Release Date(s)1984 (October 3, 2017)
Studio(s)Gatlin/New World Pictures/Lakeshore Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
In the days when Stephen King adaptations were few and far between, 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 King’s “Night Shift” collection, the film tells of a couple driving across the country and finding themselves in the town of Gatlin, Nebraska. Under the spell of a religious cult, the children of the town have slaughtered all of the adults and look to the corn for “He Who Walks Among the Rows” for murderous guidance.
Although disliked by King himself, Children of the Corn is considered a minor hit for its time, spawning a franchise of many sequels, as well as a made-for-TV remake. I’ve never been a particular fan of it myself as I’m not usually fond of movies about killer children, but the film does have some stark moments to it worth appreciating. Featuring performances by Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, and R.G. Armstrong, the film eventually became a cult classic thanks to repeated cable airings, appealing to a small but loyal demographic of fans.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of Children of the Corn features a new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. The results are mostly good. Some scenes look a little rough, particularly dark shots when it comes to grain levels which tend to be higher and more obvious, as well as some softness during opticals in the latter half of the film. Detail is high in all respects while colors pop when given the opportunity. Skin tones and textures appear natural as well. Overall contrast is satisfactory while black levels are a bit of a mixed bag, as previously mentioned. There is no major damage leftover to report other than occasional speckling, nor has there been any artificial enhancements made to the material. It was a low budget film and it tends to show at times, but the elements to make this release were treated well and are presented in, what is likely, the best possible presentation. For the audio, two options are available: English 2.0 LPCM and English 5.1 DTS-HD. I personally found the stereo track to be a more pleasing experience as the 5.1 doesn’t offer much in terms of surround activity. Some occasional ambient moments and low end activity is present, particularly during the film’s final moments which are effects heavy, but it doesn’t really benefit much in terms of spatial activity or speaker to speaker movement as it’s mostly front heavy anyways. 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 or hiss-related issues. Subtitles are also available in English SDH if needed.
The extras on this release cover a lot of ground and nearly everything from previous releases has been included. There’s an audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains; an audio commentary with horror journalist Justin Beahm and film historian John Sullivan; Harvesting Horror: Children of the Corn, a retrospective documentary; It Was the Eighties!, an interview with actress Linda Hamilton; ...And a Child Shall Lead Them, interviews with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin; Field of Nightmares, an interview with writer George Goldsmith; Stephen King on a Shoestring, an interview with producer Donald P. Borchers; Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights and Sounds of Children of the Corn, interviews with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias; Return to Gatlin: The Filming Locations of Children of the Corn, hosted by John Sullivan; Cut from the Cornfield, an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg about the lost “Blue Man” scene; an animated storyboard gallery; the original theatrical trailer; Disciples of the Crow, a short film adaptation of “Children of the Corn”, made one year prior to the release of the film; a double-sided poster; and a 28-page insert booklet with essays by John Sullivan and Lee Gambin, plus restoration details. There’s also a couple of small things missing, including the original script via DVD-ROM from Anchor Bay’s Diximax DVD release; the Fast Film Facts pop-up trivia track and three still galleries from Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray release; and The Life, Legacy and Legend of Don Borchers documentary from the 88 Films Blu-ray release.
Long-time fans of Children of the Corn are going to be pleased with this release. Featuring the best transfer and extras package available, it’s a major upgrade, particularly from the bare bones Image Entertainment Midnight Madness release if they happen to own that. As I stated, I’m not much of a fan, but I can appreciate a solid Blu-ray release if it’s done well, and in the case of Children of the Corn: Special Edition, it is.
- Tim Salmons