Wednesday, September 27, 2017

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)


Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: A
Duration: 82 Minutes 
Rating: R
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, Julie Maddalena, John Philbin, John Franklin, Courtney Gains 

Eighties killer-kiddie classic Children of the Corn (1984) scared the living Hell out of  me when I caught in my pre-teens on VHS. I grew up in a very rural area in Upstate New York with plenty of corn fields around me, so the idea of a dark Lovecraftian force known as "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" who spurred children to kill the adults really burrowed down into my psyche and imagination in a big, bad way. Even as a kid I found the idea of kids killing all the adults rather frightening, and while the movie affects me differently now three decades later as a father and, somewhat arguably, an adult, I think this one holds up mighty finely. 

The film opens on a Sunday morning in the small town Gatlin, the
adults are gathered at the local diner for their usual post-sermon breakfast when the kids rise up and massacre every last one them while creepy kid cult-leader Isaac (John Franklin, The Addam's Family) peers through the window. We get some decent carnage as the kids poison the coffee pot, hacking and slashing the adults and slicing off the proprietor of the diner's hand in a meat slicer! Now, the carnage is mostly relegated to splashes of blood but I love it when the kid with the milkshake mustache catches a face full of the red stuff! 

Three years later young couple Vicky (Linda Hamilton, Terminator) and her boyfriend Burt (Peter Horton, TV's Thirtysomething) are travelling through rural Nebraska when a young boy emerges from the corn field right into the path of their car. They put him in the car and drive into the nearby town of Gatlin, which at first seems deserted, but soon enough they discover the kiddie-only inhabitants are nothing to be trifled with, as creepy cult-leader Isaac and his evil-ginger sidekick Malachi (Courtney Joiner, The 'Burbs) capture Vicky and put her on a crucifix made of corn, to be sacrificed to their Lovecraftian lord, He who Walks Behind the Rows. 

Based on the Stephen King short story "Disciples of the Crow," this is probably the first King adaptation I saw as a kid, it was chilling to me as a kid, though now I can see it for the somewhat problematic thing that it is, padded for time to stretch the short-subject source material, adding a young girl with clairvoyant visions, but that the creepy kid cult-leader as played by John Franklin (who was 24 when he made this) still manages to make my skin crawl with his eerie sermons and odd demeanor, he has an evil precociousness that I find chilling. Then we have Malachi, whom develops a feud with Isaac over the proper way to worship their dark Lord, culminating in some treachery. 

The finale is fun piece of work, both frantic, frightful and field-burning, but the visual effects might be a bit problematic for those who weren't raised on this vintage slice of horror - they do not really stand-up to the test of time, but the scenes of He Who Walks Behind The Rows burrowing beneath the surface of the ground and the way it displaces the dirt looks very cool, and the fireball is wonderful.  To this day I cannot pass a corn field and think of this film, it's left it's mark on me for sure, a testament to the iconic nature of this one. 

Audio/Video: The Children of the Corn (1984) arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video befitting from a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative. Right away you see the improvement, this is a step up from my 2009 25th Anniversary Blu-ray from Anchor Bay by a large margin, he film grain seems better resolved and more textured, looking more natural. Colors have more life and you can see a new color timing has been done, not sure if this is more accurate to the theatrical run but to my eyes it looks superior to the previous Blu-ray. Audio on the disc comes by way of an English LPCM 2.0 or DTS-HD MA 5.1, I prefer the stereo track, which has more presence and power to my ears, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Arrow Video carry over all the extras from the 2009 Anchor Bay Blu-ray (minus the trivial trivia track) which were produced by Red Shirt Pictures, and kindly offer-up a handful more new ones to make this the definitive edition of the movie. There's a brand new commentary from with John Sullivan of and horror journalist Justin Beahm, and Sullivan shows up again for a 16-min location revisit showcasing the filming locations current day.

Screenwriter George Goldsmith shows up for an interview talking about his early career as a small town investigative reporter before dropping that for screenwriting, working on Master of Kung Fu TV series and Force Five, and adapting the work of Stephen King. another cool extra is the short film "Disciples of the Crow" (1983), which is one of the infamous "dollar baby" King adaptations, this one coming out a year before the feature length movie. There are  also over fifty minutes of new interviews with Actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin (Return of the Living Dead), all in you're looking at over three hours of extras and that's before you get two the two feature length audio commentaries! 

For the sake of this review Arrow Video sent "check disc" without any of the cool packaging or artwork, so I'll share these pack shots from Arrow Facebook page - this is a cool looking release with a sleeve of reversible artwork, reversible poster, and booklet:

Special Features: 
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- NEW: Brand new audio commentary with John Sullivan of and horror journalist Justin Beahm
- NEW: Return to Gatlin - A brand new featurette revisiting the film's original Iowa shooting locations with John Sullivan of  (16 min) 
- NEW: A Field of Nightmare - A brand New interview with Screenwriter George Goldsmith (17 min) HD 

- NEW: ...And The Corn Shall Lead Them - A Brand new interview with Actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin (52 min) HD 
- Stephen King on a Shoestring - an interview with producer Donald Borchers (11 min) HD 
- Audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- Harvesting Horror - The Making of Children of the Corn - retrospective piece featuring interviews with director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains (61 min) 
- It Was the Eighties! - an interview with actress Linda Hamilton (14 min) 
- Welcome to Gatlin - The Sights and Sounds of Children of the Corn, an interview with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias (15 min) 
- Cut From the Corn - an interview with the actor who played "The Blue Man" in the fabled excised sequence (6 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 
- Storyboard Gallery (6 min) HD 
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Short Film:  Disciples of the Crow (1983): 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 version of the version  (19 Minutes) HD 
- First Pressing: Collectors booklet featuring new writing in the film.

Children of the Corn (1984) still works it's 80s killer-kids magic all these years later, a testament to both Stephen King's original story and  to the direction of Fritz Kiersch, this is a film that will be scaring audiences for years to come. Arrow Video have gone deep behind the rows of corn to unearth some awesome extras this release, on top of that the A/V presentation is gorgeous, making this easily the definitive version of the film on home video - for fans and newcomers this is the one to own.