... aka: Stephen King: The Night of the Crow
... aka: Stephen King's Night Shift Collection II
Children of the Corn (1984) is one film whose enduring popularity is completely lost on me. While I understand the nostalgia factor (I too remember being scared by it... when I was about 8 years old), the film certainly doesn't hold up well for me as an adult viewer. Filmed a year before its bloated, silly cousin, Disciples runs just 19 minutes and is a much cheaper and starker, a more succinct and effective adaptation of the same Stephen King short story. "Children" was first published in a 1977 issue of Penthouse Magazine and later turned up in King's 1978 collection "Night Shift." After several hit adaptations of his work, King began to offer film students and independent filmmakers a special discount; allowing them to adapt any of his short stories for just 1 dollar. This led to Jeffrey C. Schiro's THE BOOGEYMAN (1982), Frank Darabont's THE WOMAN IN THE ROOM (1983) and this one right out of the gate. Schiro and Darabont's shorts were paired together for the VHS release Stephen King's Night Shift Collection in 1986. The tape did well (as did pretty much anything with King's name attached to it at the time), so the same distributors got together Disciples and Jack Garrett's haunted hotel opus The Night Waiter (1987), which was not based on anything King wrote, for Stephen King's Night Shift Collection II in 1989. Later, Interglobal Home Video released these, too. Their "Night Shift Collection: Volume One" included only Darabont's short, while their "Night Shift Collection: Volume Two" included only Schiro's (which they misspelled "The Boogyman"). Yes, at one time there were two different Part I and Part II's of these tapes, so buyers beware if you're looking to purchase used VHS copies.
Set in Jonah, Oklahoma (Children placed the action in Gatlin, Nebraska where the original story is set), this starts out in 1971 when a small group of children, seemingly led by the mole-faced Billy (Steven Young), fall over into the dark side, start worshiping some evil God, view crows as being sacred, carry pouches of corn around their necks and toss bugs and frogs into a boiling pot. They eventually decide to slaughter their parents and all of the rest of the adults in town. Twelve years later, bickering couple Vicky (Eleese Lester) and Burt (Gabriel Folse) are passing through the area when they accidentally run over a little boy who jumps out into the road from a field. After inspecting the dead body and finding a corn cob knife sticking in him, they determine that they hadn't actually killed him, stick the body in their trunk and continue on; eventually arriving in Jonah, which appears to an uninhabited ghost town. Vicky insists they leave, Burt insists they stick around, and all of the creepy kids - again led by the now-adult Billy (played by director Woodward) - come crawling out of the cornfields brandishing axes and other weapons.
Clearly made on a very low-budget, this has pretty amateurish acting, but the visuals and an effective music score are pretty good compensation. Instead of over-explaining things, it opts for a more ambiguous approach, which results in a creepier film than the later feature or the 2009 TV remake. In Germany, it received a separate DVD release under the title Night of the Crow.