Stephen King has written so many books, novellas and short stories that one loses track of all of the film adaptations, but one thing is certain; the overwhelming majority of them suck, and suck big time. For every Misery there is a Sometimes They Come Back, for every The Shining, there is a Cat's Eye, and for every Green Mile there is a...well... Children of the Corn.
King's collections of short stories have inspired many a bad film, from The Boogeyman, The Women in the Room, Night Flier, and his own stab at filmmaking, Maximum Overdrive (based on the short Trucks), filmmakers have all taken on the challenge of bringing whatever it is about King's marvelous prose to life on the screen, and have mostly failed miserably. Children of the Corn, in its short story form, was a morality tale about an estranged couple’s pit-stop in a seemingly abandoned mid-western town where they encounter a group of pint-sized religious zealots. While the story was spooky, it was really a reflection by King on the fragile nature of relationships, and how, under extreme circumstances, even the most hopeless of relationships are not unsalvageable. Of course, this was also presented with lots of scythe's, dead bodies, and a monster, but Freud King is not.
The film version of Children of the Corn, however, is basically an example of why one should not try and turn a twenty-five page musing by America's most prolific writer into an hour and a half feature.
Burton and Vicky (Horton and Hamilton) are making their way through God's country, arguing about nothing in particular, but obviously experiencing a rough patch in a relationship that seems at an impasse. As they are cruising along Burton hit’s a boy with the car, but, upon further investigation, they discover that the child was already dead, having had his throat slit. The couple argue over how to handle the situation, and when clearer heads prevail, they decide to drive to the nearest town to report the murder. When they arrive in the town of Gatlin, Nebraska, they discover that there are no adults, and this is because the inhabitants, led by a young boy named Isaac (John Franklin), worship a creature that lives in the cornfields and feeds on the energy of adults, thus anyone over 18 is fodder for the beast.
This is all, more or less, a part of King's story, and if it had ended here it wouldn't be a bad movie. Unfortunately, this would also have made the film 30 minutes long, so we are therefore force fed some filler in the guise of Job and Sarah; two precocious tots who don't like Isaac, and choose not to worship "He who walks behind the rows". Sarah’s character is revealed to be somewhat prescient, as she scribbles future events in crayon, while Job serves as comic relief. The two tots even help mend the Stanton's rocky relationship by making them realize how much they really do love each other! The Stanton's decide to spread that love, and, in a scene that mimics the Star Trek episode King must have based this story on (And the Children Shall Lead), Burton negotiates with the children, and reminds them just how much they loved their parents and…well, you know where this is heading.
Taken at face value, Children of the Corn is a mildly effective shocker, but how it ever went on to become a franchise and spawn a half-dozen sequels I’ll never understand. The film opens promisingly enough, with the slaughter of Gatlin’s adult population, but, once the focus shifts to the bland Peter Horton and a seemingly disinterested Linda Hamilton, the pace slows to a crawl, and is even further bogged down by Job and Sarah’s superfluous storyline. The rest of the movie sees one “corn chase” after another, culminating in a ho-hum finale featuring the cheesiest special effects this side of public access television. As you can see, I’m not a fan, nor have I ever been one. However, Anchor Bay knows there’s a good lot of you out there, and this Blu-ray presentation is a love letter to the lot of ya’.
Presented in an absolutely gorgeous 2.35:1 1080p transfer, Anchor Bay delivers Children of the Corn to Blu-ray in fine style, with just a hint of cinematic grain and the de rigueur soft-focus stylings of 80’s cinema marring what is an otherwise flawless image. For an old, low-budget flick, this transfer has a lot of pop and definition, with solid detail and rich, vibrant colors. This is easily the best I’ve ever seen this film look, and, while I can’t claim to remember how it looked way back in the day, when I first saw the film in theaters, I’m betting this nicely cleaned up transfer looks even better.
The Dolby True HD 5.1 soundtrack is a fairly straightforward mix, with most of the sonic action confined to the center and subwoofer, with only an sporadic volley of surround activity offering any semblance of immersion. Still, this is a long ways away from the film’s original stereo track, offering crisp and clear dialogue, an aggressive and atmospheric score, and the occasional assault of rumbling bass. It’s not as impressive as the video transfer, but it’s a more than suitable compliment to it.
Anchor Bay rounds up a nice selection of extras, including three HD featurettes; the retrospectives, Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights & Sounds of 'Children of the Corn' and Stephen King on a Shoestring, as well as It Was the Eighties!, an intriguing (and rare) interview with Linda Hamilton. Another featurette, Harvesting Horror":'Children of the Corn' , as well as a commentary track, pop-up trivia track, trailer, and stills gallery round out the bountiful harvest o’ goodness.
I’ve never been a big fan of Children of the Corn, but I know people who count this flick amongst their all-time horror favorites, and it’s for those people that this really nice Blu-ray set has been tailor-made for. Chock full of extras, and boasting a transfer that actually made me like the film a little more, Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray treatment is exceptional, and should be considered an essential purchase for fans of the series.