Note: This section of the book is dedicated to Danny Grossman, because he requested it a long, long time ago. He also sent me a copy of “Leatherface,” when I needed to complete my “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” chapters.
I hereby promise not to mention him again in subsequent chapters. I just wanted to say: Danny, this one is for you.
“Children of the Corn” gets right to gettin’, by tossing the credits up. The title on the screen is “Stephen King’s Children of the Corn,” because this movie was made back when the name Stephen King could sell people on a motion picture.
Once we see the title, we get shots of… corn. Not unexpected, I guess.
This is followed by shots of a church – the upcoming sermon is “Corn Drought and the Lord,” which will be given by Rev. Timothy Case. And just because you care, the name of the church is Grace Baptist Church of Gatlin.
A burn-in informs us that this is: Gatlin, Nebraska – Three Years Ago.
The church bell is tolling through all this.
The doors of the church open up, and people start walking out, shaking hands with the priest as they walk out the door.
And then, we get voice-over from a young boy, who is exiting the church:
“It was about three years ago. I was the only kid in church that day. The others were with Isaac out in the corn field. I didn’t get to go because dad didn’t like Isaac. He was pretty smart, my dad. After church we went to Hansen’s. Just like always. Sarah was home sick with mom. She’d come down with a fever real sudden. Dad was worried, so he went to call mom first thing.”
At which point, dad says, “I’m gonna call your mom, okay?”
“That’s when I saw Malachi and the others. I guess their meeting with Isaac was over. They were acting real creepy.”
Obviously, at this point, dad is on the phone. The boy is sitting on a stool in Hansen’s. Malachi is playing pinball in the corner. And a bunch of kids are walking into the eatery, and locking the door.
The waitress puts something in the coffee. She serves the coffee. Several people drink the coffee, and die in rapid succession.
Then the kids all pull out sharp things and begin slashing throats. And stabbing. And generally killing all the remaining living adults in Hansen’s.
In and around all this, on the other end of the phone line, the boy’s dad talks to his mom about his sister, Sarah. Sarah is moaning, and has her eyes closed, but she’s still coloring something.
Now, all the adults in the diner are dead. Including dad.
The kids start to leave. One of them looks meaningfully at the boy.
Time for more voice-over:
“It happened everywhere in Gatlin that day. That’s when Sarah started drawing these pictures.”
And then we see Sarah, lying on the bed next to a drawing she made of the kids killing the adults in Hansen’s.
And now, more credits, while we look at pictures of children killing their parents in various exciting ways. It seems they also plant corn, and burn their TVs.
Finally, we get a shot of a car and a motel. Perhaps the kids are experimenting with the fruits of their puberty?
Nope. It’s a woman, who is inside the motel, setting the lock to “Do Not Disturb.” Then we get a shot of feet stalking across the room, a woman’s hand reaching into a drawer, and then, PARTY HORN.
She wishes the guy in bed happy birthday. She presents him with a donut and asks him to make a wish. He wishes to live happily ever after. She asks if that’s a proposal. Nope. She gives him a gift anyway.
It’s a lighter, with his name and her name on it: They are Burt and Vicky. They kiss. Then she turns on a little tape player thing and sings a song that’s called, based on the chorus, “School is Out.”
I guess the implication is that the dude just got out of medical school. After all that silliness, she finally offers to give him, shall we say, a more personal birthday gift.
Dude rejects her, saying they have to get back on the road. He goes to grab a quick shower.
Man, I’m trying to come up with an appropriate comment here, but this dude just blows my mind. Come on man. It’s your birthday. Take an extra three minutes for yourself, if you know what I’m saying.
But no. Instead, we get a shot of the car on the road. They’re headed in Nebraska, bantering about how he doesn’t want to screw up his internship. She thinks he was being a jerk.
Man, turn a woman down for forty-five seconds of passion and she will never let it go. Ever.
And now we’re back with the kids. Now, if you have kids, or are generally familiar with them, you probably know that they grow a LOT in a three year span. But these kids haven’t. Probably poor nutrition.
But whatever. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that, so help me, the kid is voice-overing again. WHO IS HE TALKING TO? Himself?
Well, whoever he’s talking to, he tells us that besides himself (I’m going to have to call him Boy, because he doesn’t have a name yet) and Sarah, there’s another boy named Jacob who, it seems, doesn’t like Isaac and wants to get away.
Boy says, in voice-over, that he wasn’t scared. Then he says, “I’m scared.” Sarah adds, “Me, too!”
Jacob, it seems, is running away, though he promises he’ll come back for Boy and Sarah. Jacob says the two of them will be fine, as long as no one finds out about Sarah’s drawings. Crayons are forbidden.
Boy whines that Jacob won’t let them do “anything.” Jacob reminds Boy that if they get caught with something forbidden that… they know what happens.
This might build more suspense if we hadn’t already seen Sarah’s drawings, which featured people being tacked up on crosses. This movie is like a poker player who screams out what’s in his hand before the betting even starts.
Jacob says he’s going to run through the corn, which the kids seem to think is a bad idea. But it’s the only way out. Wherever “out” is.
Jacob sends Boy and Sarah to the sides of the barn they were all talking in, and tells them to let him know if anyone is watching them. Boy runs to one side and yells back that there’s no one, and Sarah yells, “Nobody’s looking! Nobody’s looking!”
Well, Sarah, I bet they are now.
Jacob runs through the corn.
Burt and Vicky drive along the back roads. They’re bored. They turn on the radio, and get themselves a hellfire and damnation radio station preacher. They mock him, then turn the radio off.
They drive by a sign: Gatlin: 7 Miles.
Jacob runs through the corn. He hears children laughing. The music gets all scary. Jacob trips. The director attempts to give us ominous shots of the corn, but mostly makes us think that a corn roast would be mighty tasty just about now.
Jacob gets back up.
Nearby, we see a kid with a knife, though we don’t see the kid’s face. Jacob turns. He’s stabbed, mostly off-camera. Blood artfully falls over his suitcase. Well, not really artfully. In an attempted artful manner? That works, I suppose.
Burt and Vicky drive some more. Vicky checks the map, but they can’t find Gatlin. Burt takes a look, which removes his eyes from the road.
Vicky warns him that there’s someone in the road. It appears to be a dead Jacob, posed in a scarecrow-esque fashion. Burt hits the kid, hard, and the body rolls.
Burt pulls the car over. He checks Vicky for injury. She’s got a bump on her head.
But gets out of the car and goes to check on the kid. Of course, the kid is dead. Vicky asks if the kid the dead. Burt says, “Oh, yeah.” He’s taking this really, really well. Burt says something is very wrong here, and that Vicky needs to go back to the car and lock the doors until he gets back.
Burt gets a blanket out of the trunk. And also, a tire iron. As he goes to wrap Jacob up in a blanket, stalker-cam watches him from behind the corn. Burt wraps up the kid, but doesn’t take him out of the road.
Interesting choice, Burt.
Burt goes to the corn and sees Jacob’s bloody suitcase. He goes into the corn to get it.
Meanwhile, Malachi, bloody knife in hand, walks to the car Vicky is currently sitting in. She’s sort of asleep. She hears a noise, wakes up, and GETS OUT OF THE CAR. If Vicky doesn’t make it through this movie, it’s going to be her own fault.
She wanders away from the vehicle, calling to Burt while Malachi stands by the car, casting an ominous shadow. She walks over to the Jacob, kneels down, and says how sorry she is.
Jacob sits up.
Vicky wakes up. DREAM SEQUENCE!
Burt is there. He calms her down.
Then he stuffs Jacob’s body in the trunk of his car, and drives away. While stalker-cam watches from the corn.
And we’re back with Boy and Sarah. Boy informs us, via voice-over, that they liked to go back to their house to play. Malachi said it was forbidden, but they do it anyway. These kids have a death wish.
Boy and Sarah are playing Monopoly, and bantering in a way that is probably supposed to be funny. But the kids have all the comic timing of a pair of worn-out staplers. So instead they kill a couple minutes of screen time, and then Malachi throws a knife into their Monopoly board.
Burt and Vicky drive. Burt reveals to Vicky that Jacob’s throat was cut. They both suspect they were being watched.
Regardless, they keep driving towards Gatlin. This is puzzling to me, because it seems that if Jacob is dead, and they’re near the barn, they should already be IN Gatlin, not two miles away from it.
Malachi takes Boy and Sarah to go see Isaac, who is the creepy little preacher boy who called for the killing of all the adults. Malachi rats out the tots, stating that they were playing a game, and listening to music, and also they had “this.” This being a drawing of Vicky and Burt’s car, driving towards Gatlin.
Isaac tells Sarah that she has the gift of sight. He tells Malachi to take them back where they were. And also, to tell “the old man” not to tell Vicky and Burt anything.
Malachi is unhappy, because the kids have a game, and also music, and Isaac admonishes Malachi, stating that Isaac is doing “his” will.
Malachi drags the kids off.
Vicky and Burt drive towards Gatlin. Burt wants to open Jacob’s suitcase. He turns on the radio again, and listens to the radio preacher for a second. He turns the radio off.
Vicky opens the suitcase. There are a few things in there, but the notable one is a cross made out of corn cobs. Burt refers to it as “primitive folk art,” while Vicky just says its “repulsive.”
Mostly, I’m wondering why Jacob kept the thing in his suitcase if he was running away.
And now: The Old Man. It seems the old man is a loon who runs the local gas station. As we meet him, he’s working on a vehicle, while yelling at his dog to bring him a bunch of different wrenches.
Vicky and Burt drive up. The Old Man says he doesn’t have any gas, and that if Burt doesn’t buy gas he can’t use the restroom. He tells Burt to take a turn and go to a city that is not Gatlin.
Burt asks about Gatlin, and The Old Man tells Burt that people there got religion and they don’t “cotton” to outsiders.
The dog, meanwhile, barks at something behind the corn, and then heads that direction. The Old Man heads after him. A hand goes into his truck and grabs a tire iron.
The Old Man turns around, and he think he hears something in his gas station. So he goes back that way. He goes into the station. He still thinks someone is in there. Outside, the hood of his vehicle slams shut, because loud noises equal cheap scares.
The Old Man goes back outside. He yells at the corn that he kept his bargain, and didn’t tell Vicky and Burt anything.
He opens the hood of his truck. There’s something bloody in there. It appears to be the dog’s scarf. This makes The Old Man sad, and then mad. He picks up a tire iron and heads back into the barn behind the gas station.
Tire irons: The weapon of choice in this fine film. Followed closely by knives.
Malachi is in the barn. It’s go time!
And by, “It’s go time,” I mean, “Now we’ll cut over to Vicky and Burt, who keep trying to avoid Gatlin, but every sign they pass says they’re headed there, so they drive through some corn and arrive back where they started, at the gas station, and Burt yells out the window at the old man, only we get a shot of the old man’s arm, with the strong implication that the old dude is dead.”
Out in the corn, Isaac holds up his little corn cob cross and preaches at the kids that he had a dream. It seems a time of tribulation has come – the final test. First, Jacob ran away, but his blood couldn’t be spilled on the corn (um… it was) so he was cast upon the road.
Now, two unbelievers are coming: a man and a woman. We already know about them, so I’ll skip over some details, and go over to Boy and Sarah, who are hiding at the edge of the corn and having the following conversation:
Boy: “I wish Isaac never came here.”
Sarah: “But he’s always been here, just like He Who Walks Behind the Rows.”
This strikes me as a weak answer for moviegoers asking a very obvious question: Where does a little weasel like Isaac come from, anyway? After all, he appears to be a kid, but kids aren’t usually allowed to wander from town to town preaching, or whatever it was he was doing before this movie started.
Isaac says that the “Outlanders” are going to have to be sacrificed, like the Blue Man. The Blue Man is the withered husk of a cop, which is currently residing on a cross made of corn.
The kids all get up and start chanting, and Boy and Sarah sneak off.
Burt and Vicky finally make it to Gatlin, and they pull into the city. There’s no one there. At least, no one they can see.
Two kid spies, however, spot them and go running off.
Burt stops the car at Hansen’s Café and they go inside, looking for a phone. They ponder what’s up with all the corn, which is pretty much scattered everywhere. Burt finds the pay phone and goes to make a call. The phone is dead.
Burt and Vicky prepare to leave. They spot some kids poking in and around their car. They run out, and the kids run off. Burt and Vicky get in the car and give chase. The kids vanish.
Vicky tells Burt they should go on to the next town. Burt decides this is not the worst idea ever, and they drive off.
Just as they’re about to leave town, Burt sees a door closing at the house on the edge of town. So they get out of the car and go to investigate.
No one answers the door, so Burt walks in. They wander around, and find the non-working phone. Vicky shows Burt a magazine that’s three years old. I guess someone cancelled all the mail, after every adult was killed.
Burt hears a noise upstairs, and goes to check it out.
He wanders around for a bit, and then finds a bunch of Sarah’s drawings taped to the wall. He wanders around some more, and the movie decides to use all the pent-up suspense by having Burt run into Vicky all of a sudden.
They hear music, and go to check it out. They find Sarah , who tells them all the adults are in the corn field. Burt figures they’re at a meeting, but Sarah tells them the truth. Isaac put all the adults in the corn field, and also he’s their leader, and also, he’s scary.
Burt doesn’t buy any of this, so he decides to leave the car with Vicky, so he can walk back to the town hall. Vicky asks if they’re safe here.
Burt replies, “It’s a little weird here, but it’s safe.”
Burt’s definition of a “little weird” is WAY different than mine.
Vicky stays behind to grill Sarah.
She discovers that Sarah is “drawing pictures,” and that Malachi said that was bad. Vicky insists that Sarah draw some more pictures. Sarah thinks this is awesome. So she starts drawing.
Burt goes back into town. He looks in the school. There’s a bunch of corn laying around inside. He goes by the old church. There’s more corn. A kid spots him, but he doesn’t spot the kid.
Malachi and a bunch of other kids go to the house where Sarah and Vicky are currently using the forbidden crayons.
They have various sharp objects.
Burt wanders around the town. Kids spot him. They, too, have sharp objects.
The kids back at the house sneak into the house at various entrance points. Not that there’s any reason to avoid using the door. At all.
Vicky asks to see Sarah’s drawing, and Sarah hands it over. Vicky looks at it, concerned, and asks, “What is this?”
She hears a noise, and calls out to Burt. Only Burt’s not here, man. No, it’s Malachi and company. She asks what they want, and Malachi says, “We want to give you peace.”
Vicky takes that as a bad sign, so she runs upstairs and into a room and she slams and holds the door. One of the kids drives an axe through the door, Vicky backs up, and the kids come in and take her while Sarah just kind of watches with her hands over her ears.
In the town, Burt goes into the cop shop, and finds more corn. And a blood-spattered picture of a woman having fire blown on her by a dragon. Burt remembers the, “Are we safe?” conversation, and he runs back to the house where Vicky is.
He sees his car, which has a bunch of corn stuffed in it.
He goes into the house, and asks Sarah where Vicky is.
Turns out, she’s tied up on a corn cross in a clearing in the nearby field.
In the same area, Isaac and Malachi argue like crazy people speaking in another language. Apparently, He Who Walks Behind the Rows is mad at Malachi because Malachi killed the old man when he still had gas they could use. And He’s not too happy about Jacob, either.
Malachi, in turn, wants to know when they’re going to do something about Job and Sarah. Ah. Boy really does have a name.
Isaac is all, “I am the one true connection to He Who Walks Behind the Rows! Do not question!”
At the house, Burt continues to probe Sarah for answers. Then he finders he drawing, which indicates Vicky is totally going to end up as a sacrifice.
Burt goes out back and calls to Vicky. There’s corn there. The corn suddenly parts for him, indicating which way he should go. So he starts walking, instead of running the other way, which might be a good idea now.
The church bell starts to clang. Burt runs.
The kids pick up Vicky’s cross and get her up in the air. The kids all start chanting, “Kill! Kill!” This goes on for a while, because it’s both menacing and cheap to shoot.
Elsewhere, an older kid takes a knife and carves a star (or perhaps a pentacle?) into his bare chest. Blood flows out. A date is written in blood on a scroll.
Burt goes running into the church.
There’s a verbal confrontation, which lays out like so:
Burt: What are you guys doing?
Dude with Star Cut Into His Chest: We go to He Who Walks Behind the Rows on the first day of our 19th year.
Girl Running the Ceremony: (To Random Kid) Bring Malachi to deal with the interloper!
There’s some light tussling, and the girl stabs Burt with the chest-carving knife. Burt pulls it out and brandishes it at the kids to get them to back off. They do. Burt runs.
The kids chase him.
Burt tries to hide, but there really isn’t anywhere to go. The kids are everywhere.
Finally, he ends up in the center of town, with a bunch of kids circled around him.
Malachi arrives, and yells, “Outlander!” And Burt runs again.
He somehow manages to elude his captors, taking refuge in one of many abandoned buildings. Malachi walks by a window, sees something, and goes inside.
Burt crouches, and when Malachi gets close, Burt stabs him in the leg. Then he stands up and clocks himself in the head.
Still mobile, he runs again. Job finds him, and takes him to a cellar to hide. Sarah is also there. It’s actually an old bomb shelter, complete with food. It seems none of the other kids know about the place.
Job tells Burt about Isaac, and where everyone’s parents went. Burt takes all the news with little show of surprise.
In the corn field, Isaac and Malachi argue about what He Would Walks Behind the Rows really wants. Isaac thinks they should just sacrifice Vicky. Malachi thinks they should sacrifice both Vicky and Burt together.
So Malachi makes a power grab, and demands that the kids cut Vicky down and Isaac be put up on the cross.
Strangely, the kids go along with this, even though Isaac is the entire reason all the adults are dead. None of them even appear to question the idea.
So Malachi takes Vicky and a bunch of his foot soldiers back into town, and he yells out to Burt: “Outlander! We have your woman!”
Burt doesn’t come out. So Malachi cuts Vicky, to get her to scream. Then he does some taunting. Only Burt can’t hear Malachi.
Burt tells Sarah and Job to lead him to the clearing where Vicky is being held. They all head out.
Back at the clearing, the kid with the carving on his chest is ready to “celebrate his birthday.” Malachi tells him that Isaac will be joining him. Isaac does the whole, “This is blasphemy!” thing.
Job and Sarah take Burt to a barn, and they look out the window on the second floor. They can see the clearing from there.
Burt leaves the kids there, and heads to the circle.
The kid with the carving on his chest hears the growling of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and he walks into the corn. The ground moves like there’s something slithery and living underneath it.
Isaac, from his cross, calls out that he did everything the creature wanted. But it doesn’t matter. A really, really, really poorly animated red and yellow light flashes over him, and then his cross shoots in the air while he screams like a woman.
Burt runs into the clearing, grabs Vicky, and shoves her away, telling her to run.
Burt stands in the middle of the clearing, surrounded by kids with weapons, and demands to know what kind of a god demands that kids kill their parents. The kids seem unsure, and somewhat confused.
Burt continues to talk: “Any religion, without love and compassion is false. It’s a lie!”
This is a surprisingly philosophical movie.
Well, it was for a minute, anyway. Malachi leaps from the crowd and tackles Burt. They tussle. Burt gets Malachi on the ground and starts smacking him in the face. He gets up, holding Malachi’s knife.
Then he throws in the knife on the ground as a demonstration of this compassion thing he was talking about, and walks away.
Malachi yells out to the kids to get Burt, but they don’t move.
And then there’s some screaming: “Malachi! He wants you too, Malachi.”
Isaac is back, talking in a deep, and deeply freaky voice. He’s all white and ashy, too, which probably means something. Couldn’t tell you what.
Malachi looks very sad about this.
Isaac walks up to Malachi and grabs him by the neck.
All the other kids run to the barn where Job and Sarah are. So does Burt.
A storm kicks up.
Burt and Vicky debate whether it’s safer to stay in the barn, or to try to get back to the road.
Burt asks Job if anyone ever tried to hurt the creature. Turns out that the “blue man” did. It seems he talked to the preacher, and then came to the field with a page torn out of the bible.
For some reason, Job has the page now. He pulls it out, and Burt reads a highlighted section:
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Where the beast, and the false prophet are, and shall forever be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Burt asks what that’s supposed to mean?
Vicky determines that this means the cop was going to try to burn the creature. Job says yeah, only he was stopped by Malachi.
Burt figures the cop must have been planning to use the fuel the kids were making from the corn (yes, this was mentioned before, but it was sort of ridiculous, so I left it out up until now) to burn the beast.
Burt tells the kids to get him a bunch of hoses and some glass bottles.
He gets one bottle, fills it with corn fuel, and makes a Molotov cocktail. Then he hooks up a hose to the burn-y corn fuel and heads out into the corn with an “I love you, Vicky.”
Things go okay until the corn attacks him, knocking to the ground and administering the kind of beating only corn can give.
Job runs out and frees Burt. Burt tells him to go back to the barn. Job does not obey.
Burt goes to some kind of machine, and jams the fuel hose into it. He tells Job to turn a valve. Then Job guides him through starting the machine.
I really wish I knew what the machine was.
Finally, it starts up. Turns out, the machine is one of those really large sprinkler systems that farmers have when they need to water a really, really, really large area.
So, it seems that Burts plan is to set fire to the entire corn field. I cannot say the man thinks small.
Bad animation rises up from the corn in a semi-threatening manner.
Burt runs over to Job and lights his Molotov cocktail. He throws it. He manages to hit the one part of the field NOT covered in fuel.
Job runs to pick up the cocktail, while the animation looms overhead, and also whatever it is under the dirt continues to run around under the dirt.
Burt keeps calling to Job, and for some reason it sounds like he’s yelling out, “Joey!”
Job grabs the Molotov, and runs back to Burt. He tells Burt to “throw it right this time.” Burt throws it. There is fire.
Also, some more bad animation. Back at the barn, Vicky and Sarah call out to Burt and “Job-y!” I guess that’s what Burt was yelling. Regardless, it sounds ridiculous. I’m wondering if the kid’s name was “Joey” originally, but then someone realized that didn’t sound all that biblical, so they changed it to Job in post, and then tried to cover it up.
At any rate, the four of them watch as the fire goes BOOM a couple of times. Then Burt suggests they run. Good thinking.
The fire rages, burning away the bad animation, which spontaneously develops into a huge, not-very-well animated face. The face screams. There is also animated lightning.
Then the face vanishes.
Job yells out, “Is he dead?” Burt says yes. The kid asks, “Then why are we still running?”
I dunno, Job. Maybe it’s because there are still a bunch of kids running around carrying implements of death?
Everyone reaches the car, which is still stuffed with corn, though for some reason it appears to be less stuffed than it was previously. Burt notes that the nearest town is 19 miles away. Vicky asks if they can walk.
Burt says yeah. Vicky and Burt share some light banter, and they kiss. Job and Sarah giggle. Since we’re getting to the end of the film, and the screenwriter needs to tie up some loose ends, Burt and Vicky determine that Job and Sarah can live with them for a while.
I’m sure that will raise no questions from anyone. I mean, it’s not like Burt is, like, 26, and Job is, like, 9, and he and Vicky aren’t married, and the kids don’t really look anything like them, and also Burt and Vicky were in that town where all the corn burned to the ground, and like 600 other suspicious things. And let us not forget the dead body in Burt’s trunk.
Burt gets into the car to grab their map, which has been SO useful up to this point, and when he sits down, the girl who stabbed him earlier is sitting in the back seat, waiting to finish the job.
She attacks, Burt fights back. He gets out of the car, she lunges, and he slams the car door, which knocks her out cold.
Burt asks aloud what he should do, and Vicky says, “Send her a get-well card from Seattle.”
The words THE END burn into the screen, the credits start rolling, and Vicky, Burt, Job and Sarah walk away from the car and out of town.