Tag Archives: Children of the Corn

Enter the Labyrinth

Trying not to think too much about Children of the Corn, I visited a corn maze over the weekend. This particular autumnal activity highlights just how much detail a human mind can pick out in a mass of sameness. You can tell if you’ve been to this particular juncture before—that oddly shaped leaf, or that peculiar stone, or that specific ear with the missing teeth will give you the clues. This particular maze, however, also uses printed clues. Before you enter the labyrinth, you may choose your species of guidance. There were 4-H clues, Girl Scout clues, history clues, and more. One of my companions handed me the scriptural clues. Although it may have been an obvious connection, I thought about it in terms of salvation. A corn maze is not unlike life in the real world; confusion, false leads, and aimless wandering. Having a guide—in my case, knowing the Bible—will lead you out.


Of course, the point of a corn maze is the fun of getting lost. This particular farm had eight acres dedicated to fall fun, and our party did get hopelessly mired in one location and had to ask for help from the corn cop who wanders like a friendly minotaur, or maybe a personal Daedalus or helpful Ariadne, directing those who’ve lost their way. The idea is that once you enter the maze, you look for numbered clues at various junctures—only a few crossroads have them—and answer the question for instructions about which way to go next. Even with the Bible in hand, or in head, we managed to lose our way. Baptized by a sudden cloudburst, we sought shelter in an open field. The only way ahead was to press on.

Those who’ve been with this blog for any length of time know that it is intentionally kind of a labyrinth, often using metaphor. In the case of the literal corn maze and its clues, minimal biblical knowledge was required to figure out the correct way to turn. The trick was even after getting all the hints, there was still some distance to go. Wet, confused, and having only our wits to go on, by trial and error we made it through. Our instructions—for we each had a different set of questions—only got us so far. My biblical guide was damp and see-through with the soaking we received. Metaphors were falling as fast as the rain. After all, the point of a corn maze is that you don’t get your money’s worth unless you get well and truly lost.

Corn is King

For those who no longer believe in Hell, the DMV can serve a very useful function. Actually, the Department of Motor Vehicles is truly the great leveler of society—just about everyone has to cross its threshold, it is just that they all try to do it at the same time. Waiting in lines has always been a problem for me. It’s not that I think my time is more important than anybody else’s, it’s just that I have so much to do without standing in endless lines. Especially since work keeps me away from useful pursuits for over eleven hours out of every twenty-four, weekends seem somehow too sacred to be spent at the DMV. But the Devil must be paid his due. When paying the Devil, I take along Stephen King to pass the time. So it was over the weekend that I found myself reading “Children of the Corn.”

Of course, like most horror movie fans, I have seen the movie a time or two. I’d never read the story before. This is one of the King tales based most directly on religion gone wrong; the children, as any reader/watcher knows, have distorted Christianity into a midwestern corn-god religion. It may seem unlikely to urban folk, but I have stood next to corn stalks that have towered high above my head, ominously silent like triffids on a sunny Wisconsin afternoon. It can be unnerving. Almost a religious experience. But turning back to King, the story differs from the movie, of course, and what the written version makes clear is that the children distort the New Testament, but leave the Old Testament intact. King, like many horror writers, is biblically literate. Yet, this picture of Old Testament god versus New Testament god is stereotypical and a little misguided. The god of Christianity is a deity of many moods. The wrath in Revelation, or even some of Jesus’ sermons, however, stems directly from Yahweh’s darker moments.


How do we know what is demanded by this mercurial deity? The theological ethicists argue over this daily, but nowhere in the Bible does God have a problem with people treating each other as they would want to be treated. Some of the punishments for minor infractions seem a bit severe—or very severe—but the basic principle, given the Weltanschuung in which it operates, need not cause undue fear. Women, homosexuals, gentiles, Jews, anybody reading parts of the Bible will no doubt be offended by the details. As the saying goes, the Devil is in the details. And that’s why I’m spending my entire Saturday morning at the DMV.

Corny Children

Once upon a time, if you wanted to see a movie you had to go to a theater or wait until it ran on television. This is stretching my memory back a long way, so indulge me if I only remember that four channels existed in those days, and you had to wait years for movies to appear at a time when you could actually be home to see them. Fast forward a few years and the VCR was invented. I remember being impressed that you could actually rent movies you’d always wanted to see, within reason. If you watched them too often they wore out. Then the electronic revolution came. This is all by way of excuse for why I’ve only just started to watch movies that came out in my younger years. Children of the Corn, although critically panned, was a financial success in my college days when I started watching horror movies. When I finally watched it yesterday, I realized it was a natural candidate for this blog’s running commentary on horror and religion.

What I had not fully appreciated is that the movie is a cautionary tale centering around a sacrificial cult. While the movie does have its problems, the concept of children taking the religion they hear from adults seriously runs throughout the film. Understanding gods as bloodthirsty demanders of sacrifice is a gruesome staple of all monotheistic religions. Someone’s got to die for the rest to be saved. While Fundamentalists take comfort in the substitutionary atonement of the “once for all” nature of sacrifice, in the film, the children erect crosses and sacrifice adults to “he who walks behind the rows” – a typical Stephen King kind of monster. Monster or not, the children believe he is a god.

Belief is the guy-wire for religion. The reality behind that belief is open to question, otherwise multiple religions would not exist. Children of the Corn confuses the issue by presenting “he who walks behind the rows” as a legitimate supernatural entity, one who is vanquished by a passage from Revelation. The truly disturbing aspect, however, is the complete, unquestioning devotion of the children. When children are raised in intolerant religions today, we are also planting corn that will lead to some unholy reaping in the future. Perhaps the message of the film was more trenchant than most critics were willing to admit back then. Today it is certainly more believable, given many religions’ demonstrations of their destructive powers.