CHILDREN OF THE CORN — 40th ANNIVERSARY — 1978–2018
THE AUDIOVISUAL SAGA
I read the short story a long, very long time ago. Short stories for Stephen King are a good genre when he wants to have density, a swift and rapid plot, simple characterization. His normal genre requires hundreds of pages, at times many hundred pages and one thousand is not an unreachable goal for him. This short story has had a very special history since from a short story adapted to the screen as a normal long feature film, it then developed into so many sequels and more recently even a TV series, that I turned curious and wanted to see what all that was about. So, I am going to follow the tracks of those perverse children and see where it is going. It is not the only case of a novel or short story by Stephen King becoming a whole set of adaptations with sequels and further developments using the same characters and situations. At the same time Stephen King is not the only author who is that successful with film and TV series makers, though the most famous series of films in that line, I mean Nosferatu, Dracula, Tarzan (this last one seems to have gone out of business in more recent years if not decades), or Frankenstein, can spread over a century or so and are more centered on the character himself, and adventures or developments that have little to do with the original piece of literature. In the field of action films, there are some that can never end, even if the main actor retires or just dies. Then a substitute can start a new batch. The most typical character in that line is James Bond, and we could think of Terminator too that seems to never come to an end with or without Schwarzenegger.
So, let’s start this exploration.
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN — 1984
This first film adaptation is based on the short story with the same title published in the March 1977 issue of Penthouse and later collected in King’s 1978 collection Night Shift. It officially takes place in Nebraska, some out of the way corn growing village, or small town. The plot is simple. Under the guidance of some young teenager, all the young people under 18 in the town decide on one Sunday morning after service in the local church to put to sleep in a very bloody way all the people over 18. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN II — THE FINAL SACRIFICE — 1992
I was wondering why the first film and the short story were not clear about the connection of maize (corn in this US context) was not seen as it was, some kind of genetic miracle with a Maize God behind it among Native Americans, in fact Native south and Mesoamericans who managed the genetic manipulation that produced the miracle. But here we are. We have a real Indian in this second film, Dr. Red Bear. But what is it that makes maize a diabolical plant?
The maize that all Americans call corn, the plant that gives popcorn, cornflour and many other products for animals or for humans, down to corn on the cob, and the bizarre and perverse role this corn cob plays in a famous novel by William Faulkner, Sanctuary, that I read when I was definitely not of age. The central criminal moment is summarized as follows by Wikipedia (slightly edited by myself to stay within the limits of decency: “But Popeye -and this one is not a sailor eating spinach straight out of the can-, who has obviously been devising a scheme, soon discovers them -Tommy and Temple- there -in a corncrib-. He murders Tommy with a gunshot to the back of the head and then proceeds to -take advantage of- Temple with a corncob.” […]
KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN III — URBAN HARVEST — 1995
Let’s move slightly more into the monstrous being this Maize God can be. Gatlin is, of course, the place where it all starts since it all started there in the past. Two brothers are orphaned by the death, not at all accidental, of their father in a cornfield. They are adopted and are moved to Chicago by their new parents.
The younger one is Eli and the older one is Joshua. Two brothers with Biblical names and like the famous Hero Twins, the sons of the Maize god, one of the two is a lot closer to the Maize God and the other is sort of following his younger brother. It is, of course, an allusion to the Biblical Abel and Cain and a few other pairs of the type. The younger brother is Elias or Elijah, and in the Bible his career is astounding. No career in the Old Testament is more vividly portrayed or has as much appeal as that of the unique character of Elijah. The New Testament attests to his greatness and reveals what an indelible impression he made upon the mind of his nation. All we know of him before his dramatic appearance can be summed up in the words: “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead” (1 Kings 17:1). Note here the initial of this place is the same as that of Gatlin, and Gilead was also used by Margaret Atwood in her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, for the religious fanatic version of New York she describes. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN IV — THE GATHERING — 1996
Back to Gatlin, back in Gatlin, back in time too. To go back in time, they need to identify the evil spirit they are going to confront and fight, and at the same time, they have to explain what happened to him. This evil spirit is Josiah, a child preacher exploited by other preachers and his mother and abandoned by them in Gatlin. Then he kills the preachers the next year they return to the town. The townspeople find out about the boy and him being evil, so they burn him alive and bury his ashes in a well. The story about Josiah and what was done to him is told by two old ladies and they tell it while serving and drinking tea. They connect the abandonment of Josiah by his mother as the way for him to be brought back by finding a child who had also been abandoned and deceived by his or her mother. In this case it is Margaret Rhodes, the sister of the main character Grace Rhodes, though I must admit it is slightly difficult to know who is who. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN V — FIELDS OF TERROR — 1998
Back to basics but with a twist. Back in Gatlin where a sect has been established in a private property, A farm growing corn of course, under the authority of Luke Enright, the owner of the farm and property. Strangely enough, he is the one who has the name of an apostle and he is the one who is covering the sect and is manipulated by the sect and will end up destroyed in two seconds by the child propjet. The child prophet is Ezeekial. The prophet Ezekiel is one of four Major Prophets along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel in the Old Testament of the Bible. The priest Ezekiel was the first prophet to be called by the Lord outside of Israel during the Babylonian Captivity. Deported to Babylon by the river Chebar in 597 BCE, Ezekiel was truly an exilic prophet, who foresaw both the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, but also the Restoration of Israel and the Temple. The central figure in the Book of Ezekiel is God. The book opens with a unique vision of the glory of the Lord. The phrase “you shall know that I am the Lord” recurs 33 times throughout the text. While he punishes Israel for their idolatry and disobedience, his love for his creation mankind prevails in the end. God the Creator calls Ezekiel “Son of Man” 93 times. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666: ISAAC’S RETURN — 1999
Let’s go down into the prophecies from the Old Testament entirely reinterpreted by the Maize God of the Mayas. But we all know the story of Isaac, or so we say. It is the story of two brothers of the same father, Abraham, but different mothers, the first one a slave servant Haggar of Abraham’s wife Sara, and the second Sara herself, at least fourteen years later. But let me quote the story, slightly reduced and edited.
Genesis 16 King James Version (KJV) The birth of Ishmael from Haggar
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
Genesis 21 King James Version (KJV) The birth of Isaac and the ban of Ishmael and Haggar
1 And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac… 9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac… 14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs… 20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.
Genesis 22 King James Version (KJV) The sacrifice of Isaac
1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him… 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together… 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN VII: REVELATION — 2001
There you really lose the thread and loosen the plot of the saga. We are dealing with a young woman who comes to Gatlin to find her grandmother and when she arrives she finds a very strange situation in the ancient block of flats the grandmother lives in and the grandmother is nowhere to be found. But it all started with the grandmother, Hattie Soames, waking up in the middle of the night, the victim of a dreadful nightmare and she races outside her apartment and the building into the night wondering where someone is, calling for him.
Jamie arrives finds her grandmother missing, goes to the police where she meets a certain plainclothes officer Armbrister who does not react really. The following day, Jamie goes back to Armbrister. who has been doing some background checks on Jamie’s missing grandmother. He has learned that sixty years ago, Hattie Soames was a child involved with a children’s cult known as the Agents of Satan. The cult committed mass ritual suicide during a tent revival by setting themselves on fire. Hattie was the only one to survive. Jamie finds an old picture of her grandmother as a little girl with the cult leader, Abel. Armbrister agrees to accompany Jamie back to the apartment. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN — 2009
This television production is trying to go back to the very core of the original novella and first film adaptation. They get rid of all the smoochy melodramatic details, and there were a lot, to come to the simplest trap you can imagine. For this reason, Burt is a Vietnam vet, an ex-marine. Vicki is a preacher’s daughter and she is black. That, of course, makes many things a lot more realistic and probable if not believable. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN: GENESIS — 2011
A Small film in the saga and strange continuation that is supposed to be an extension OF Children of the Corn. A casual survivor of the initial massacre of all adults in Gatlin — he was serving in foreign countries as a GI at the time — has turned himself into a preacher of the corn revolution. He is married to a Russian girl. A real marriage? A real Russian? They have a child. Their real child? He has very strong telekinetic powers. He is able to move objects and people from a distance. He is locked up in a barn, though he can open the padlock any time. This child just requires a new woman regularly. All women who go by are in a way or another captured by him and he will take advantage of them till he kills them on a hunch or sudden whimsical inspiration. […]
STEPHEN KING — CHILDREN OF THE CORN — RUNAWAY — 2018
This film, or video production, is maybe the ultimate ending of the saga since it is not an ending but a second start all over again. In Gatlin, a long time ago, thirteen years ago if I am not wrong, all the children of the cult that killed all the adults in the name of He Who Walks Behind the Rows were burned in no accidental event but in a willful act to get rid of the cult and the followers of it. We had already been told in one or two of the films of the saga that one actually escaped the fire. In fact, more than one did. The one with the biblical name of Ruth, originally Sandy, was pregnant at the time and she escaped the blaze. In fact, this film says she started it. At least one more escaped, a woman too, a girl at the time, Sarah who is the friendly Diner’s boss, a friendly front that hides her real intention: to recapture Ruth and get a real vengeance by having Ruth’s son, Aaron, kill his own mother. […]
The Corn Story is a never-ending story.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU