Release Date(s)1984 (August 25, 2009)
Studio(s)New World Pictures (Anchor Bay)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B
I think I can say without fear of contradiction that there has never been a horror franchise that didn’t eventually wear out its welcome. I might be willing to make an exception for the Evil Dead series, although three movies barely qualifies as a franchise. But because horror sequels can be made quickly and cheaply, it’s almost inevitable that the well gets visited once too often (usually about four or five times too often, actually).
Even by typical horror standards, Children of the Corn is an anomaly. Based on a short story by Stephen King, Corn became an unlikely video franchise, making it all the way up to Part 7 without once coming within spitting distance of being any good. That’s quite an accomplishment, possibly worthy of Guinness.
King himself frequently singles out Children of the Corn as one of the worst movies to come from one of his stories. And while it’s a little difficult to trust the opinion of the guy who directed Maximum Overdrive, the movie does rank pretty low. Granted, it’s not the absolute worst King movie but if the best you can say about a film is that it’s better than Graveyard Shift or The Mangler, the bar ain’t all that high.
The movie finds a commitment-phobic doctor (Peter Horton) and his girlfriend (Linda Hamilton) on the road to Seattle in a car that’s remarkably free of luggage for a permanent cross-country move. They’re taking the back roads through Nebraska when they accidentally hit a kid in the middle of the road. What they don’t realize is the boy was already dead, killed for trying to escape a pint-size cult that has taken over the small town of Gatlin. They try to find help but end up in line to be the next sacrifice to He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
If you remember Children of the Corn fondly, you most likely remember the great, iconic poster (even better in blood red than with the almost sepia tone on the Blu-ray cover) and the creepy faces of John Franklin and Courtney Gains as Isaac and Malachai, two of the cult’s leaders. You probably don’t remember the actual performances of Franklin and Gains, neither of which are all that stellar. And odds are you’ve entirely blocked out little Robby Kiger and Anne Marie McEvoy, the obnoxious little Disney imps that Horton and Hamilton take a shine to. If you enjoy bad movie moments, you’ll love when McEvoy, acting as lookout for the would-be escapee, shouts, “Nobody’s looking! Nobody’s looking!” as loud as humanly possible.
In its meager defense, the movie makes decent use of its Midwestern locations (actually Iowa, not Nebraska) and boasts a memorable score by Jonathan Elias. But it’s badly paced, incompetently staged and chock full of characters who seem genetically incapable of making a single intelligent decision about their own safety. Horton and Hamilton’s seemingly endless exploration of a clearly abandoned town drags things to a halt for a solid 20 minutes or so. And if you can suppress a snicker when He Who Walks Behind the Rows finally turns up, you’re made of stronger stuff than I.
Anchor Bay’s 25th anniversary Blu-ray serves up the Corn in far more style than it deserves. The image is surprisingly clear and as good as a movie of this budget and era will ever look. The audio, in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, is outstanding and really shows off Elias’ music, one of the few things about this movie that works. Extras include three new featurettes interviewing Elias, production designer Craig Stearns, producer Donald P. Borchers and, surprisingly enough, Linda Hamilton. Stearns and Elias offer up some of the most interesting insights, although all three are worth checking out.
The disc also includes an older documentary (presented in standard-def, the others are in HD) interviewing director Fritz Kiersch and Isaac and Malachai themselves, John Franklin and Courtney Gains. Kiersch, Franklin and Gains are joined by producer Terrence Kirby for a full-length commentary, which is a bit of an eye-roller at times. Finally, you get galleries of storyboard art, title sequence art, posters and stills, along with a Fast Film Facts trivia track that doesn’t tell you much of anything that isn’t in the commentary or on the featurettes.
The continued popularity of Children of the Corn absolutely baffles me. The movie was recently remade for Siffy or whatever the hell it is they call the Sci-Fi Channel these days and despite the fact that 98% of that channel’s original programming is absolute garbage, I can’t imagine it was much worse than this. The Blu-ray offers up a fine high-def edition of the movie but a much better version of the story can still be found in the low-definition world of the printed page.
– Dr. Adam Jahnke