The Crazy Story of Iran’s Role in an Iowa Made Cult Horror Film
There's nothing particularly sweet about the film Children of the Corn. Instead, it's a gruesome horror flick from start to finish. However, there's more to the story than initially understood.
Upon its 1984 release, I recall being excited about the Iowa-shot film as a kid. However, I was disappointed seeing it in the theater but decided to revisit the psycho-religious slasher film this past weekend on Amazon Prime.
As the story goes, Children of the Corn is based on a short story by famed scary story writer Stephen King. Unfortunately, while King took a stab at writing the screenplay, his version was passed over by Director Fritz Kiersch for the one drafted by George Goldsmith.
Although the disturbing story is set in the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska, the film was shot in the tiny western Iowa towns of Hornick, Whiting, Salix, and Sergeant Bluff.
As a movie-going midwest kid, seeing a theater-worthy film made in Iowa was exciting. Still, upon viewing, it was disturbing and made rural America look like hell.
At the time of its 1984 theater release, the film didn't exactly get rave reviews. Perhaps it was the low-budget production and the creepy murdering corn kids played by John Franklin as Isaac and Courtney Gains as the murderous Malachai.
Yet, the film has garnered a cult following, with several sequels in the film series going directly to video and DVD.
In true horror film fashion, the town's adults are brutally murdered by the kids indoctrinated into a bloodthirsty religious cult led by the sadistic child preacher Isaac and kept in line by his sidekick Malachai.
All was going well for the Children of the Corn until two recent college grads traveling to Seattle accidentally stumbled into town after hitting a runaway kid on the nearby highway. Vicky and Bert (Linda Hamilton & Peter Horton) are soon in the middle of the sadistic craziness as the religious nightmare entraps them and pits the couple against the mind-controlled kids.
Although film reviewers and audiences mostly missed it at the time, Goldsmith used a horror film to expose the dangers and evils of religious fundamentalism. The screenwriter later said that much of the story was a metaphor for the 1978 Iranian Revolution.
The fictiious town takeover by quasi-religious zealots acting for an evil "God" is based on Ayatollah Khomeini and his revolutionary guard taking over Iran in the late 1970s. Burt and Vicky became analogous to the American hostages held for more than a year, which captivated the United States media as well as influenced American-Middle-East politics to this day.
The overall film is pretty corny and predictable. Still, when put in the context of Goldsmith's intention, it's easy to see how the Iran analogy for Children of the Corn was missed or misunderstood at the time. But today, Children of the Corn is often considered a cult classic in the 1980s horror film genre. Adding in the Ayatollah and Iran connection all these years later and the film suddenly has a deeper subtext worth studying.
You can view Children of the Corn today on Amazon Prime.