Children of the Corn, a film from 1984, is one of many films following the success of 1976’s Carrie to cash in on the Stephen King phenomenon. Only loosely based on one of the horror writer’s short stories appearing in his Night Shift collection, this creepy kids gone wild thriller follows the story of young doctor Burt Stanton (Peter Horton), and his girlfriend, Vicky (Linda Hamilton) who find themselves stranded in out-of-the-way Gatlin, NE after their car runs over a boy on the isolated highway and they realize his throat had already been slit. After ignoring warnings from a local gas station attendant to avoid reporting the incident in Gatlin at all costs and following conflicting road signs that lead them straight to Gatlin, they end up in a town run by a child cult, whose figurehead, the teen Isaac (John Franklin), has banned practically all things that could be deemed fun in an effort toward purity and pleasing their deity, the He Who Walks Behind the Rows, as in the rows of corn that line the streets of the eerily quiet town. Burt and Vicky befriend two of the younger children, Sarah and Joseph, and try to uncover just what is going on with Isaac’s cult, but their efforts are thwarted by the menacing redheaded, machete wielding Malachai (Courtney Gains). Attempts to escape through the cornfields turn deadly and the film climaxes in an unseen twist involving Isaac and a cult ritual.
Children of the Corn is more famous than it is classic horror. It carries a certain heft for carrying the Stephen King name, but there is little sustained horror in the film. John Franklin seems a cliché Midwestern teen casting choice, but Courtney Gains come across as more villainous in the end.
Despite being a flawed horror film, there is no doubt this 33-year-old horror film has a certain cachet amongst Gen-X and younger horror fans alike. Young horror viewers get a vicarious thrill over seeing youngsters in their own age group lay down scares and rule (or completely wipe out) over adults. Gen-X carries a fondness for this film as being one of those early films one could sneak away from the ‘parentals’ and watch at a friend’s house or down in the basement and then talk about it in the cafeteria on Monday morning. There is a sustained sense of unease that carries on throughout the film hat director Fritz Kiersch is successful at carrying out, but it is wasted by Children of the Corn’s campy ending and the eventual reveal of the malevolent deity, which is anti-climactic, to say the least.
Arrow delivers this film on Blu-ray in a new 2K restoration from the original camera negative encoded in 1080p AVC that looks really clean — but not smoothed over in any way, rich, vibrant, and alive with detail. The colors are natural and contrast is strong while the image is bright. The scenes in the cornfield with the malevolent entity ‘pop’ beautifully for a 33-year-old film only restored in 2K.
Audio is the weakest portion of this Children of the Corn restoration. There is a 5.1 mix in DTS-HD Master Audio mix included, but it doesn’t offer much beyond some over-tweaked reverberation in the surround channels. The original stereo is also included in LPCM 2.0 and it offers good period authenticity if little in the way of dynamics.
Arrow once again comes through with a set packed with extras for collectors. There are archival and new pieces that include interviews with the cast, two audio commentaries, and much more. Everything here is worth sitting through at least once or more.
- Audio Commentary with Cast & Crew
- Audio Commentary with Justin Beahm and John Sullivan
- Harvesting Horror (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:36:15) – Retrospective documentary featuring interviews with director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains.
- It Was the Eighties! (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:14:07) – An interview with actress Linda Hamilton.
- …And a Child Shall Lead Them (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:50:52) – A brand new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin
- Field of Nightmares (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:17:19) – A Brand new interview with George Goldsmith.
- Stephen King on a Shoestring (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:11:18) – An interview with producer Donald P. Borchers.
- Welcome to Gatlin (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:15:29) – Interviews with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias.
- Return to Gatlin (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:16:29) – A look back at the iconic filming locations in Iowa with host John Sullivan.
- Cut from the Cornfield (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:05:30) – An interview with actor Rich Kleinberg in the infamous “lost” Blue Man Scene.
- Storyboard Gallery
- Trailer (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:01:28)
- Disciples of the Crow (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:18:56) – Originally shot as Children of the Corn, this short film adaptation of the eponymous Stephen King story was made one year before the 1984 feature film version.
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Sullivan and Lee Gambin
The Final Assessment
Arrow comes through with another beautiful, feature rich package for this 1980s Stephen King adaptation. Children of the Corn may not rise to the level of great horror classics from its era, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or even Carrie from several years earlier, but it has a certain appeal that sustains it.
Children of the Corn Special Edition Available on Blu-ray from Arrow October 3, 2017.
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