Fifty pages. That is the general length of Stephen King's original short story that served as the inspiration for Children of the Corn. Actual page count varies depending on publication, but the story that originated in the pages of Penthouse (true story) has been much more prolific on the big and little screen.
While only the first two films were released theatrically, Children of the Corn: Runaway is the ninth film in the franchise. Generally speaking, all of the sequels pale in comparison to the original film and there's not much in Children of the Corn: Runaway to reverse that thought process.
The original story featured a bickering couple lost in middle America who strike a child with their car and unwittingly find themselves trapped by a cult of children who worships "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" and kills anyone over the age of 19, including themselves. See, that's creepy. That is Stephen King at his best and at around 50 pages the story is short, sweet and allows your mind to fill in the blanks.
Unfortunately, filmmakers have spent the last 30 years trying to paint the picture in every way imaginable and let's face it, most of them were terrible. Children of the Corn: Runaway isn't the worst of the bunch, but it is the latest example of a horror franchise that needs to be put on pause until there is something unique and compelling to say.
Children of the Corn: Runaway follows Ruth, who is presumably the pregnant teen from the end of Stephen King's original story. Ruth escaped Gatlin and has spent the last ten years running from the evil of her upbringing and caring for her young son. Unfortunately, the evil from Gatlin has caught to her and it wants revenge.
See, that short synopsis of the film sounds interesting and a good setup for a Children of the Corn film that not only taps into the original story but has something new to say. Unfortunately, the execution was not up to snuff and while those few sentences above sound intriguing, the filmmakers didn't spend much time developing the story beyond this simple premise.
What I did like about Children of the Corn: Runaway is that they tried to control pacing and tell a slower story. The original story works so well because it plays on small-town stereotypes and the slow pacing of the original film only added to the creepiness and scare factor. They do mimic that pacing in Children of the Corn: Runaway and I applaud them for it as many of the other entries in the franchise opted instead to hop from one horror trope to the next with little regard for the source material.
This film at least feels as though it shares a soul with the original source material and I think a lot of that credit goes to director John Gulager. You might remember John as the director of Feast and star of the corresponding Project Greenlight series that accompanied the release of the film. He is as much a horror aficionado that you will find in the director's chair these days and his love for the genre is evident in several scenes.
Overall, the film is a decent entry in an extremely tired franchise that (excuse the pun) is dire need of a timeout. It's a shame because I do think that the original story allows plenty of opportunities to tell a compelling story in the mythology. Perhaps with a little break, the could resurrect the franchise with a truly worthy sequel.
Children of the Corn: Runaway is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.