Remember Stephen King’s Children of the Corn? Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night? Jonathan Maberry has also set part of the action of his novel Ghost Road Blues in cornfields. So has Norman Partridge, in Dark Harvest.
Television shows and movies sometimes use cornfields as settings, too, although not all are chillers or thrillers. Smallville is a case in point. I’m Not Scared is another movie set, at times, in cornfields. Others movies that include cornfields as places where the action is include:
Freddy vs. Jason: A Match Made in Hell
The Silence of the Lambs
Jeepers Creepers II
The Corn Stalker
I Walked with a Zombie
Night of the Scarecrow
Okay, if cornfields spring up as settings in so many horror stories, there must be something horrific about them that’s not obvious enough to present itself upon one’s first consideration of the crop. Ergo, let’s reconsider them.
- They’re vast, covering acres and acres, and the corn stalks are tall--sometimes ten or twelve feet high. When a character is inside one, it’s like being in a forest of regularly spaced trees that go on, seemingly, forever, in all directions, and getting lost isn’t merely easy, it’s almost guaranteed.
- If the good guys can get lost in a cornfield, the bad guys in the cornfield can run into them. Maybe they’re even lying in wait in the cornfield, in multiple places, even, waiting for the lost ones to come their way!
- Other things can be in the cornfield, too--unexpected, nameless, and unimaginable things that are furious at having their territory disturbed and that are ravenous.
- There could be landmines, ditches, craters, and other booby traps in store among the ranks of corn.
- Cornfields can be claustrophobic, because the stalks are close and evenly spaced and, well, just everywhere, like a trap or a vegetative cage.
- At night, cornfields are dark and foreboding. A full moon, especially one moving among dark clouds, isn’t reassuring; quite the contrary, it’s ominous and eerie. The ground is uneven, and the cornstalks are everywhere, always in one’s face, no matter what direction one may take, and, of course, one is bound to get lost and stay lost. If one’s adversary is human, he will be equipped with night-vision goggles. If the enemy is not human--if it’s an animal, an extraterrestrial creature, a monster, or worse--it will have vision like a cat’s or be able to sense the good guys through its radar sense, like a bat, or sniff them out with their heightened sense of smell, like a wolf.
- Cornfields attract aliens. (Remember Signs?)
Maybe we don’t want to know.
“Everyday Horrors: Cornfields” is part of a series of “everyday horrors” that will be featured in Chillers and Thrillers: The Fiction of Fear. These “everyday horrors” continue, in many cases, to appear in horror fiction, literary, cinematographic, and otherwise.