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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Children Of The Corn (Blu-ray)
Children Of The Corn (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // October 3, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted October 11, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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This 1984 movie, just one of many movies from the 1980s adapted from a Stephen King story, has already been released umpteen times on past and present video formats but with Arrow already having a reputation as one of the best labels out there today they've figured that it still deserves their treatment. Playing out a bit like a "Twilight Zone" episode, the story follows couple Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (a pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton) who pass through the corn-filled lands of Nebraska en route to a new job in Seattle. Their trip is interrupted when their car runs into a kid who appears on the road out of nowhere. Burt pulls over and being a doctor can tell that the child is dead but he was already killed by something else before the car hit him. Being that cell phones weren't around yet, they then have to find the authorities and get this sorted out.

That's easier said than done though- first they stop at a gas station run by a crazy old man. He doesn't have a phone they can use, but suggests they head for a town a few miles down the road. Though the signs say that they're closer to Gatlin, "The Nicest Little Town in Nebraska," he tells them that the people there are religious fanatics and don't take kindly to outsiders. As they keep driving though they seem to lose sense of where they are and end up in Gatlin anyways, but find that the town seems deserted. This is explained earlier in a prologue and opening credits sequence where the town's children systematically killed all the adults three years earlier at the direction of Isaac (John Franklin, who was much older than he appears to be here), and then began living a cult-like existence. But Burt and Vicky first run into the only two "good" children left in the town- Jobey (Robby Kiger) who seems a bit smarter than the other kids in town, and his sister Sarah (AnneMarie McEvoy) who has a clairvoyance "gift" which causes her to draw what's about to happen. They fill them in on what's happened, saying Isaac basically rules the town now with his preaching about "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" with his minion Malachai (Courtney Gains, who played the guy with the talent of flipping off people in 48 different languages in another 1984 classic Hardbodies) backing him up. The children gather in the cornfields to hear Isaac's preaching and witness sacrifices- mainly those who reach their 19th birthday who then gladly submit themselves. It seems in the three years this has been going on, the only grown-up who has known about all of this and tried to stop it was the town's sheriff who was ultimately sacrificed and left hanging, known by the kids as "The Blue Man".

Stephen King had written a screenplay for this movie based on his story, but the producers opted instead to use one written by George Goldsmith which changes quite a few things around. This is another one of those movies that doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you think too much about it- the biggest practical question it has me asking is how were the kids able to keep their clothes so clean on their own? What were they eating? It seems kind of strange that they were able to get away with the whole no-grownups-allowed thing for so long also, but I guess the forces that brought the two main characters into the town were also keeping most other people out of it. Regardless of these imperfections, Children of the Corn has held up reasonably well over the years. Visually it's quite atmospheric, giving one a sense of being lost in a practically deserted Midwestern town (actually shot in a few small towns in Iowa, where the locals were happy to step out of the cameras' view for the filmmakers.) The young cast (largely comprised of local kids from area theater groups) also does a fine job, playing everything straight-faced.

Picture:

Arrow's Blu-Ray properly frames the movie at 1.85- the previous Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay was framed at a full-screen 1.78 ratio. While I didn't have this on hand to compare directly, I did check the original 1984 video release from Embassy Home Entertainment on the long-defunct CED videodisc format (which I have plenty of working players for) and it was clearly shot open-matte. There is far more film grain here than on the original video transfer as well, but everything is kept in sharp focus which makes it easy to spot a few mistakes such as the reflection of the camera crew in the car as it's driving through the middle of nowhere. The film keeps a largely yellowish-orange color scheme throughout.

Sound:

This Blu-Ray includes two audio mixes- one is billed as the "original stereo" although I'm pretty sure this movie was originally released in mono. None of the older video editions of this have been in stereo, but by the time Anchor Bay released it on DVD they had a habit of re-mixing mono tracks into both 5.1 and 2-channel surround (done by Chase Productions). Arrow has usually been good about including the untouched mono mixes on their releases, but whatever the case the 2-channel PCM track makes the film sound like it could have been originally released that way. The choral music and ambient sounds are nicely placed in the front channels. There's also a 5.1 mix in DTS Master Audio which doesn't add a whole lot extra except for some LFE action later in the movie; the surrounds aren't very noticeable. Hearing-impaired subtitles are included.

Extras:

This Blu-Ray carries over several extras from Anchor Bay's previous editions as well as a few new ones- the highlight is the two commentary tracks, the first of which was done for Anchor Bay when the movie was about 20 years old. It features director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains, which is quite conversational and gives us a sense of what it was like to work on the movie. The second track with horror film historian Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn enthusiast John Sullivan was done more recently for this disc and provides a wealth of information and random facts (such as that director of photography Raoul Lomas worked on a number of porn films before this) along with details about most of the locations onscreen.

Anchor Bay's 36-minute documentary "Harvesting Horror" from its original DVD release is carried over in 16x9 standard-def, which for casual fans may tell them more than enough about the making of the movie. For everyone else though, the fun continues with several more pieces with funny titles. "It Was the Eighties!" (carried over from Anchor Bay's previous Blu-Ray) interviews Linda Hamilton, "Welcome to Gatlin" features production designer Craig Sterns and composer Jonathan Elias, and "Stephen Kind on a Shoestring" interviews producer Donald P. Borchers who talks about the movie's limited budget and the operations of New World Pictures at that time after it had been purchased from Roger Corman.

New to this Arrow release are more cleverly-titled interviews: "And a Child Shall Lead Them" features supporting actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin, "Field of Nightmares" talks with screenwriter George Goldsmith, and "Cut From the Cornfield" highlights actor Rich Kleinberg who played the town sheriff but his scenes were left out of the final movie. A still picture from the scene where he is killed can be seen on the back covers of Embassy's original video releases, but so far nobody has been able to locate the footage. John Sullivan gives us a "Return to Gatlin" where he tours the small towns in Iowa where the movie was filmed and shows what many of the key locations look like now. Most interesting is a short film from 1983 called "Disciples of the Crow" (transferred in hi-def) which was the first attempt at filming Stephen King's story, and for the most part is more faithful to it despite being quite low-budget. Rounding out the extras are some storyboards and the theatrical trailer in hi-def but encoded at a ridiculously low bitrate showing compression artifacts throughout.

The package also includes a reprint of the original movie poster with Arrow's new cover artwork on the other side, and a booklet with an essay by John Sullivan about the movie (and kudos to him for mentioning CED, my favorite dead video format!) and another by Lee Gambin about the phenomenon of child preachers which influenced the story.

Final Thoughts:

Children of the Corn is one movie that horror fans ought to have at least one copy of, and Arrow serves up the best edition of it yet. Despite the movie's imperfections it's always been a great watch and holds up quite well decades later, standing on its own from the several direct-to-video sequels made in the 1990s.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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