Release Date(s)1984 (September 28, 2021)
Studio(s)Gatlin/New World Pictures/Lakeshore Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Children of the Corn was made for less than a million dollars and released by New World Pictures in March of 1984. Adapted from the short story of the same name from Stephen King’s Night Shift collection and directed by Fritz Kiersch (who would go on to direct films like Gor and Tuff Turf), the film embedded itself in popular culture for a time, acting as the poster child for killer children films, but has mostly been passed over or forgotten in recent years. Although disliked by King himself, Children of the Corn was considered a minor hit for its time, spawning a franchise of many sequels (most direct-to-video), as well as a made-for-TV remake. Featuring performances by Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, and R.G. Armstrong, it eventually became a cult favorite thanks to repeated cable airings, appealing to a small but loyal demographic of fans.
Vicky (Hamilton) and her boyfriend Burt (Peter Horton) are a loving couple driving across the country for Burt’s new job. While driving through Nebraska, they come across a young boy and accidentally run over him, but soon realize that he was actually killed before the car hit him. Attempting to find help, they drive into the town of Gatlin, which is mostly deserted. Three years before, a religious cult headed by the town’s children, including Malachai (Courtney Gains) and Isaac (John Franklin), slaughtered all of the adults there, looking to the cornfields for “He Who Walks Among the Rows” for murderous and religious guidance. Vicky and Burt find an older man (R.G. Armstrong) still alive in the town, but it isn’t long before the children discover their presence and come for them, intent on sacrificing them.
Children of the Corn was shot on 35 mm photochemical film by Joao Fernandes, using Arriflex cameras and spherical lenses, and was framed at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For its release on Ultra HD, Arrow Video has used a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, completed a digital remastering, and graded the image for high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are available). The result is much more rewarding than its Blu-ray predecessor. That release was good for its time, but there was room for improvement when it came to grain management. Grain is still strong here, but it’s now more tightly-encoded, offering newfound clarity and sharpness for the image overall. Slightly more information is preserved along the edges of the frame as well. Opticals still retain the usual softness, but that’s inherent to the source. The new HDR pass allows for lush greens and golds within the cornfields and open country, and the reds and blues on dresses and vehicles really pop. Blacks are much deeper, with better contrast and more detail in the darker areas of the frame. This is also a clean and stable presentation, with no signs of wear-related damage. The low budget nature of the film still shines through, but this is the perfect presentation of it on disc, which is all you can ask for.
For the audio, two options are available: English 2.0 LPCM and English 5.1 DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English SDH. The stereo track is a more pleasing experience, as the 5.1 doesn’t offer much in terms of surround activity. Occasional ambient moments and low end are present, particularly during the film’s effects-heavy conclusion, but no spatial activity or speaker to speaker movement is really gained. This is mostly a front-heavy presentation. The 2.0 track is as immersive as it needs to be, with clear dialogue reproduction, good sound effects, and plenty of room for the score to breathe, all without any distortion, hiss, or age-related issues.
The following extras are included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Fritz Kiersch, Terrence Kirby, John Franklin, and Courtney Gains
- Audio Commentary with Justin Beahm and John Sullivan
- Harvesting Horror: Children of the Corn (36:17)
- It Was the Eighties! (14:08)
- ... And a Child Shall Lead Them: Rachel and Amos Remember Gatlin (50:51)
- Field of Nightmares (17:18)
- Stephen King on a Shoestring Budget (11:19)
- Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights & Sounds of Children of the Corn (15:28)
- Return to Gatlin: The Filming Locations of Children of the Corn (16:32)
- Cut from the Cornfield (5:33)
- Storyboard Gallery (64 in all – 5:30)
- Trailer (1:21)
- Disciples of the Crow (18:55)
The first audio commentary, recorded in 2004 for the Anchor Bay DVD release, is a fun and lively chat between the four men as they discuss the film while watching it together, joking and remembering their experiences working on it. The second audio commentary is more historical as Blu-ray producer Justin Beahm and horror journalist John Sullivan discuss the film’s production and facts about the film while watching it. Harvesting Horror is also sourced from the 2004 Anchor Bay DVD release, which is a retrospective documentary by Perry Martin featuring interviews with Fritz Kiersch, John Franklin, and Courtney Gains. In It Was the Eighties!, Linda Hamilton discusses her experiences making the film. In And a Child Shall Lead Them, actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin talk about their memories at length. Field of Nightmares features an interview with writer George Goldsmith, who talks about his love of his movies, martial arts, and screenwriting. In Stephen King on a Shoestring, producer Donald P. Borchers talks about his exposure to Stephen King’s work, working for New World Pictures, and developing the material. Welcome to Gatlin interviews production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias who talk about their work for the film. Return to Gatlin offers a filming locations tour with John Sullivan. Cut from the Cornfield features an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg about the lost “Blue Man” scene. Disciples of the Crow is a short film adaptation of Children of the Corn, made one year prior to the release of the film.
The disc sits inside a black amaray case with double-sided artwork: new artwork on the front and the original US poster artwork on the reverse. Also included in the package is a 28-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, the essays Behind the Rows by John Sullivan and Praise God! Praise the Lord! The Influence of the Child Preacher in Reference to Children of the Corn by Lee Gambin, and restoration details. Everything is housed within a limited slipcover featuring the same new artwork.
Not included from the previous Arrow Video Blu-ray release is a double-sided poster for the film. There are also a couple of other things missing from other releases, including a few photo galleries and the original script via DVD-ROM from Anchor Bay’s Divimax DVD release; the Fast Film Facts pop-up trivia track from Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray release; and The Life, Legacy and Legend of Don Borchers documentary from the 88 Films Region B Blu-ray release.
Arrow Video ups the ante of their previous release of Children of the Corn with an excellent 4K Ultra HD presentation and the same great extras, many of which were produced by Red Shirt Pictures. Long-time fans of the film should be more than pleased with this release.
- Tim Salmons