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Children of the Corn(1984)
Young lovers on a cross-country trip stop in a small Nebraska community and make a shocking discovery. One day, three years prior to the couples' arrival, the town's children killed all of the grown-ups at the apparent behest of a demon simply dubbed "He Who Walks Behind the Rows." Based on a short story from horror scribe Stephen King's "Night Shift" collection, this film spawned a slew of bloody sequels.
For more about Children of the Corn and the Children of the Corn Blu-ray release, see Children of the Corn Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 1, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Writers: George Goldsmith, Stephen King
Starring: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains, Robby Kiger
» See full cast & crew
Children of the Corn Blu-ray Review
This 80's Horror favorite slices onto Blu-ray with adequate results.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 1, 2009
He who walks behind the rows seeth all.
Yet another film adaptation of a Stephen King horror yarn, Children of the Corn plays out with the intensity of a high school basketball game. A Horror picture but not one that is necessarily up to the standards that define the very best the genre has to offer, Children of the Corn never manages to put it all together and move up to the big time. All the right pieces are in place, including a good story, decent enough acting, solid direction, and the Stephen King connection sure to sell a few more tickets (or in this case, Blu-ray discs), but like that high school matchup, the level of play and talent on the court just can't compete with the professionals. That's fine, because there's a place in cinema for all sorts of releases of varying quality, from the Oscar winner to the direct-to-video bore. Children of the Corn falls somewhere in a very happy middle ground. It never embarrasses itself, playing out as a fine all-around picture that squeezes enough terror, emotion, intrigue, and drama out of its unusual and unsettling story to keep up interest, but despite a good premise, the film never moves past the expected twists and turns and never strays from the well-beaten path that has seen many a picture -- some better, some worse -- tread its weary dirt.
The small Nebraska town of Gatlin, once a thriving agricultural community, one day sees its adult population wiped out by its children. Heeding the call of "He Who Walks Behind the Rows," the children, led by Isaac (John Franklin) and his right-hand man and feared killer, Malachai (Courtney Gains), slaughter their parents and other adults. Though the town falls into a state of neglect, the children live to serve an unseen god that, through Isaac, orders the deaths of those that should stray from the path and requests sacrificess in the form of travelers passing through town. Several years after the formation of the cult, a young couple -- Burton (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) -- accidentally run over one of the town's children who had gone astray and was murdered by Malachai. Though they try to avoid Gatlin at the behest of a local who lives outside of town, they cannot escape it, all roads seemingly leading to it. Once there, they find two young children -- Job (Robby Kiger) and Sarah (AnneMarie McEvoy) -- disillusioned with the cult and rebelling by playing games and listening to music, two forbidden pastimes. As Burton and Vicky piece together the town's disturbing history, they find themselves hunted by a cult of young men and women bent on spilling their blood for their dastardly god.
Though playing with plenty of religious overtones that deal more with fringe cults rather than mainstream denominations, Children of the Corn never feels over-burdened or particularly preachy in either an embrace or denial of religion as a whole entity. Though the religious aspect of the film plays central to the plot, it never completely dominates but rather meshes with the overall feel of the film that is instead more defined by its story, atmosphere, and under-age villains. Nevertheless, Children of the Corn builds a story which revolves around questioning not the need for, purpose of, or place that peaceful religion holds in society, but rather the forces that fight counter to the moral and philanthropic principles that tend to define most mainstream religions, and the film contains images of the degradation of several religiously-based works of art in an effort to show the cult's shunning of the messages of those religions that espouse peace and life rather than violence and death. The object of worship plays no part other than to define that which has driven the children to follow its "teachings" and carry out its "requests." No more or less important to the story than would be a golden idol or any other object someone may deem worthy of worship, it's simply a device built into a setting through which the plot unravels with particular overtones, themes, and locations that define a small Midwestern agricultural town. Ultimately, Children of the Corn makes for a somewhat chilling picture not necessarily because of the mysterious, real-or-imagined "god" in the corn but rather because of the devotion the young men and women of the town give to it in light of the dastardly requests, rituals, rules, and regulations that have come to govern their lives.
Children of the Corn plays out with something of a sluggish pace, but the slow start to the film generally benefits the story's development and unnerving atmosphere and is also countered by a rather fast third act. Though some of the material seems a bit goofy, particularly in some of the more "adult" discussions between Isaac and Malachai, most of it holds up well enough, and while Children of the Corn won't likely come to define the very essence of the Horror genre and bring about restless, sleepless nights or an onslaught of nightmares, it revels in its chilling simplicity and the brutality through which the children obey the corn. The acting is a mixed bag; the aforementioned Issac and Malachai, portrayed by John Franklin and Courtney Gains, don't always seem to have the characters or the material down perfectly, resulting in a few awkward exchanges and lines as noted above, but they play the parts with an eerie reality and their physical performances -- stares, glances, and body language -- steal the show. Hamilton and Horton offer standard efforts that don't degrade or elevate the film. Children of the Corn does feature above-average direction courtesy of Fritz Kiersch in what was both his directorial debut and best-known picture. The film also delivers an effective and haunting score from Jonathan Elias (Pathfinder).
Children of the Corn Blu-ray, Video Quality
Children of the Corn slices onto Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer framed inside a 1.85:1 window. For the most part, this is a fine looking catalogue title. The majority of the transfer takes on a clean, clear, sharp, nicely detailed, and naturally-colored appearance. Detail can impress throughout; the corn stalks reveal a wonderful texture, not to mention appearing as a natural and pleasant shade of green. Some of the run-down locales around Gatlin where weather-worn and rotted wood, chipping paint, and other unkempt places and objects also more often than not deliver an impressive visual presentation that brings the town to life. Still, the occasional scene takes on a hazy, undefined, noisy, drab, and soft appearance. For example, a scene featuring Sarah and Job playing Monopoly in chapter five looks rather good, but a cutaway shot to Malachai takes a noticeable downturn in quality. Children of the Corn also features grain throughout, though it does spike at times and the heavier field often accompanies the lesser-quality shots. The transfer also features print anomalies that creep up on occasion -- speckles, dirt, noise, and a few random lines hinder a few shots -- but generally, the transfer is free of major deficiencies. Blacks sometimes tend to drown out details but never appear too bright, and flesh tones remain consistent throughout. Though not a perfect transfer, this mid-1980's Horror movie looks rather good on Blu-ray.
Children of the Corn Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Children of the Corn premieres on Blu-ray with a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Jonathan Elias' score plays nicely throughout, a front-heavy presentation but one that is clear and pleasing to the ear in every respect. Directional effects are present but not in abundance; a car driving from right to left is about the extent of speaker-to-speaker action in this one. In fact, most of the track never strays very far from the center channel, and the back speakers rarely deliver any content. Sound effects aren't bad, but play as somewhat disappointing. A blowing wind and the rustling of corn don't do much outside of delivering the basic sonic reproduction of such occurrences, while other sounds, like that of a barking dog, play almost as if they were canned and detached from the rest of the track. The film's finale, which features plenty of sonic activity, plays adequately in volume and delivers a bit of an atmosphere and, combined with some rear-channel activity, creates a fair sense of immersion. These final minutes, and a few other scattered moments throughout the movie, deliver a subtle rumble of bass, but nothing to compete with even the more mundane Horror or Action movie Blu-ray soundtracks. Nevertheless, this film is primarily dialogue- and music-driven, and each of those presentations is certainly adequate. The remainder of the track conveys the information required of it but without much in the way of the crystal-clear clarity or the uncanny realism that define the very best soundtracks.
Children of the Corn Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Children of the Corn features several bonus features. First is a feature-length commentary track with Director Fritz Kiersch, Producer Terrence Kirby, and Actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains. This track plays out as an average multi-participant piece with plenty of minor, major, and comical recollections from the set, discussions on the sets and locations, problems with the corn, the set-up of plot and thematic themes, the film's success, and more. A passable commentary, the film's longtime fans will likely enjoy it enough to warrant a listen. Next up is Fast Film Facts, a pop-up trivia track that appears intermittently and reveals some additional behind-the-scenes tidbits. Also included are four featurettes. Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights & Sounds of 'Children of the Corn' (1080i, 15:28) is a retrospective piece with Production Designer Craig Stearns that looks at the challenges of creating a "good story" in the context of the religious overtones, the shooting locations, set design, and the joys and challenges in creating a Horror film. The final minutes of this piece feature Composer Jonathan Elias speaking on his score. It Was the Eighties! (1080i, 14:09) features actress Linda Hamilton recounting her experiences in making the film, speaking of the performances of the other primary cast members, and theorizing on the film's staying power. Stephen King on a Shoestring (1080i, 11:20) looks at the process of bringing King's story to the big screen with Producer Donald P. Borchers. Harvesting Horror" 'Children of the Corn' (480p, 36:14) is another retrospective piece that features Director Fritz Kiersch and cast members John Franklin and Courtney Gains speaking on a broad range of topics that cover most of the film. Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 1:27), three still galleries (Poster & Still Art, Original Storyboard Art, and Original Title Sequence Art), and BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality.
Children of the Corn Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Although Children of the Corn turns into a standard chase movie in its third act, it keeps up a good pace and delivers a suitable finale to an otherwise average Horror picture. From the mind of genre maestro Stephen King, Children of the Corn features a compelling story that translates to the silver screen with only ho-hum execution. Not a bad movie either within its genre or in the whole of cinema but certainly not an all-time classic, the film enjoys something of a cult following and, in the great tradition of the Horror genre, has been followed by several sequels, most of which have gone straight to video. "The original that started it all" is now on Blu-ray with uninspiring but not terrible results. Featuring a decent 1080p image, a bland but effective lossless soundtrack, and a nice collection of bonus materials, genre fans should be pleased with this release from Starz.
Children of the Corn: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Children of the Corn (3 bundles)
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