• Children Of The Corn



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: October 3rd, 2017.
    Director: Fritz Kiersch
    Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, Courtney Gains, John Franklin, R.G. Armstrong
    Year: 1984
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    The Movies:

    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.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Arrow brings Children Of The Corn to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in a transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative framed in its proper 1.85.1 aspect ratio and it looks excellent. Detail is improved over the past Blu-ray releases from Image and from 88 Films in the UK, with stronger blacks, and better depth, detail and texture. The color scheme is noticeably different here as well, it’s cooler and darker than we’ve seen before, but it looks good. Grain is apparent throughout, there’s no obvious noise reduction here, while print damage has been almost completely eliminated. There are no noticeable issues with edge enhancement or compression artifacts to note either.

    The film gets LPCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD 5.1 tracks with optional subtitles are offered in English only. The 5.1 mix 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. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary with horror journalist Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan. This is a genuinely enthusiastic track as the pair cover the film’s influence on pop culture, its relationship to King’s original story, some deleted scenes that appear to be lost for good, the contributions of the cast and crew, the locations and lots more. Carried over from the old Anchor Bay special edition DVD release is a commentary track with Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and Franklin and Gains. While some of the information is regurgitated from the documentary (though not too much) this is still a worthwhile time killer as their enthusiasm is quite infectious. They discuss some of the technical woes they encountered on set and during pre and post-production.

    Also carried over from that older DVD is Harvesting Horror: Children Of The Corn, a documentary that chimes in at roughly thirty-seven minutes and features interviews with director Fritz Kiersch and cast members John Franklin and Courtney Gains. The three of them had a good time working on the film and seem to be pretty happy with how it all turned out. Kiersch has the most to say and discusses the casting decisions, working with a small budget (he claims the film was made for $1.3 million and $500,000 of that went to Stephen King!), as well as the interesting way that he got the genuine reaction out of Linda Hamilton during the scene where she uncovers the kid on the road. Franklin explains why he had Mr. Spock hair when the movie was made and Gains goes into a bit of detail about how he made such an impression as to get the part right away during auditions. Those who haven’t seen the film before need to make sure that they don’t peak at this documentary until after they’ve watched the movie as it does contain a lot of spoilers (and rightfully a disclaimer warning you of that very fact at the beginning). Also carried over from past editions are It Was the Eighties!, an interview with actress Linda Hamilton, as well as Stephen King On A Shoestring, an interview with producer Donald Borchers, and Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights And Sounds Of Children Of The Corn which is an interview with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias.

    A new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin entitled ...And A Child Shall Lead Them can also be found here. Clocking in at just over fifty minutes in length, this is a pretty in-depth interview about their respective work on the film as Rachel and Amos respectively. Lots of great stories here about what it was like on set, their thoughts on the characters that they played and loads more. Also new to this disc is Field Of Nightmares, a new interview with writer George Goldsmith that runs seventeen minutes and covers how he got into writing for film by way of his journalism background and his attempts to bring King’s original short story to life in a feature length version. Also new to this disc is Return To Gatlin, a sixteen minute long featurette that takes us to Iowa to compare some of the film’s more iconic shooting locations with how they appear in the movie to how they look in the modern day, hosted by John Sullivan.

    In The five minute long Cut From The Cornfield piece we get an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg who discusses the details behind the movie’s lost ‘Blue Man Scene’ that was shot and used in a lobby card promo but never used in the final cut.

    Also on hand is Disciples Of The Crow, a short film version of King’s story made in 1983 running just under nineteen minutes presented in HD for the first time by way of a new scan of the original 16mm negative. It’s an interesting take on the source and, like the feature length version main attraction, it too takes some liberties with King’s work. Written and directed by John Woodward it follows a similar premise – a couple (Eleese Lester and Gabriel Folse) winds up in a small Midwest own only to get into trouble with a local cult made up entirely of children. It’s quite well done and in many ways more frightening than the feature length take. It starts with a prologue set in 1971 showing the kids massacring a group of grownups before cutting to 1983, present day when the film was made, where the focus shifts on the couple’s problems with the killer kids. This is atmospheric, nicely shot, well-acted – and it makes really good use of a great score. This might have been made on a low budget but Woodward is savvy enough not to try to accomplish something he can’t or to overshoot. This was previously released on the Stephen King's Night Shift Collection alongside a few other shorts taken from his work.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a storyboard gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie included and accompanying that disc inside the case is some reversible sleeve art featuring the original one sheet art on one side and some newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin on the reverse. Arrow has also included a full color illustrated booklet containing cast and crew information for the feature, credits for the Blu-ray release and essays on the film by John Sullivan and Lee Gambin. This booklet, along with the slipcover, will only be included with the first pressing of this release.

    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. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release, however, is pretty impressive. The movie looks and sounds great and it’s stacked to the rafters with extra features.

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