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies.
5. During his audition for the role of Malachi, Courtney Gains pretended to hold a casting assistant hostage as a stunt.
6. John Franklin says he is also still recognized as Isaac and that people will ask to be moved at restaurants so that they don’t have to sit near him.
7. In the Stephen King universe, the town of Gatlin, Nebraska is near Hemingford Home, where Mother Abigail lived in The Stand. In the movie it’s referenced as “Hemingford”.
8. When Burt and Vicky first appear in their car, a copy of Stephen King’s Night Shift is visible on the dash. This is the short story collection where “Children of the Corn” was published after Penthouse.
9. A local group of boy scouts helped on set. They wanted to lean about filmmaking and production wanted the free labor. One of the ways they contributed is by digging the trench for “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”.
10. Screenwriter George Goldsmith felt that Stephen King didn’t understand the difference between what makes a good book and what makes a good script. Many changes were made from the short story about an arguing couple that both die to a happy couple that both escape.
11. Budget cuts and schedule problems forced Malachi to simply accept his fate at the end of the movie. Originally Isaac was not only going to have a much more decrepit appearance, the two were going to battle to the death. Courtney Gains says his biggest regret is that they were unable to film this ending for his character.
12. When Linda Hamilton filmed the scene where she went to check on the child they struck with their car, she was told a mannequin was under the blanket because “it was too hot for a child to film”. Of course it was a trick to get a genuine reaction when the actor shot up and you can see her real response in the scene.
13. In the grand tradition of 80s horror movies a scene was added where Burt and Vicky are attacked by Rachel at the end of the film for one last jump scare. When Linda Hamilton complained to a producer that the scene made them look stupid, the producer responded, “We want the audience to think you’re stupid.”
14. At a current total of eleven films, Children of the Corn is the largest franchise of any Stephen King adaptation.