• Children Of The Corn Trilogy, The



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: February 8th, 2016.
    Director: Fritz Kiersch, David F. Price, James D.R. Hickox
    Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, Terrence Knox, John Franklin, Courtney Gains, Paul Scherrer, Daniel Cerny
    Year: 1984/1992/1995

    The Movies:

    88 Films offers up the first three Children Of The Corn movies in one reasonably deluxe Blu-ray boxed set collection. Here’s a look…

    Children Of The Corn:

    Based on a twenty-eight page short story from Stephen King’s compilation Night Shift (look for a copy of it on the dashboard of the car in the film!), the ultimate eighties killer kid movie, Children Of The Corn, has so far inspired six sequels and a fairly solid cult following.

    The story follows a young doctor named Burt (Peter Horton of Thirtysomething) and his girlfriend, Vicky (Linda Hamilton of The Terminator) are on their way to a small Nebraskan town to setup his new practice. Along the way, they hit a boy who’s standing in the middle of the road. Further investigation on Burt’s part proves that the boy had just had his throat slit before running into the road. Burt and Vicky decide to drive to the nearest town, Gaitlan, to report the boy’s death but when they get there they find that all of the adults are either missing or dead and a child named Isaac (with some help from his henchman, Malachi) leads a cult of depraved children in doing the bidding of ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows.’

    Featuring a score by Jonathon Elias that is very evocative of Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score for Richard Donner’s 1976 shocker, The Omen, the musical cues add a nice, if sometimes a little too familiar, air of suspense to the proceedings.

    The concept of the film is an eerie one – being alone in the world of some very twisted children without any like minded adults around to help or ‘see it your way’ doesn’t really sound like my idea of a good time, particularly when said children are wielding scythes and butcher knives. Some of the blasphemous imagery that the film conjures up in the town church is also a little disturbing if you grew up with any kind of traditional Christian upbringing, turning much of the popular Christian ideology and iconography on its head, giving things a very sinister feel.

    The film is not without its flaws though. The most obvious one is the extremely dated optical effects used in the conclusion of the movie. Yes, I know this is a low budget film and I’m able to cut it some slack because of that, but when the inevitable happens and it’s time for the supernatural aspect of the movie to rear its head, things fall to apart. The opening scene, where we see Isaac and Malachi orchestrate as mass slaughter of Gaitlan’s adult population in a dinner after church on Sunday is effectively shot, abiding by the Hitchcockian philosophy that says we’ll be more frightened by what our mind thinks we see than what we actually do see on screen (read: no knives ever penetrate any flesh, etc.). This opening barrage, along with the aforementioned black mass in the church are the two highlights of the film.

    Children Of The Corn also features a couple of good traditional jump scares that take you by surprise and do actually get you on the edge of your seat a couple of times. While they may seem a little predictable they are handled well and caught me off guard having not seen the movie in probably a decade or so before revisiting it on this DVD.

    Performances are better than your average eighties B-movie. Hamilton and Horton are adequate in the lead roles and John Franklin and Courtney Gains are quite good in their roles as main protagonists Isaac and Malachi respectively. Franklin in particular, being in his early twenties when the film was made despite the young age of his character, brings a very strange vibe to his role, seeming wise beyond his years and evil beyond his supposed capability. Gains provides sufficient menace, scowling his way through the film and barking his sinister demands at his subordinates.

    Children Of The Corn II: The Final Sacrifice:

    This first of seven (!!!) sequels to the original picture takes place eight years after the events that happened in the original film. Here we meet a journalist named John Garrett (Terence Knox) and his teenaged son Danny (Paul Scherrer). They’re on their way to Gatlin, Nebraska so that John can get the scoop on the story he’s working on, but neither of them realize that just before their arrival the police have found a slew of mutilated adult corpses that would seem to tie back to the murders in the first film. With most of the parents in town now dead, the kids are sent off to a nearby town to be cared for.

    As Danny gets friendly with pretty local girl Lacey Hellerstat (Christie Clark), the killings continue and all signs point towards an orphan named Micah (Ryan Bollman) as the one behind it all – is he possessed by He Who Walks Behind The Rows? It’s up to John and a kindly Native American named Frank Redbear (Ned Romero) to find out…

    A fairly weak sequel by pretty much any standard, this one does at least have a few moments…. but only a few… that make it worth watching. The best part of the movie? A scene where shit hits the fan in a church and peoples’ faces start melting. That scene is genuinely rad. There are a few decent kills here, an amusing homage to The Wizard Of Oz, and decent enough production values. The score is generic but it works well enough while the camerawork, if nothing to write home about, is more than effective.

    The performances here are kind of meh. Paul Scherrer and Terence Knox aren’t particularly exciting actors and they don’t really do much to make their characters stand out. Christie Clark, who starred in A Nightmare On Elm Street Part II in 1985, has a bit more enthusiasm for her role but her character isn’t really all that well written. Ned Romero is at least really likeable as Frank Redbear. His character knows more than the others and he plays an important part in the last half of the film. Ryan Bollman, however, is actually pretty fun to watch. As Micah he’s basically a surrogate Isaac and he does his best to stare really intensely at everyone at all times.

    Pretty mediocre stuff, for the most part.

    Children Of The Corn III: Urban Harvest:

    The third film in the series is actually a fair bit more enjoyable than the second entry. The premise is that two adults - William Porter (Jim Metzler) and his wife Amanda (Nancy Lee Graham) have adopted two kids orphaned by the events in Gatlin. These kids, Joshua (Ron Melendez) and his younger brother Eli (Daniel Cerny) move in with their new – and fairly well off – parents and take up residence in their inner city home.

    Things start off well enough but before long, Eli starts preaching to anyone and everyone that’ll listen to him. Soon enough, he’s started a cult at the local school and used his bizarre power over the kids to get them kill. He’s also planted a bunch of corn seeds in an abandoned warehouse so that he can bring He Who Walks Behind The Rows into the city – the only one that can stop him? Joshua, but he’ll need some help.

    As goofy as this one sounds – and it is fairly goofy – it works better than it has any right to. It isn’t particularly scary but it is at least entertaining enough to make it worth checking out. The film moves at a nice pace, it offers up a few good kill scenes and some interesting imagery (the cross made of corn being a good example) and the performances are more energetic and engaging than they were in the second film. Daniel Cerny, who also starred in Demonic Toys, is a lot of fun to watch here and well-cast as the chief ‘evil kid’ in the movie.

    The movie also has a decent sense of humor to it, playing the stronger scenes of horror straight enough but still managing to keep tongue firmly in cheek. There isn’t a load of style here but the camera work is perfectly sufficient and the locations used for the picture are pretty solid. Director James D. R. Hickox, brother of fellow horror film director Anthony Hickox, keeps things moving at a good clip – not a classic, not by a long shot, but fun.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    All three movies are presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. Each movie is presented no its own – the first on a 50GB disc, the second and third on 25GBs. While the second film looks a bit noisier than you might want, the transfers here are otherwise pretty solid. Detail levels are fine, easily rising above what standard definition could provide, and color reproduction looks good throughout. There are no noticeable issues with heavy compression artifacts and the elements used for the transfers were clearly in nice shape as there’s very little in the way of print damage, dirt or debris to complain about. Skin tones look good, black levels are nice and deep and color reproduction is just fine.

    The first film gets LPCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD 5.1 tracks, the second an LPCM 2.0 track and the third an LPCM 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are offered in English only. The 5.1 mix on the first movie spreads out the effects and the score placement well enough, while the stereo mix on the disc sounds more true to form. Regardless, both tracks sound fine, as do the stereo tracks on the two sequels. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note.

    The main extra on the first disc is an eighty-three minute long featurette entitled The Life, Legacy And Legend Of Donald P. Borchers. This career spanning retrospective is made up of interviews with Corey Feldman, Johnette Napolitano, Richard Wenk, Jonathan Elias, Kevin Kutchaver, Kathy Long and plenty more – but of course, there’s a lot of insight in here from Borchers himself who talks about meeting Debra Hill and how that led to his working with them on The Fog as the accountant on the shoot. From there, he moved ‘up the food chain’ and got some set experience, worked on Escape From New York only to then branch out onto his own as a producer with pictures like Angel, Children Of The Corn, Tuff Turf, Crimes Of Passion, Two Moon Junction, Highlander II, Meatballs 4, Leprechaun 2 and loads more. This is well put together and quite candid, particularly when Borchers himself tells his story. Lots of honesty here, we hear about the good and the bad of the picture that Borchers wound up moving forward with, and as such, it’s pretty interesting stuff (this is no fluff piece). Some great stories about getting Angel made and the casting of that picture, finding a random (and very loaded) gun on the set that should not have been there, casting all the extras on Children Of The Corn and what it was like being away on set for the picture, working with Ken Russell (described at one point as a ‘creative madman’) on Crimes Of Passion with Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins and all that this entailed (the Russel stories are GOLD). He also talks about working on Tuff Turf after getting interested in a band that he saw at a club one night, making Vamp with Grace Jones, working with Zalman King on Two Moon Junction and how Screamin’ Jay Hawkins wound up in the movie, and, yeah, working with Feldman (fresh out of rehab) on Meatballs 4 when it was known as Happy Campers.

    The first disc also includes a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other 88 Films releases, menus and chapter selection.

    The second disc includes a trailer for the feature, menus, chapter selection and a standard definition workprint version of the movie that runs about three minutes longer than the theatrical cut. It’s presented from a really rough looking tape source complete with tracking lines and time code, it’s not in good shape at all – but it is a genuinely rare alternate version of the movie.

    Extras on the third disc start off with Return To The Corn: The Reinvention Of A Fear Franchise which is a featurette that covers the making of the 2009 made for TV version of Children Of The Corn. This eighteen minute piece includes interviews with Borchers who covers how and why the original film was made the way that it was, the difficulties of adapting King stories and the two audiences that exist for his work (those who want a good movie and those who want literal adaptations of his work). Fox Entertainment President David Madden shows up next to discuss the initial skepticism he had for the project and what it was like working with Borchers. From there they talk about how the franchise was retooled to a certain degree. Kevin Kutchaver, the second unit director on the 2009 version of Children Of The Corn, talks about specific shots that were needed for the movie, what it was like working on the shoot and more. It’s interesting enough to want to watch once, though it doesn’t have much to do with the actual feature contained on this disc.

    Rounding out the extras on disc three is a ten minute long extended ending sequence, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    Each of the three movies includes some nice reversible cover sleeve art. All three discs fit inside a sturdy cardboard slipcover that features some original artwork on the front panel. Also included inside the case for the first film is an insert booklet containing an essay from Calum Waddell entitled Corn-Fed Fight that gives a solid overview of the first film’s influence on the franchise that would follow in its wake.

    The Final Word:

    Children Of The Corn is a film that is scarier in premise than it is in execution but for a low budget film it holds up well aside from a few goofy looking effects shows. Anchor Bay has put together a very nice package for fans of the film with solid video, great audio, and some truly interesting extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




























































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