Children of the Corn
From the mind of celebrated horror author Stephen King, the man behind such classic terror tales as The Shining, Carrie, and It, comes one of his most chilling offerings yet.
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator) and Peter Horton (Thirtysomething) star as a young couple who find themselves lost on the backroads of Nebraska, eventually winding up in the seemingly deserted town of Gatlin. But the town is far from empty. As the couple soon discover, it is inhabited by a twisted cult of murderous children, thirsty for another blood sacrifice…
Available for the first time ever in Ultra High Definition, Arrow Video is proud to present a brand new 4K restoration of the film that launched one of the most enduring horror franchises of all time. Children of the Corn… they’re an adult nightmare!
Arrow Video upgrades their Blu-ray edition of Fritz Kiersch’s Children of the Corn to 4K UHD Blu-ray, presenting the film on a triple-layer UHD disc in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture has been encoded at 2160p/24hz with Dolby Vision and is sourced from the same 4K restoration Arrow created and used for the previous Blu-ray edition. The 35mm original camera negative was the source for the restoration.
Arrow’s Blu-ray was already impressive in its own right: the image was razor sharp and highly detailed, rendering the grain nicely with little damage remaining. The only place I’d say it was a bit spotty was during the optical-effect heavy climax, Arrow even noting they took more of a hands-off approach to not harm the image further. Even then, it didn’t look too bad.
So, after a rather impressive looking Blu-ray presentation, the best presentation I had yet seen for the film, how does the full 2160p presentation look in comparison? The good news is that there are some notable, if still minor, improvements here, yet I can’t say that, on the whole, the upgrade is all that significant.
The film’s primarily fine-looking grain is subtly better here, looking more natural and less digital in the end, and this is even truer for the film’s darker scenes, which can have a slightly noisier look to the grain on the Blu-ray, while the 4K disc delivers it in more of a natural manner. Grain manages to even look a bit better in the handful of the film’s dupier looking shots, which includes a couple of shots featuring R.G. Armstrong with the rest showing up during those optical effect shots near the end. It's a nice improvement for sure, but the Blu-ray still did a decent job itself.
HDR also offers some nice moments, but the improvements are also mostly subtle, the grading applied in a rather conservative manner. There are some improvements in colours, the sky looking noticeably brighter and bluer, and I liked the colours found in the cheesy optical effects, which consists of shades of yellows and reds.
Shadows also come off a bit better; the low-lit interiors look darker in comparison to the Blu-ray, but shadow detail and gradients are still there, details rarely crushed out, with the source materials or lighting maybe limiting things a bit. Where HDR comes off most impressive is during the finale of the film, which takes place at night. Black levels look great, and the dynamic range is very wide, brighter objects sticking out but never bleeding into the darker backgrounds. A lit Molotov cocktail sticks out wonderfully, and when the fire eventually erupts it beautifully lights up the night sky without any signs of banding or bleeding into the blacks; it really looks great.
But that’s about it in the end. It looks great, no doubt, but as to whether it offers a significant upgrade over the already solid Blu-ray, I’d say it only offers minor improvements.
(Due to technical issues, screen grabs could only be taken from the first half of the film. The SDR screen grabs provided here were taken directly from the source disc in full resolution at 3840x2160 as uncompressed PNG files, then converted to 1920x1080 JPG files. While they should still convey the overall quality of the image, they should not be considered reference quality.)
Arrow includes the same audio tracks found on their Blu-ray: a lossless PCM stereo track to represent the original presentation, and then a remixed 5.1 surround track presented in DTS-HD MA. From the Blu-ray review:
Both tracks are fine and they both focus the audio to the fronts, outside of the music which does creep to the rears. There’s noticeable panning and direction, and both tracks deliver sharp, clear dialogue and rich music.
If anything the 5.1 track is more dynamic, especially in the film’s score, which comes off far more richer and eerie in comparison to the stereo track and envelopes the viewer a bit better.
Despite the original announcement seeming to suggest that some features would be dropped, Arrow has carried everything over from the Blu-ray, outside of a fold-out poster:
Carried over from previous editions is an audio commentary featuring director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains. It’s an entertaining track covering the film’s production and a few humourous stories around certain decisions or poor planning. Budget issues (a common story around New World Pictures) were a constant struggle and they admit the filmmakers admit the film didn’t turn out exactly the way they wish (the effects at the end probably being the biggest hurdle) but they’re still proud of the film. It’s an entertaining track and I enjoyed listening to their stories, particularly how the film has affected their lives since, but not too different from other film crew tracks.
Arrow then includes a new commentary featuring horror journalist Justin Beahm and “Children of the Corn historian” John Sullivan. This is more along the lines of an academic track, the two talking about this adaptation and other adaptations of the same story (including a short film called Disciples of the Crow, which also appears on this release), along with the endless sequels this movie has inexplicably created. They also talk about how they discovered the film and like to talk about the construction of a few sequences, and even get into detail about the infamous “death of the Blue Man” scene that showed up in promotional materials but was ultimately cut from the film and then lost. It’s a fine track that should work for fans, though I felt they did struggle for things to talk about during the last third and it did kind of lose me when Beahm (I think) actually defends the TV version of The Shining. Ugh!
Also from previous editions is the 36-minute making-of Harvesting Horror, featuring interviews with Kiersch, Franklin, and Gains. A lot of the material here is covered in the commentary track but is more structured, basically following the timeline of the shoot or sequences in the film. Franklin also talks a bit more about how he came to get the role and how he studied evangelical preachers, while Gains explains getting himself into character.
There are then a number of other interview features, including one with Linda Hamilton (called It Was the Eighties!) recorded for Anchor Bay, explaining how she got the part, talks about the experience of filming in an incredibly hot car, the physical requirements, and how the film started up her career from there. This is then followed by a new interview compilation with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin, who played Rachel and Amos in the film. This is a lengthy one at 50-minutes and it offers an excellent perspective of the experience of making the film from the other children, the two talking about the exciting experience and the casting process. What sort of stunned me, though, was despite this being a wonderful experience for Philbin he’s never bothered to read the rather short story.
Also new is an interview with screenwriter George Goldsmith. He first talks about his passion for writing and the path he took to become a screenwriter. He talks about the relevance of the movie today (the film’s themes about the dangers of blindly following a religion or belief) though says the Iran revolution was a bit of an influence at the time (though the analogies he throws out feel to be really pushing it). But the most interesting portion is when he talks about reworking Stephen King’s original script and the discussions he had with the author. King’s big problem, [Goldsmith] says, is that he internalizes everything and doesn’t understand that the visuals are more important with a film. King did object to some of the changes he made, though was ultimately gracious. This one runs 17-minutes.
There are then a couple of more interviews from previous editions. Producer Donald P. Borchers jokes about the naivete of his younger 26-year-old self making this film before mentioning a remake he’s working on (I assume the TV remake). There is then another segment featuring production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias talking about their contributions, Elias mentioning the quick manner the score came about and how proud he is of it considering the brief time frame he had. These interviews run 11-minutes and 15-minutes respectively.
The next couple of supplements, new to [Arrow's previous Blu-ray edition], prove to be the most fascinating thanks to interviews with the locals that are featured within them. The first feature, which goes over the film’s locations features John Sullivan (from the one commentary) touring the towns and spots that made up Gatlin in the film. Some places look better, some worse off (or gone!) but the gem of this is when we get interviews with the locals who share stories about the area and recall that period when Children of the Corn was being filmed there, which was a big event at the time. This is followed by an interview with local Rich Kleinberg who talks about his performance as the ”Blue Man,” his scene ultimately being cut out. This one ends up being especially great since Kleinberg, a member of a local theater group, not only talks about his scene (and the disappointment in how his scene was cut) but also talks about other members of the group who were also in the film. Running 16- minutes and 5-minutes they’re probably my favourite features on here, and it would have been fun if Arrow could have rounded up some more local people.
There’s a 5-minute animated storyboard gallery featuring the storyboards for an early scene in the film, which is then followed by the original theatrical trailer. Interestingly Arrow also includes the 19-minute short film Disciples of the Crow, another adaptation of the Stephen King story Children of the Corn, made around the same time as the feature film, though it’s a more faithful one (the makers had to change the title because the feature film version had dibs on the original [title]). It’s actually a pretty good adaptation, nicely building up mood and tension, despite some rough edges. It also looks really good here, appearing to have been restored.
The included booklet features an essay by Sullivan, which rounds out a lot of the material on the film’s production that appeared elsewhere on the disc. It also features a second essay by Lee Gambin on preachers in film and then real life child preachers, including Marjoe Gortner and Uldine Utley.
As mentioned previously, Arrow does not include the fold-out poster that came with the original Blu-ray edition.
Like the previous all that's missing really is an interview with author Stephen King. Gathering together new and past material, Arrow's supplements offer up the most comprehensive edition for the film yet.
Arrow's 4K edition still looks notably better than their previous already solid Blu-ray edition, Dolby Vision maybe playing a lot into that, but the improvements are ultimately negligible.