Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 folk horror film, Children Of The Corn,spawned an entire franchise than includes ten films with an eleventh in production that follow the malevolent entity that entices children to commit atrocities. The film is adapted from Stephen King’s 1977 short story of the same name and is set in the fictitious town of Gatlin, Nebraska. Each of the films follow a similar formula but each are different in their own unique ways. Here are how they stack up against one another.
While Kiersch’s 1984 film received mixed reviews from fans and critics, it developed a cult following that resulted in David Price’s 1993 Children Of The Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice. Due to the film’s amassing fan based, Price’s installment skyrocketed the franchise towards a consistent output of feature-length films. Unlike any other Stephen King adaptations such as IT (2017) and Carrie (1976), Children Of The Corn has produced the highest quantity of films around a single source material.
From the 1980s to the 2020s, Children Of The Corn’s franchise shows no sign of stopping or slowing down. With so many installments all sharing one source of inspiration, ranking them from worst to best is absolutely necessary as the eleventh film approaches its expected 2021 release.
In 2001, Guy Magar’s Children Of The Corn: Revelation released to some of the worst reviews the franchise has ever witnessed. When Jamie Lowell (Claudette Mink) travels to Omaha, Nebraska to search for her grandmother, she is faced with an apartment building overrun with children who have mysteriously appeared from within cornfields. The film culminates to Jamie escaping and setting the souls of the children free. Children Of The Corn: Revelation is an unfulfilling addition to the series and offers no true terror. It suffers from bad casting and a remarkably drab screenplay. Ultimately, it was assumed this film would end the franchise due to how poorly executed it was but, somehow, it did not.
Ethan Wiley’s 1998 Children Of The Corn 5: Fields Of Terror is regarded as the franchise’s most poorly executed film in the entire series. When a group of teenagers arrive in the middle of nowhere, they are confronted by the leader of the children of the corn Ezekial. Even with a star-studded cast including Eva Mendes, Ahmet Zappa, and David Carradine, the film does not have a consistent plot line and is perhaps one of the most confusing installments to date. It is nearly impossible to follow a through line from start to end. Because of this and the poor executed, the fifth installment belongs at the bottom of this list.
John Gulager’s Children Of The Corn: Runaway (2018) follows the story of a pregnant woman who escapes from the children in the corn only to find that she and her child have been followed to their new town. Similar to the 1998 film, this one lacks a coherent plot as well. It ends with more questions than it does answers and suffers from poor casting and an overabundance of problematic stereotypes. While it broke from the formulaic nature of the franchise, it did so unsuccessfully.
Joel Soisson’s ninth installment in the franchise, Children Of The Corn: Genesis (2011), follows a couple as they seek refuge at a compound only to find that members of it belong to a cult that worships a possessed boy. Had this film been a standalone, it could have been a great contribution to the horror genre but due to its emphasis on being a Children Of The Corn movie and following its formulaic pattern, it ultimately falls flat. It is a lackluster and forgetful film to say the least, but it has some redeeming qualities that would have done much better in a standalone film.
Donald P. Borchers made for television 2009 film Children Of The Corn was an attempt to remake the entire franchise for a 21st century audience. It is nearly the exact same plot as the original but lacks the excitement that the 1984 film had to offer. The plot follows a couple as they encounter a group of children who pray to a mysterious entity hidden in the cornfield. With poor acting and casting, the film is nearly impossible to take seriously. Besides its obvious faults directly replicating the original but failing to do so successfully, it can be enjoyed for walking a line between horror and humor.
Kari Skogland’s 1999 film Children Of The Corn 666: Isaac’s Return follows the original canon of the pre-2000s films. When the daughter of the original cult named Hannah returns to Gatlin, Nebraska to uncover her past, she encounters the original cult leader named Isaac. As the film progresses, Hannah is subjected to the same violence and torment present in nearly every installment. The film is not necessarily bad, it serves better as a sequel to the original rather than being the sixth in the series. It may be unremarkable but the continuation of Isaac’s storyline makes it unforgettable.
James D. R. Hickox’s 1995 film Children Of The Corn 3: Urban Harvest follows the story of two boys who are adopted from rural Nebraska into a Chicago family. After arriving, the cult rituals of the original films follow. The film later reveals that it is not only the entity who resides in the corn that is able to possess others but it is also the corn itself. The film is an attempt to create a way to expand the franchise by including this plot device. Besides that, it is a relatively lackluster addition that leaves more to be desired. It has a poorly executed climax and, as a result, the plot suffers immensely.
The 1996 film by Greg Spence, Children Of The Corn 4: The Gathering, focuses on a medical student as she returns to her hometown in Nebraska. The main character Grace Rhodes (Naomi Watts) discovers that the children of the town are coming down with a mysterious illness connected to the cult rituals of the past. With impressive acting from its main character, this film has only minor faults. It showcases how great the series can be if true effort is put in to amplify the terror that King captured in his original story.
After nearly ten years, David Price directed the sequel titled Children Of The Corn 2: The Last Sacrifice in 1992 to follow up the original 1984 film. Departing from the film’s fictional town of Gatlin, two journalists find themselves in Hemingford, Nebraska. When they arrive, they encounter the cult of children who pray to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”. It is a well thought out sequel to the original film, and follows the original storyline with little to no issue. The film also allowed for the franchise’s universe to open up beyond Gatlin into its surrounding towns, which would presumably allow for more unique sequels.
To no surprise, Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 Children Of The Corn film is by far the best in the franchise. It follows the source material better than any other has so far and shows an extraordinary amount of effort towards creating a horrifying experience for its audience. While critical responses are mixed, it has stood the test of time with its ability to capture the horror of the child cult that prays to “He Who Walks Behind the Corn.” The murderous children in this film have made their mark and remain an integral piece of 1980s horror history. It is horrific enough to cause a need to avoid cornfields at all costs.
As the eleventh film comes closer to reaching its release year (date has yet to be announced), reflecting on the franchise’s astronomical number of sequels is essential. Kurt Wimmer’s Children Of The Corn remake of the original film will, hopefully, do the original justice.
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