Children of the Corn
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.
A cult then is instigated and when a young person reaches the age of 18, he or she is sacrificed to their Corn God after sharing his blood with the members of the congregation. Of course, music, games, dancing, anything trendy or fancy is banned. A couple of kids, it looks like three at the beginning, but one is caught when trying to escape, are apparently living underground in some basement where a father had established some shelter for any emergency.
The situation explodes after the one who tried to escape is caught up and executed when a doctor and his wife are going through the ghost city and get caught in the maze or net of the cult? Since they are outlanders, they have to be caught and sacrificed in the cornfields in a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus, slightly modernized, but this time a crucifixion to honor and pacify, to feed in a way, the Corn God. I can’t help thinking of the Maya Maize God who required quite some blood self-sacrifices and human sacrifices to guarantee a good harvest every year, and durable social harmony the rest of the time. But the crucifixion and the quotation of the Bible are at least a Christianization of the good old Maya ritualistic practice.
At the same time, the setting being essentially roads and houses surrounded by enormous cornfields, we are projected into the corn belt in its absolutely excessive and irrational mono-cultivation of corn. So, the perversion of these fields seems to also tell us something about the American society and the violation of the earth that such mono-cultivation of one single crop is. Nature, Gaia as she is called in Oxford, Mother Nature as many Native Americans would call her, and then it definitely is a female character for them, is more or less getting even with humanity for raping her in such a way.
A subterranean monster, that we never see, is controlling the situation and both gulping down the sacrificed ones and protecting the community against any outlander. Luckily there are some interesting special effects for that part of the monstrous advancing under the skin of the earth like some lice. But it is easy, so they say, to get rid of this monster: burn the field of corn in which it is sheltering itself and it will disappear in thin air like a fistful of ashes. And that’s exactly what happens. But apparently the monster had enough time to take care of the main leaders, at least, of this community and only two kids who had escaped by living as I have said in a basement shelter, are still shown as alive with the doctor and his wife. And they only have 19 miles to walk to the next city in order to report the situation because of course there are no functioning telephones and the doctor’s car had been cornified, meaning turned into a wreck by filling every section and part that was slightly hollow with corn leaves or anything corny available. In other words, the car was sent to corn paradise.
The film is good as for the rhythm but in a way, it is slightly sketchy on details. It is also funny, not strange at all but definitely ah-ah, to see the rivalry between the 12–13 year old prophet and his main 16–17 year old power assistant who tried and succeeded, for a while, to dethrone the prophet, have him crucified on a rockety corn-cob-cross and seize power, probably because his 18th birthday was coming and that would have been the end of his existence, even though it was a very sorry existence.
The next film tomorrow.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.”
In this second film, everything gets out-of-joint from the very start. Some curious more or less police people come to Gatlin, Nebraska, discover a whole set of dead adults in some basement, largely advanced in decomposition. You can then imagine the rush of police, medical and media personnel. They are going to discover that an orphan is possessed and is able to communicate with some monstrous devil he calls “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” or just something just as innocuously silly as that. He is also, this orphan Micah, a very good mesmerizing manipulator of young people who have all sorts of grudges against their parents and are ready to get rid of them, especially if it is with some extrasupercaligfragilisticsupernatural reason sanctified by some unseen and invisible monstrous devil.
And there you are. That’s what happens when you give Biblical names to children who, then, want to do what this Biblical character did. Listen, ye believers:
Hear, you peoples, all of you,
listen, earth and all who live in it,
that the Sovereign Lord may bear witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.
Look! The Lord is coming from his dwelling place;
he comes down and treads on the heights of the earth.
The mountains melt beneath him
and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
like water rushing down a slope.
All this is because of Jacob’s transgression,
because of the sins of the people of Israel.
What is Jacob’s transgression?
Is it not Samaria?
What is Judah’s high place?
Is it not Jerusalem?
“Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble,
a place for planting vineyards.
I will pour her stones into the valley
and lay bare her foundations.
All her idols will be broken to pieces;
all her temple gifts will be burned with fire;
I will destroy all her images.
since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes,
As the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.” Book of Micah 1:2–7
Then the rest is just detail that I cannot reveal. Between special effects and mad machinery, there is plenty of space to manipulate your mind in such a way that afterward, it will be nothing but a heap of rubbles decaying in the sunshine or decomposing in the moonlight, not to speak of it putrefying in the starlight. And do not forget god is almighty and he just needs to say “Let there be light” for light to be switched on.
But what about corn, or maize?
The wild plants (several) are natural in Mesoamerica, Mexico particularly, and it normally releases its seeds when they are ripe and sows itself naturally. But the Mesoamerican Indians manipulated these plants in such a way that a corncob replaced the loose seeds and the said-cob is so well wrapped up that it cannot release its seeds all by itself and it does not let humidity reach the seeds so that they can’t germinate. The yield of this variety is enormous, but it can only reproduce itself if a human hand comes to its help. A mutation for sure but a mutation that could not propagate itself naturally. The ancestors of the Olmec and Maya were genial biogenetic manipulators.
But the civilization that produced this miracle providing food (provided the seeds were cooked in water with ashes: they call that Nixtamalization) devised a Maize God to carry the phenomenal invention. That Maize god was initially Hun Hunahpu in the Popol Vuh. He was put to death by the Death Lords of Xibalba, but his head was planted in a tree and he managed to impregnate a daughter of one of the Death Lords (by spitting into her face) so that she got pregnant and gave birth to the Hero Twins who will after many adventures finally kill the two main death Lords and obtain the right to resurrect their father who became then the Maize God. But to him is attached a very regular blood sacrifice because to be able to resurrect every year in the Spring and then to provide a beautiful harvest in the Fall, this Maize God has to receive human blood in sacrifice, either self-sacrifice that does not kill the subject, but also human sacrifice and this time the subject dies in a way or another, like heart extraction, but also many other options before this one or beheading, particularly dismemberment since the long leg bones and the long arm bones are used to play the drum or hold rattles.
The film here is quite explicit about this blood sacrifice and the fact that this He Who Walks Behind the Rows emanates from, lives in, haunts the cornfields around Gatlin. Why Gatlin? But the main reason is that the sheriff is a criminal that is speculating on the death of people, and the local preacher is a fanatic against fornication and all kind of carnal sins. As my mother would have said, his mind must be a piece of rotting beef because he only thinks of flesh and meat. Enjoy it.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.
Scripture is silent about his past history. Suddenly and with abrupt impetuosity, the figure of the prophet bursts upon the scene to rebuke the godless and to reawaken and restore the nation of which he was a part. This man of iron is presented in many ways: 1- As a fearless, bold and dauntless reformer (1 Kings 18:17–46). 2- As a rebuker of kings (1 Kings 21:20; 2 Kings 1:16). 3- As a mighty intercessor, praying with faith and intensity (1 Kings 17:20, 22; 18:36–38; Jas. 5:17). 4- As a man prone to discouragement (1 Kings 19:4). 5- As one capable of fallible judgment (1 Kings 19:4, 18). 6- As a prophet divinely honored (2 Kings 2:11; Matt. 17:3). 7- As a performer of miracles (1 Kings 19:8). As such he is a perfect voice for He Who Walks Behind the Rows. We have already heard about him but never met him.
Joshua, the elder brother is quite another cup of tea and the Book of Joshua marks the fulfillment of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, for God fulfills his promises to Joshua, the successor to Moses, by leading them to the Promised Land. With God’s help, the tribes of Israel united as a single people conquer the land of Canaan, and God through Moses and Joshua assigned each tribe their separate territories… The Book of Joshua is dramatic and contains three well-known miracle-filled episodes of the Lord, with Joshua leading the Israelites: the crossing of the Jordan River (3:1–4:24); the circling of the city walls with the Ark of the Covenant in the battle of Jericho (6:1–27); and the day the sun stood still when Joshua defeated Adonizedek the King of Jerusalem and four other Amorite Kings in the battle at Gibeon (Joshua 10:1–15). (http://biblescripture.net/Joshua.html) Note here again the initial of this battle that is the same as that of Gatlin.
In this Biblical context, let’s invest the Maize God. The authors and producers of the film have reviewed their Maya mythology and they must have found out that the Maize God, real name Jun Nal Ye or Hun Nal Ye, and in the Popol Vuh he is Hun Hunahpu, is an ambiguous character and he can be a monster in some ways, and he needs a lot of blood or human sacrifices to revive every year in Spring. So, no surprise that the big monster that was only running under the surface of the ground in the two previous films is fully extracted from this subterranean shelter or maybe kennel.
The twist here is that the two brothers are moved to a city. So, Elias needs to find a wasteland of some sort to sow his corn and thus have the cornfield and the environment needed for the monster to take root in it. No surprise that the monster is a lot more vicious since the earth in this industrial wasteland is no good and much polluted.
Strangely enough, though it is Joshua who defeats Jun Nal Ye in his form of a centipede of some sort, the basic carnivorous monster of Maya mythology. One way to be sacrificed to the gods was to be dropped and locked up in some box full of these centipedes. These animals are in a way carnivorous but particularly hungry for human flesh, which makes them more cannibalistic than anything else. The sacrificee is eaten up by the representatives of the Maize God, or any other God as for that.
The film seems to find it rather funny to play nasty tricks to various high school personnel, particularly the priest who seems to be the principal of this school. He is crucified upside down in his own chapel and finally put to eternal tormented sleep by a Holy Virgin that becomes suddenly alive and in want for someone to take care of, but a finalized care in this case. And it is Father Frank Nolan. The father of the two boys had been crucified in a way by being turned into a scarecrow by the maize itself.
The special effects are interesting, and it is at times difficult to see the difference between a dream and reality, at least at the beginning, but all dreams are visions of what is going to happen or of what happened in the past. There too we have some inspiration from the tradition of inspired shamans in primeval or ancient societies. It is such a vision at the age of 12, brought by total isolation without any water or food and at times with some hallucinogenic substances, that determined the spirit of a young Indian teenager, of an adult to be. Such initiation rites could last up to three days and girls were also part of the procedure. They could also be part of this inspired elite. One of the most famous women who was such an initiated member of the elite was Pocahontas, and as such she was in the know of how to grow and cure tobacco, which interested a lot her English husband, John Rolfe, who had stolen some tobacco seeds from the Spaniards in some West Indian island but he did not know how to grow the plant and then how to cure it. In about two to three years he was able to produce the famous Virginian tobacco that still exists and it was a tremendous success when John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas brought it to King James I in London in 1616. And all Indians supposedly had such a spirit, though a more realistic position describes a certain type of people who were prone to developing visions.
Enjoy this third episode of the Maize Corn Saga à la Stephen King.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.
A drunkard visiting some old barn for no reason what so ever, reopen an old covered up well and gets some water, which is strange for a wino. But well he is surprised too because there are bugs in his water, but by reopening the well he brings back to life Josiah who had been buried there, supposedly in the form of ashes, in fact in the form of a slightly burned body that had not decayed at all in all the years since his death and burial. That’s the problem with B movies, we always have the sad impression they lost the script girl along the way and that the script and the scenario do not seem to be logical. But his coming back from the dead as a living dead does not seem to satisfy him and he is going to use his malevolence and evil powers to force Margaret to bring her body and offer it to him, so he could become human again and really alive. That has to happen in the aforesaid barn where there is a pool of some kind and other equipment.
To force this issue or happy ending for him, he spreads some strange fever among the children, and he takes possession of their minds and they start obeying his orders. And he commits a few crimes, murders or other, gross and not that frightening because it is easy to see them coming. It has a lot to do with cutting, using blades, scythes, sickles, or other cutting tools or forks of the type. And I must say it is quite in line with the young, eight-year-old, Josiah who is a killer but to reform the world. In a way, this evil spirit in Gatlin is He Who Walks Behind the Rows, this being I have identified as being or compared to the Maize God of the Mayas and other American Indians, is supposed to reform the world to bring it to its own end. All human beings have to sacrifice themselves at the age of 18, and they have to stop doing any fornication, smoke any tobacco and use any drugs, and of course stop drinking alcohol. They have to move back to worshipping their maize and the Maize God only by being pure and virginal. Imagine June Rhodes who is always carrying Christian beads and using them, one at a time, with the proper mantra. And she is not a Catholic, which surprises and shocks her own daughter Grace who considers it is the very sign of her disease.
But enjoy a slight excerpt from 2Chronicles 34:1–7.
1. Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.
2. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and followed the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. 3. In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year, he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, and idols. 4. Under his direction the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them and smashed the Asherah poles and the idols. These he broke to pieces and scattered over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. 5. He burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and so he purged Judah and Jerusalem. 6. In the towns of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, as far as Naphtali, and in the ruins around them, 7. he tore down the altars and the Asherah poles and crushed the idols to powder and cut to pieces all the incense altars throughout Israel. Then he went back to Jerusalem.
You can ask me who on earth ever reads Chronicles? Anyone who does not want to die as dumb as my thumb. The end unluckily is not that great. The living dead people, in fact only one there should be, is dissolved by water laced with some supposedly aggressive stuff being sprinkled onto his body, since the quicksilver cartridges had not been efficient enough, but in the end of the end Grace Rhodes has to pick his scythe and puts him to death once and for all, though we know it is not forever since we are dealing with the Maize God and he is able to resuscitate every so often, for the planting of corn, and for the harvest, especially for the Corn Harvest Full Moon, provided he can benefit from some blood offering.
But true enough the plot is a little bit loose and you may get lost in the subtleties of the situation. Enjoy this one till the next resurrection of this monstrous young preacher who has had many Biblical names so far.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.
“Ezekiel 7 (King James Version) 7:1–9
“1 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 2 Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God unto the land of Israel. An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land. 3 Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations. 4 And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the Lord. 5 Thus saith the Lord God. An evil, an only evil, behold, is come. 6 An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come. 7 The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains. 8 Now, will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations. 9 And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee, and ye shall know that I am the Lord that smiteth.”
Ezekiel is considered the first prophet to have announced the apocalypse of the Book of Revelation, that is to say, the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment, Doomsday in one word. This God is a punishing god that requires total sacrifice, total dedication, total obedience. And we are in that somber and dark atmosphere from the very start of the film. Some going through tourists are trying to play tricks on this country and to tie up inflatable dolls on signposts and abandoned gas pumps, but the “recompense” comes straight away and these abominable tourists are put to death by the children, the followers of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. That Ezeekial is the child leading the community of children in their getting ready for the final offering.
A second batch of four younger tourists come up but they are frightened by a flying deflated inflatable doll and they run into a cornfield where they are met by the local prophet. They walk to the village and find out they will get no help there and the sheriff tells them there is a bus, morning and evening so, they run for the bus but of course, they only see its red backlights. So, they just go into an empty house to spend the night and find out that it is ready for them, beds made properly, food in the cupboards and the fridge. During the night they realize they have been trapped in the place.
To give some density to the tale one of these four younger tourists is the daughter of an alcoholic and violent father and she left home at the age of 14 leaving her younger brother behind. This younger brother, the total and abandoned victim of his own father heard some call and he decided to come to this Gatlin and this sect dedicated to He Who Walks Behind the Rows but he is going to be eighteen, and at that age, on their eighteenth birthday the believers have to go up to the top of a very high metal tower where there is a small contraption and he has to jump into the furnace at the bottom. The brother is eighteen tonight. He accepts to speak to his sister though, but at the last minute, he does not sacrifice himself, because, in spite of all purity and virginal orders, he has impregnated a girl in the cult, and he cannot abandon his child.
Now you have the situation in your own hands. What will happen to the four tourists? What will happen to the brother? What will happen to the sister? Who will be able to extinguish the furnace at the bottom of the “incinerator” if it is an incinerator? It looks more like the furnace in which the two Hero Twins walk one day and are burned to ashes. The hollow tower into which you have to jump sounds like the sinkholes or cenotes in which some sacrificed human beings were thrown, or into which some sacrificees jumped willfully to rejoin their god, and of course the Maize God, in Maya times. The small contraption at the top of this big silo-like tower sounds like the small temple at the top of a Maya pyramid where human sacrifices were performed. But be sure that the sheriff and his deputy and the two firemen will end badly, along with quite a few more.
Of course, the stitching is loose, the logic of the story is chaotic and very artificial. But the objective is just to make you either feel terrorized in some scenes or grossed out in some others. But there is slightly more to say. The brother is named Jacob. He is the brother of Jesus, the famous James, the apostle and the first bishop of Jerusalem that had a long conflict up to his violent death in the hands of the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple. He was also the main leader of the community of pure and virginal believers who were behind the Dead Sea Scrolls, halfway between ordinary and rather submissive Jews and the famous Zealots, Jewish rebels. Of course, I also remember that Jacob is a patriarch in the Old Testament, the grandson of Abraham, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and the traditional ancestor of the people of Israel. Stories about Jacob in the Bible begin at Genesis 25:19.
The pregnant girl, if I did not get lost in all the boys and girls is supposed to be Lily, which is a very prestigious flower in the Bible like in this passage.
Hosea 14:4–5 (King James Version)
4 I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. 5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
It is one favorite flower and metaphor in the Song of Songs. And this brings Solomon into the picture, his wisdom and an age of peace, justice, and balance. But that will probably not be the next stage because the prophet has been killed, thrown into the furnace and no angels were able to protect him like Daniel. I just wonder if these biblical references are not working backward: how can anyone believe those things that are the fodder of so many fanatics? But one thing is sure: corn is wicked, corn is bad, corn is damnation on earth, and it is, in a way, since it is one essential fodder for cattle and food for humans, enabling the multiplication of the population into overpopulation. And sure enough that biblical discourse clearly says that it is high time to stop procreating and fornicating and sinning day and night, morning and evening. Maybe penile self-sacrifice would be a way to reduce this overpopulation by stopping the birth of children. It does not seem to have been very successful with the Mayas, but maybe with Stephen King, we could get to some positive result: the reduction of the global population by at least 20% within twenty years.
Enjoy the break till the next episode of this picaresque saga.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.
The whole film is based on this character Isaac that was the prophet of the very first film fifteen years earlier and played by the same actor then and now. Note that’s about the distance between the two sons of Abraham. When you read the old story in the Old Testament you are surprised by the fact a slave can be used as a surrogate mother provided by the wife. Then you are surprised fifteen years later that the wife requires the banishment of the first son and his mother into the desert with no sufficient food or drink, so to plainly die there. We are then surprised by the sacrifice of Isaac on the order of God and his being saved at the last minute by God’s angel.
So, fifteen years later in this new film Isaac who had been destroyed in the first film is still alive in a total coma in some kind of empty clinic of course in Gatlin. A certain Hannah Martin arrives and causes a real stir in the village. She is recognized as the one who is supposed to come in the prophecy to revive Isaac (who had really been sacrificed as opposed to the Old Testament). She has the power to summon and gather the various actors of the drama of Isaac. We discover that Hannah is the daughter of Isaac, and she was born months after his demise. But we are going to discover he had had another son before, and there is then some rivalry between the daughter and the son as for the heritage of their father. The mother is there too but has nothing to say or very little. Hannah had been moved away from the village by the local doctor who is still here and explains that to her. No one wanted her to come back because her coming back would be the signal for the revival of the father no one had had the courage to put to death really, like incinerating him or whatever. They all believed in the prophecy and the only thing they could do was pray for it not to come true.
But it does and everyone has to disappear in a way though Isaac is really sacrificed a second time and Gabriel who performs the act is in his turn killed but is he really killed, since he is an archangel representing not He Who Walks Behind the Rows but the real God we know. And there again we move away from the Old Testament since there Isaac is saved by the angel. But let’s take a little more of this Gabriel. He speaks with the reason and common sense of a farmer growing corn in his fields in this city, but we know better than that.
Isaac: You question!
[to Gabriel walking in the cornfields]
Gabriel: What you’re doing is wrong!
Isaac: Do you speak for the others, or only for yourself?
Gabriel: I want what’s best for this town.
Isaac: You do what is written!
Gabriel: It’s a new generation! We don’t believe anyone!
Isaac: I don’t need to question! I have faith.
Gabriel: I don’t!
Isaac: Why question? When the answers are in front of you.
Gabriel: Like in that book you wrote!
Isaac: [grinning] He filled me with the words…
Isaac: You have faith the planets revolve around the sun, faith that the seeds become the corn we harvest.
Gabriel: Only because we planted those seeds.
Isaac: Directed by a force, that moves the universe.
Gabriel: …I suppose you’re that force!
Isaac: The force is unseen; it moves through the hearts and minds of people.
Gabriel: Couldn’t I be that force?
Isaac: [smiling] You know nothing… Buddha, Gandhi, even Jesus Christ had visions of a perfect world… My vision is absolute!
Gabriel: And who ended up nailed to a cross?
Isaac: [glaring] Go! before you corrupt my innocent children.
But that is just the point. If we do not accept the idea of a God behind the rows who pulls the strings of the human puppets; if we consider it is only the force of nature helped in the case of corn by the hand of man since corn cannot sow itself by itself, then where is our freedom? Behind this discourse, there is the idea that we can sow the corn, but we do not make it grow, and yet then, in the end, we are good enough to harvest it. This idea is ahead of its time in 1999. It has to do with being sustainable, respecting the environment, accepting we, humans, are not all-powerful and have to accept nature, our natural earth as more important than our domineering phantasms.
This film brought some deeper meaning than previous ones and the logic of the story is in the fact the same actor plays the main role with fifteen years of aging, just like in the story. Enjoy the grossness of it and dream of a haunted hospital, and you may then think of Kingdom Hospital that was not yet on screens but may have been in Stephen King’s mind one way or another. But do not get tricked by 666. No, it is not the Apocalypse, just a nasty devil, not even a Beast or a Dragon.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.
Some time and sequences later, one little boy drowns a stripper, Stephanie, three other little kids decide to kill one of the other tenants, a cranky wheel-chair-bound man and push him off the landing into the staircase shaft. Then they go ripping around the hallways playing in his wheelchair, when an older boy, Abel, appears and gets them under control. No more laughing, and no please, and no smile.
The last surviving tenant, Stan (note how his name sounds like Satan, and yet he is as harmless as a fly on a piece of cake), finds Jamie and warns her to get out of town. Stan then goes down to the basement where, surrounded by children, he is terrified out so much that he falls over dead.
The kids catch up with Jamie and take her down to the basement. The preacher child, Abel, and the rest of the brood come out to confront her. The ghosts are now seen with various burn marks and scars and one of the ghosts is Jamie’s grandma Hattie. (A summary vastly edited from Headhunter’s Horror House Wiki).P
The only Biblical character is the Child-preacher Abel and this reference has little to do with the previous films, except that he is bound to be killed, destroyed, annihilated, like any respectful Abel by some Cain, though the film has no one close to this character. But let me retell you that story from the Bible.
Genesis 4: 1–16 (King James Version)
“1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. 2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in process of time, it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had no respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6 And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. 8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 9 And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? 10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; 12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 13 And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 15 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. 16 And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”
With such a Biblical heritage Abel can neither be a terrorist nor have any prone inclination to be violent, not to mention be a killer. And the only one who had a gun and could maybe kill some of these kids who are nothing but ghosts after all, or living dead, if he has special quicksilver cartridges or silver bullets. But he does not have none of neither (Holy Trinity of negatives), but the ghosts or living dead probably can’t do too much damage, except frighten him to death. A good old heart attack to take care of him.
After that Jamie, note it is the feminine form of James, and James, Jesus’ brother, ended very badly in the hands of the High Priest of the Jerusalem Temple, and that is a real horror story: to be thrown over the walls of Jerusalem, to be forced to undress completely, then to dig his own tomb or so, in which he is buried up to the neck and then finally to be stoned to death and abandoned to be a petit-four for the roaming dogs or wolves or whatever other night-time wild animals. Jamie is nearly getting there when she finally reaches the ground floor and the lobby of the apartment block in her hectic descent. Maize grows instantly everywhere and blocks her. She manages to extract herself from the lobby but it is not better outside She is nearly strangled by the Maize when Officer, or rather Detective Inspector Armbrister comes up and saves her from that horrible end.
To find corn that dreadful and menacing, there must be something wrong in the minds of spectators. Corn is absolutely harmless. To make it a monstrous cannibalistic vampiristic ghoul seems to plunge the roots of this fear in some very old culture that has nothing to do with good western, banal, European culture. This is normal since Maize is an American plant that only arrived in Europe relatively recently and definitely after the 16th century, just like potatoes in the 18th century. But the destruction of the nest of this ghostlike living dead cult is performed in a rather more effective way/ it is blown up systematically by the natural gas for the cookers in the apartments, one after another to the very last.
But the last touch on this Obsessive-Compulsive sequel of this mythic and cultish “Children of the Corn” story is the fact that train-tracks are running something like fifty yards from the entrance, and trains are regularly going by, and we are in the middle of nowhere. Who would accept to have luxury apartments or condominiums there? Probably insane people. And somewhere on the lower floors, there is a nursery growing with artificial light all kinds of vegetables. It was a little bit too early for marihuana, but I am sure in one corner or other there might have been some, well hidden under a table or behind leeks and pumpkins. Then high drug-addicts would not mind the trains if they could even hear them
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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.
We start with a prelude telling us the original events in Gatlin, the children killing all adults over 18 (premature, mind you, since majority-age was still then 21). A boy-preacher, not yet even in puberty is leading a mass of children he has hypnotized or mesmerized into such a killing campaign. Note the suggestion in the numerous sequels that originally the whole band committed collective suicide by burning themselves all in a tent except one who escaped and survived to be caught up in the seventh film. They succeeded and for a long time were left alone though the fields were sowed and harvested. By whom? That was in 1963 and will be confirmed later in the church register where all those dead or rather killed in 1963 are listed with their death date. But we are twelve years later, which means a good number of kids here who are under twelve maybe, under eleven definitely, and some even younger are not original children. They were born after 1963.
In fact, all those here in 1975 were at the most five years old in 1963. That means very few are original children. The discourse about sacrifice and purification is clear. Those who are coming of age are just merged into the corn by sacrificing their lives to He Who Walks Behind the Rows. But then the child-preacher of 1963 must have been dead for a while and must have returned to the corn some years ago, some numerous years ago. The solution is simple, before getting of age, so around 17 for the girls and Just before 18 for the boys, they go through a fertilizing ceremony in which the boy or young man impregnates the girl or young woman and she will deliver a baby 9 months later, just three months before her departing to be reborn in the corn. And all the little ones are just the children of the Children of the Corn. Even Malachai, the executing officer of Issac, the boy prophet, is obviously connected to a young woman who is pregnant. His time is coming soon, and he will have to leave, and his “wife” just about a few months later.
That rewriting is absolutely frightening. If a community like Gatlin gets cut off from the world for any reason whatsoever, they might very well get to managing their isolation in such a way and any outlanders will be supplementary sacrifices for He Who Walks Behind the Rows to be happy and protective and productive. Then the film is a lot more frightening than even the original. No outlander can be accepted, and no escape can be tolerated.
Of course, Vicki is an easy prey when surrounded by about sixty or seventy kids armed with all kinds of weapons. She is locked up in the car outside the church while Burt is checking the church, after the local diner where he had discovered the last calendar on the wall was 1963. Burt though is another tougher problem for the cultish believers and fanatics. He knows how to fight, and he kills quite a few with his bare hands and he is also using some tricks to make two attack him at the same time and kill each other. He is haunted by Vietnam and in the corn, and most of the film is spent in the corn jungle, he can see his fellow marines fighting against the Vietcong, and sure enough, he even sees one Vietcong. But little by little he loses his mind and he finds out, he imagines, he fantasizes that the corn is attacking him; But of course, that is not anything but a nightmare, awake.
He finally gets out of the corn and finds himself in the clearing where the children are performing their sacrifices. Burt thus discovers his wife Vicki on a corn cross dead and probably tortured with corn stalks in her eyes and let there to die slowly on her cross, next to the blue man, i.e. the local sheriff who was turned into a scarecrow some twelve years ago. We then shift to the next morning. The bodies of the dead kids have been collected and they are going to be incinerated in front of the third corn cross on which Burt has been sacrificed. The hardly eight-year-old boy-preacher Issac will set the pile of bodies on fire, and we know his years are counted.
Malachai had revealed with a five-or-six-year-old kid who was telling him his dream he called a vision that he will probably be the next prophet and the blasphemous child answers: “I don’t want to be a prophet.” He is so right.
This last film has kept little of the old Biblical context. Even Issac is some distorted Isaac but it is not Isaac really. In this cultish community, a new preacher or prophet is chosen every eleven or twelve years, as soon as the newly appointed one at the age of seven or eight has to go back to the corn on his eighteenth birthday. This version loses a lot of the hostility to fundamentalist and fanatic Biblical reference, but it sure builds a frightful vision of what may happen when a community of children only regresses to absolute solitude and isolation. This is a rewriting of The Lord of the Flies but not a desert island, mind you, in Nebraska, USA, just off a Highway.
I guess, when you lose something on one side, you gain something on the other. Here we gain in the intensity of the fear you may experience, though we lose all the mundanity of two or three kids surviving on the underground side of this community. That makes the story a lot denser and a lot more meaningful about young people who are starting to preach at the age of twelve or thirteen, even if it is on climate change. That frightens some politicians in Great Britain so much that the 16-year-old young people will not be granted the right to vote in the December 12 elections. They might, after all, vote for Europe, which would make the Brexiters erupt into spectacular convulsions.
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU