Tuesday Terror! Children of the Corn by Stephen King

night shiftThe true meaning of corn…

Stephen King must be the best known name in contemporary horror though, as often happens when people stay at the top for a long time, he seems to have as many detractors as fans. I vaguely remember reading one or two of his novels many moons ago and not being hugely impressed, but I really couldn’t ignore him when it comes to the search for the shivers.

So I spent a while looking at various reviews and there seemed to be a reasonable consensus that Children of the Corn is one of the best known stories from one of his best collections, Night Shift. It has been filmed on several occasions, both for cinema and TV. I settled down under the covers, very late at night, in silence but for the night sounds drifting through the window of the local wildlife having supper, all lights off bar the reading lamp…I think you’ll agree I gave it my best shot for…

Tuesday Terror!

“They were standing in a bar of dusty sunlight that fell through the luncheon-room’s big plate-glass window and again he had that feeling of being watched and he thought of the boy they had in their trunk, and of the high laughter of children. A phrase came to him for no reason, a legal-sounding phrase, and it began to repeat mystically in his mind: Sight unseen. Sight unseen. Sight unseen.”

The story begins with a bickering couple, Burt and Vicky, driving along the backroads of the Bible Belt when suddenly a boy steps in front of the car. Unable to stop, Burt runs over him – cue a bout of hysteria from Vicky, the first but sadly not the last. Burt soon discovers that the boy didn’t die from the car accident, but from having had his throat cut in the corn fields bordering the road. As you would, Burt decides to roll the body up in a blanket, stuff it in the boot of his car and drive with it to the next town – cue a bout of hysteria from V…well, you get the picture. But on arrival at the town, it appears that all the adults are mysteriously gone and the old Baptist Church has become the centre of a corn-worshipping cult of children…but are the children just mad or is there something supernatural living in the perfect rows of corn that surround the town…?

children-of-the-corn

“The Christ was grinning, vulpine. His eyes were wide and staring, reminding Burt uneasily of Lon Chaney in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. In each of the wide black pupils someone (a sinner, presumably) was drowning in a lake of fire. But the oddest thing was that this Christ had green hair…hair which on close examination revealed itself to be a twining mass of early-summer corn.”

Stephen King
Stephen King

Honestly, I feel there’s quite a lot here that really could have been spine-tingling, but it simply wasn’t. It was cliché from start to end and the quality of the writing was no more than average. The characterisation was stereotyped and both Burt and Vicky were so unlikeable that this reader at least felt they could only be improved by a horrific death. The children were totally undeveloped as characters, so generated neither sympathy nor fear. How many times have churches been bent to evil purposes and biblical quotations used to herald horror and doom? And I’m afraid that as Burt was running in fear of his life and thinking, of all things, that he was glad he had given up smoking, the giggling began. The climax, for want of a better word, was truly funny – unfortunately I’m not at all sure it was intended to be.

I switched off the lamp and had a pleasant and undisturbed night’s sleep, I’m sorry to say.

Fretful porpentine rating: none but it does get one 😆

Overall story rating:       😦 😦

I’m not willing to give up on King on the basis of one story; his reputation deserves more than that. So, if there are any King fans out there, please tell me which story harrowed up thy soul…

Next week on Tuesday Terror! – J. Sheridan Le Fanu

23 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Children of the Corn by Stephen King

  1. FictionFan – Sorry to hear that this one wasn’t exactly a winner for you. I love that rating though: Fretful porpentine – priceless! Just priceless… Yes, indeed, when a story that’s supposed to scare you makes you laugh, something is not right…

    • I’m a tough audience when it comes to horror, I admit – giggling isn’t an unusual reaction for me. But I was surprised that many people seem to consider this one of his best…

  2. I haven’t read any King and the only film I have seen was “The Shining” (bad choice of boyfriend!!), so like you, I don’t really feel qualified to judge, but I have read a lot of Le Fanu, so I know you are in for a treat.

    • Haha! Yes, I also got dragged to “The Shining” – and if I remember correctly it made me laugh too! It’s years since I read any Le Fanu, except Carmilla (which I enjoyed very much, but can’t say I found it scary), so I’ll be interested to revisit him.

  3. 😆 I love the part when you say they could only be improved by a horrific death! 😆 I hope they did die. The professor has been looking for a good comedy book and I think I’ve found it.

    Hopefully, there was a stunning King picture on the book (like the one above). That would have been scary.

    I really can’t recommend any King books–as you know. But I’ve seen “The Shining” and if you want a good laugh, you may be interested. The professor usually can’t stop laughing.

    • 😆 I’m delighted to report that they did – horribly! (But amusingly…)

      This was the least scary picture I could find! I should really hang a poster of him on the bedroom wall – that would work!

      I did see “The Shining” in the cinema many moons ago…and I did laugh! A lot!!

      • 😀 I suppose you can’t say how?

        😆 Too funny! (It’s also a bit mean…)

        I know! But it’s really bad for the professor. Any time Jack said anything, I laughed. As a matter of fact, any scene he appeared in was hilarious…

        • Suffice it to say that even Ruber couldn’t make corn-cobs as lethal as that… 😉

          You’re right, it was very mean. I’m duly ashamed (even though I’m still giggling…)

          It wasn’t one of his more understated performances, was it? 😆

          • 😆 That sounds so Kingish, which means it would be funny!

            It will be horrid if we ever meet him in public… Maybe he’s not as scary in person?

            😆 They should’ve made it a comedy. Then, of course, it wouldn’t have been funny–just sick.

            • Fortunately, I’m fairly sure he’ll never read my blog… 😉

              He’s been all over the TV here this week, being interviewed because his new book is just being released – the follow-up to “The Shining”. Actually, he seems pretty normal, if a little big-headed…

              😆

            • Don’t say that! He might one day. 😎

              I’ve heard about that. I wonder why one would do a sequel to a practically wicked book–it’s an interest. I really wish they get Mr. Jack for the movie…

              He swears a lot too–even Mr. Twain would be appalled!

            • Now that would be scary…

              Money? (I’m so cynical…) Didn’t I hear recently that Jack’s retiring from the movie business?

              He didn’t swear on the BBC – NObody swears on the BBC! At least, not before 9 p.m.

  4. With the exception of his book on writing, I haven’t read any of his books. I, too, saw The Shining. Now that was creepy. I also saw the movie based on the book, Misery. That movie made me cringe. Kathy Bates was superb as the adoring, psychotic fan. Maybe one of these days I’ll read him, but there are so many other books I’d turn to first.

    • I enjoyed Misery too, and it was only recently that I realised it was a Stephen King story. I also saw it done as a play once, but though the man was good, the woman (I’ve completely forgotten her name) wasn’t any substitute for Kathy Bates.

      I’ll try another King short story or two, but I’m not sure I’m up for a whole book…

  5. It’s a pity you didn’t enjoy this one… I’ve only read one King’s novel, The shining, and I loved it. It’s well-written and a page-turner, a little scary too. I plan on reading something more from him very soon, although I haven’t decided which one of his books yet. Maybe “Carrie” or “Misery”, both are highly recommended for what I’ve read.

    • The film of Carrie certainly scared me! I just find written stories rarely scare me, but being honest I didn’t even find this one particularly well written. However I’ll definitely give him another try…

  6. As a young girl…many many moons ago I used to read all of Stephen King I could find, his short stories science fiction stuff is good, Carrie was great ( you must have read/seen that?)The Green Mile – read in little booklets was good. However I did seem to think the more I read the harder to find something I enjoyed all back more of the same…but recently read Duma Key, that was spooky. Duma Key

    Formats: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio / eBook / Kindle
    First Edition Release Date: January, 2008
    Synopsis:

    After a construction accident in which he loses his right arm and his divorce, Edgar Freemantle moves from Minnesota to Florida to begin what his psychiatrist described as a “geographic cure.” He rediscovers his love of painting and finds that he is good at it but his paintings seem to have something “more” to them. On Duma Key he also finds a new friendship with Wireman, a kindred spirit seeking refuge there as a caretaker for Elizabeth Eastlake. Elizabeth’s past also contains painful memories that have been reawakened bringing all of them together to face an evil entity named Perse

    • I did see Carrie, and found it very scary, but never read it. Films definitely have more effect on me than books, in terms of scariness. I enjoyed Misery, too, though The Shining made me laugh rather than get spooked.

      Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll look into Duma Key. What about his short stories? Did you read any of them that you would recommend?

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