The original Stephen King story, "Children of the Corn," was an eerie, scary read. That was about it. Didn't really have any deep meanings, and it wasn't the greatest story ever written. It's not even the greatest Stephen King story ever. Yet, it was the foundation for this movie, a revamp, and nearly too many sequels to count. Exactly why I cannot begin to guess, the mystery of Hollywood I guess.
The original film was released in 1984 and sort of falls into the slasher category. A bunch of kids get religion real bad, and it's a real bad religion. They follow "He Who Walks Behind the Rows," and they believe he wants them to kill all the adults of the small farming community. This leads to a fairly shocking scene of mass murder that kicks off the film.
We then cut to a couple on the road to a better place. Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton play Burt and Vickey and basically that's about all we know about them before they run down a kid in the middle of the road. It's ok though, the kid had his throat cut so they didn't REALLY kill the kid. Anyway, they find their way to Gaitlin to report what happened and find it is creepy central and full of killer kids (well mostly teens but you understand). So first they have to fight the kids before having a showdown with Mr. He Who Walks Behind the Rows that we never get a good look at. In the end they leave the town with the two "good" kids and everyone is happy.
Now you do have to add some material to stretch a small story to film length, but what they did here was fairly criminal. First off, there were no "good" kids in the story, they were all psychotic little snookers. Secondly, Burt and Vickey were far from a happy couple in the story. The tension in their relationship added further suspense in the story since you were never sure if they could reach out and help each other. Finally, there was no happy ending, except perhaps for the killer kids but even they had to deal with a new ruling from their god that they get live one less year.
So basically they took a spooky story and turned it to a standard Hollywood type story. Add to that fairly uninspired direction by Fritz Kiersch (his other big film was "Gor" and that should tell everything), and just a shoddy overall production. It's a wonder that this film somehow inspired a whole host of sequels. At least the first "Howling" was good, for example. This is at best bland with a few scenes not withstanding. I supose it works mostly because the audience WANTS it to work. We get a special feeling of taboo from seeing children killing their parents that we don't get from a Jason or a Freddy Krueger.
Critics probably liked it because they could write how "corny" it was. We critics can be easy to please sometimes.