Children of the Corn: A Letter to Burt

Children of the Corn 001E (Short Crop for Post)

Dear Burt,

Why must you go into the corn? Why not use common sense, when common sense is so…common? “He who walks behind the rows” is, you guessed it, there behind the rows (or burrowing under them), ready to kill you, in some stupid way that corn kills people. Yes, it’s a cheesy, not-at-all-scary, not-at-all special, retro-effects movie, but must you be so cheesy too (or should I say corny)? This “thing in the corn” even parts the plants, welcoming its victims to their death. If people will be so dumb as to follow, then I guess you can’t blame it for being so obvious! But, you can blame yourself. I hate to be harsh, but I must be honest. Wish me luck holding back! I have more questions!

Why, Burt, must you loiter (as in stay a really long time, for no good reason) in a deserted town, where something very strange, surely dangerous has occurred? Why must you stay when you are free to leave? For god sakes, Burt! There are corn stalks everywhere and zero people! Wake up and smell the kernels!

Oh, and why, Burt, must you leave your girlfriend alone in a house with the only person you’ve seen in the town—especially after she asks if it’s safe? (Linda’s days of kicking Terminator butt are still years away!) Hello! Knock, knock! Is anyone home in your head? Your girlfriend just warned you of her impending doom! She asks if it’s safe to be left alone and you say, in your cool-dude way, “It’s weird here, but it’s safe.’” Really? Are you kidding me? And could it get any worse? Hell yes, thanks to you! The killer (the one who killed the child in the corn, the one you forgot about along with the dead kid in your trunk) might be in this town, with your girlfriend, in the house–the place where she warned you, the place where you left her! The only thing “weird” here, Burt, is your…lack of intelligence, to put it politely!

“What’s up with this corn” [and my stupid boyfriend]? ~ Vicky (What she said, and what she really thought.)

Oh! I’ve got another question, Burt. It’s stumping even the most forgiving people I know. How does a man, with a missing girlfriend in a dangerous,“weird” place worry about his arm boo-boo? How do you forget about her peril? The kids nursing your arm couldn’t take care of themselves! You don’t even think about your girlfriend (for even a second), until one of the kids says, “Are you looking for that lady?” Only then you seem mildly concerned; she might as well just be “that lady,” as anonymous and unimportant as it sounds. Excuse me, but your girlfriend (yes, that’s actually who she is) is tied to a corn stalk about to be sacrificed to the thing that “walks behind the rows” and, yes, burrows under the corn like a monster mole. “Outlander! Outlander! We have your woman!” yells Malachai. Damn right, he does Burt; and could you have made it any easier? I think not. (Or, perhaps you could have delivered her herself!) Be a man, not a mole yourself! Grow a brain, a spine, and think if you can. Rescue your woman who is far smarter than you. Trust me! You will need her to think for you and care for you, till death do you part!

Oh, and Mr. Man-Who-Thinks-The-Dangerous-Corn-Town-Is-Safe, wake up and smell the maize! (Yes, now I’m running out of synonyms!) Don’t forget to kill or disable the red-headed minion from Hell who is chasing you and your girlfriend to kill you–and yes, I mean your girlfriend too, if you care. When you hit him (the idiot they call Malachai) in the knees and knock him down, make sure he’s dead. Make double-damn sure! Make sure he doesn’t get up again before you run off. Yes, he’ll just chase you again and try to kill you again…until he’s–you got it (or maybe you don’t)—dead! Oh, and when you have the choice (as you did) between punching a monster and slapping him, by all means, punch him, and punch him hard! Slapping is for sissies; monsters will survive the slap and kill you…every time! Sign up for Double Tapping 101, Burt! The course may just save you and your girlfriend too…if you care.

Yes, I know that even good horror movies have characters doing dumb things on occasion. I know it takes a few stupid moves to keep the plot going; of course, if everyone did the smartest things (or just used common sense), the monsters wouldn’t have a chance, would they? If double tapping was the golden rule, Jason, Freddy, and even our corn-thumping Malachi wouldn’t pass the movie’s mid mark. Besides, some people really do stupid things in real life. I see it happen every day. Art imitates life to great effect sometimes; when done to excess, it is annoying at best; at worst, it is Children of the Corn.

“In this dream, the lord did come to me and he was a shape. It was he who walks behind the rows. And I did fall on my knees in terror and hide my eyes, lest the fierceness of his face strike me dead,” lest he make me watch Children of the Corn…for eternity!

And how, again I ask, do children take care of themselves for years all alone? With no adults, they’re clean, coiffed and well-clothed here, like the spoiled and parented among us! How do they do it? (Not that I’m blaming you for this one, Burt; I’m just curious.) Where do these “children” get their hair styles (shampooed and curled to perfection)? Where do they get their food? There’s lots of corn in that field where curiously no men (or women) exist to plant it. Hmmmm. Maybe that thing that burrows beneath the rows plants it himself, when not killing characters like you!

How do children kill every adult in a town, in just one day…or any number of days? Just how well can kids really pull off such a massacre? Before you say “easily enough,” think again. The welcome sign for Gatlin, Nebraska says “Population 968.” Could barely two dozen kids kill over 900 adults in a single day? No way! And don’t say that the corn god helps out, because he doesn’t; he only burrows behind the rows.

And what about fertility in the corn? If the 24 kids in the movie (give or take a few) were the only children of over 900 adults, then procreation problems were also abound! Yes! These ears were popping some dud kernels, indeed! This is not just unlikely, it’s impossible–by any standards of reality, for any population! According to the movie, kids are sacrificed to the corn god “on the first night of their nineteenth year.” But, even that attrition rate over just three years should leave more kids for the movie than 24, again, give or take a few.

Oh yeah, and where is the outside world during this corn-cult extravaganza–this murder-party mayhem? A few days out of the loop are possible? A week would be a stretch. But three years? Forget it! People have friends, relatives and social connections. Soon enough, they call by phone or come in person. Businesses and governments have contacts and communication that go on, even if children somehow kill a whole town! The so-called “outlanders” and “interlopers” (of which you and your girlfriend total two) should be flooding the place looking for people and answers, before the end of a month, let alone three years! There should be countless more couples like you and Vicky; or, maybe they were smarter than you and chose not to come!

“I brought you upon this earth, but let not the flesh pollute the corn! Cast him instead upon the rows!” ~ Isaac

Children of the Corn is based on a short story from Stephen King’s Night Shift novel. Speaking of King, he once said the now famous quote, “Terror is the finest emotion, so I will try to terrorize the reader.” So, I wonder what King thinks about the movie version of his story with you “acting stupidly.” Does he believe it achieves an ability to “terrorize” anyone? Surely not! It’s far outside the world of art King creates. No, I’ve never read his story, but now I feel that I must. “He who walks behind the rows” compels me, in an odd redemption-seeking way. Surely King’s version is better than the movie; and, right now, I’m really needing to feel better…at least about corn. It’s one of my favorite foods, and my favorite food deserves better.

Is there anything good about Children of the Corn—the movie, that is? Sadly, there is but a brief collage of true horror in this overall failure. The opening scenes of children killing adults are truly disturbing, and what we’d see in a better film. Of course, evil children awaken innate fears within us all, because they are, at best, a juxtaposition of malevolence with innocence that is familiar and real. Children shouldn’t be murderous; when they are, they are the stuff of nightmares and worse. We are vulnerable around them, exactly because we don’t fear them. What an advantage children have, when they are evil! It’s a shame that Children of the Corn didn’t take that advantage and follow the path of adult-killing kids it started, finding King’s “finest emotion”—“terror.” It’s a shame it took a detour, to a disappointing end, further lost in the banality of “the rows.”

Perhaps the most bizarre (but thankfully not stupid) thing about all of this is the fact that I remember, once upon a time, not noticing all the lame things in Children of the Corn. But, alas; hope has prevailed! Whether age, wisdom, experience or something else is the cause, I have finally seen the movie (or its attempt at being one) for all it’s worth—which is very little. Children of the Corn was a bad movie, during a time when movies could be a lot better. There are no excuses for its canyon-size plot holes, poor special effects, stupid character decisions, and things that don’t ring true even in movies. Yes! I could go on and on, bashing the movie for pages more. But, ultimately it’s not worth my time or yours. Besides, Burt, my case has been well made already. “He who walks behind the rows,” will walk behind me no longer. I will never see this corn-harvesting mess of a movie again….and I am happy about that. As for the sequels said to be worse, I can’t imagine! Just the thought of more that are worse is the biggest “terror” of all, but far from “the finest.”

“I am the word and the giver of his laws.” ~ Isaac

“You’re not going through the corn, are you?” Hell no, I say! I’m smart, and I think before I act. No, I don’t do stupid things; there’s no way I will, and you can’t make me!  There’s something walking behind the rows that sometimes burrows under the ground like a mole (a really big mole) and kills people too. I think I’ll stick to the road, pass up that deserted town where the child-killing psycho lives, and pass that corn stalk bidding welcome! Better yet, I’ll take my girlfriend; and I won’t leave her alone for a second! For me, chivalry is alive and well…even in the corn.

Burt, I often wonder if you’re still alive. Or, will this letter be returned to sender? If you’re lucky, fate has somehow spared your life, all these years since Gatlin, back in ’84. If so, give me a call or shoot me an email. If you’re stuck in the ‘80s and can’t keep up, feel free to drop me a letter snail-mail style. I’m always happy to give you my advice. Like Vicky says, “Send her a get well card from Seattle. Let’s get the hell out of here!”


Chris Rennirt

P.S. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false profit are, and shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever”…cursed to see Children of the Corn…over and over again! If, by chance, you’ve never seen “the devil that deceived them,” the trailer below is punishment enough!

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