Corn Job

It’s important to consider the environment in which Children of the Corn released. The early ‘80s dawned a conspiratorial, evangelical movement – the “Satanic Panic,” which subscribed to asinine global paranoia, resisted pop culture, and demonized anything outside their Puritan worldview as a Satanic presence.

Notably liberal Stephen King concocted a distorted horror story based on that delusion, one taken to the extreme, if well suited to the killer kid genre that birthed The Omen’s Damien. Children of the Corn’s adaptation is forcibly drawn into feature length, filled by scenes of Burt (Peter Horton) wandering a deserted town, looking for a phone. From that, it’s clear the budget sunk to nothingness.

Children of the Corn unabashedly mocks strict conservative religious values

As a horror movie where kids with sickles chase after adults for a sacrifice, Children of the Corn is little to nothing significant. The reason it clicked – and inadvertently spawned a movie franchise – comes back to timing. The demographic for horror movies isn’t the evangelical crowd, rather those who look down on dated belief systems and their ability to lock generations into a stunted lifestyle.

Children of the Corn unabashedly mocks strict conservative religious values, and the hook is pushing this onto children. Not the adults who know (or should) understand the manipulation, rather the young who know no other life. Almost as a joke, Children of the Corn begins where the upbringing failed; led by Isaac (Josh Franklin), the pre-teen cult murders their families because kids act out what they’re told. In this case, violent rhetoric festered in their minds, unleashing a spiritual evil.

The script isn’t fearful of tackling the issue head on. At one point, Burt grabs a Bible, yelling at a full church, asking whether they believe all of it or, “only the parts that suit your needs.” Children of the Corn isn’t nuanced, but neither are those who saw a hair metal band playing on MTV and assumed a cultural shift was Satan’s work.

Job (Robby Kiger) and Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy) refuse the cult’s ways, two kids who did live on the outside. All they want to do is listen to records and play board games, things that go against the belief system in town. It looks so quaint, two sub-10-year-olds huddled over a Monopoly board, totally innocent. The visual isn’t without precedent either: Dungeons & Dragons began to emerge as the next force taking children’s souls. To Children of the Corn, it was the religion itself draining them of any free will.

Video

Arrow’s new master gives Children of the Corn visual kick, keeping the color palette suitably midwestern in a Dolby Vision wrap. There’s enough warmth, a soft yellow push, and energy to the primaries. Flesh tones land on point, and the whole thing looks entirely natural to a film stock. Gorgeous replication work.

Sunlight beams in and brightens things up. Children of the Corn isn’t much for intensity or peak brightness, but organically controlled contrast. Black levels however look spectacular, eerily dense, solid, and thick. There’s no sense crush is causing harm, blacks pure black where necessary and careful elsewhere.

This isn’t an easy one for Arrow’s compression algorithms. Grain spikes early, veering toward noise but controlled well enough to avoid appearing overly digital. Most of the runtime, the 35mm stock shows fine grain, handled cleanly and allowing detail to flourish. All of the Nebraskan scenery makes spectacular gains over previous Blu-ray editions, those cornfields resolved fully and precisely. Facial texture jumps where the cinematography wants it to, even in mid-range shots.

Audio

Uncompressed stereo and 5.1 tracks deliver superb fidelity. While not a grandiose score, the orchestration is given full range on both tracks, the surround remix letting it escape the stereos. Note it’s a subtle enhancement, not an overly dynamic one, and thus preserves the original intent like the impressively wide stereo split.

Dialog doesn’t strain or lose energy from age. Aside from a slight thinness, Children of the Corn nearly passes for modern – nearly.

Extras

Justin Beahm and John Sullivan jump in for commentary one, the cast and crew on the second. An older 36-minute retrospective looks back on the production through key interviews. Linda Hamilton offers up her time for a 14-minute interview. Julie Maddalena and John Philbin, in a new interview segment, chat for 50-minutes about their roles.

Writer George Goldsmith discusses adapting a short story for 17-minutes, and that’s another new interview. Producer Donald Borchers comes next for 11-minutes. Production designer Craig Stearns follows, sharing a piece with composer Johnathan Elias for 15-minutes. A location visit runs 16-minutes. Actor Rich Kleinberg talks about a cut that eliminated his role in a five-minute chat. A storyboard gallery and trailer almost mark the end, but a short film adaptation – made one year prior to the feature version – marks the finale.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Children of the Corn
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Movie

Children of the Corn worked in the context of its time, and isn’t without relevance now, but is a shoestring horror production lacking in thrills.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 48 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: