Arrow Heads #90: CHILDREN OF THE CORN 4K

There’s plenty of Corn-based Terror and Terror-based Corn to be found in this UHD restoration of a Stephen King cult favorite

Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From cult and genre fare to artful cinema, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.

Children of the Corn is one of those 80’s horror films for me whose reputation always preceded itself, with a legion of fans endlessly giving thanks and praise to the 1984 original–and even its crop of sequels, albeit to diminishing returns. However, Children of the Corn’s remained a Horror blind spot for me all these decades, and with Arrow’s announcement of a 4K UHD upgrade to their lauded Blu-ray special edition, it felt like harvest time had come at last.

Some time ago, mysterious child preacher Isaac led the children of Gatlin, Nebraska to ritualistically slaughter every adult over the age of 17. Spared were Jobey and Sarah, two doe-eyed children who’d avoided Isaac’s cryptic masses…and have since become the reclusive voices of reason amidst a town of kids gripped by bloodthirsty, plant-worshipping mayhem. The latest accidental visitors to Gatlin, however, are Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton), a bickering couple debating their level of commitment to one another. When they think they’ve run over a child who’s attempted to escape Isaac’s clutches, Burt and Vicky scramble to find help in Gatlin. But their cries for help fall on deaf ears, and are immediately stalked by Gatlin’s creepy offspring. With Jobey and Sarah’s help, Burt and Vicky must escape Gatlin’s desolate streets and thriving fields, lest they fall victim to Isaac’s latest calls for sacrifice to appease He Who Walks Behind the Rows.

Notoriously blighted by budget and problems over the course of the on-location filming, it’s wholly safe to say there’s much in this film that’s more corny than a-maize-ing. While anchored by deliciously evil performances by John Franklin as Isaac and Courtney Gains’ Malachai, the child performances of Corn vacillate wildly across the amateur spectrum, either self-conscious and hesitant, or hamming up the city-adults-writing-country-children “Aw, Shucks” dialogue. Of the central couple, Hamilton seems far more willing to engage with the material on a dramatic level. Horton’s Burt is written as a macho city slicker doctor with a nose permanently upturned at country life, but one can’t help but feel that the actor’s beliefs don’t diverge far from the character’s. The VFX are rough around the edges, relying on well-timed splatters of red paint, especially as the film approaches its inevitable cornfield climax. While beginning with an insane premise with fertile ground for terror, Children of the Corn’s “adult nightmare” seemed rather tame and laughable–especially compared to the King efforts preceding and following this one.

What’s impressive, however, is how much of Children of the Corn thrives in spite of its many obstacles. Forced to cut back on many of its gory moments, director Fritz Kiersch relies on the power of suggestion to fuel many of Corn’s effective first-half scares, notably the fate of a creepy gas station attendant’s dog, as well as any sickle-centric sequences where the weapons are threateningly brandished — the glint of a blade accompanied by the glint of evil in the child actors’ eyes. The physical special effects of an evil force burrowing underneath the cornfield are terrifying precisely because of their tangible impact on the world around it, with the other neon blobs illustrating its presence already dated even by mid-80’s standards.

Ultimately, Children of the Corn is a love-it-or-leave-it slice of 80’s horror with kernels of camp and creepy dispensed in equal measure. In keeping with their other labors of love, Arrow’s 4K restoration of the film assembles a bounty of new and archival special features to provide die-hard fans a glimpse into the cultivation of their beloved cult classic.


Arrow presents Children of the Corn in Dolby Vision UHD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, sourced from a 4K scan of the original 35mm negative. The original 4-track stereo magnetic track provided the source for a 2.0 LPCM stereo and re-mixed 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio English language tracks. English SDH subtitles are provided only for the feature film.

For a film set majorly in an abandoned midwestern town among endless swaths of cropland, Children of the Corn pops on 4K UHD. The grimy details of the production design are well-realized here, from the children’s weird-ass pop art graffiti and cob-bled-together religious totems to the disturbed soil and whips of green stalks of the fields. Accompanying audio tracks are equally serviceable, with surround tracks making copious use of Jonathan Elias’ menacing choral score and any bumps and creaks to be mined from scare sequences.

Special Features

  • Two Audio Commentaries: In addition to a commentary featuring horror journalist John Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan, Arrow ports over an archival commentary featuring director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, and actors John Franklin (Isaac) and Courtney Gains (Malachai).
  • Harvesting Horror- The Making of Children of the Corn: An archival making-of featurette featuring director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains.
  • It Was the Eighties!: An archival interview with actor Linda Hamilton (Vicky).
  • …And a Child Shall Lead Them: An interview with actors Julie Maddalena (Rachel) and John Philbin (Amos), discussing how the film introduced them to careers as professional actors.
  • Field of Nightmares: Screenwriter George Goldsmith discusses fleshing out the bare bones of King’s short story with an ever-dwindling budget.
  • Return to Gatlin: Children of the Corn historian John P. Sullivan guides us through the modern-day state of the filming locations.
  • Stephen King on a Shoestring: An archival interview with producer Donald P. Borchers, who would go on to remake the film in 2009, discussing the challenges of adapting King’s short story to the screen with the resources available.
  • Welcome to Gatlin — The Sights and Sounds of Children of the Corn: Interviews with production Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias.
  • Cut from the Cornfield: An interview with Rich Kleinberg, who was infamously cut from the film as the “Blue Man,” a Gatlin police officer who dared to cross the Children’s path, due to the film’s increasing budget constraints.
  • Disciples of the Crow: An unusual oddity for any release, Arrow resurrects the original Dollar-Baby version of Children of the Corn. Filmed with a third of the budget (and the runtime) as the feature to come the following year, John Woodward’s 1983 short-film adaptation is a much more stripped down and sinister affair.
  • Storyboard Gallery of the film’s opening car accident sequence and aftermath.
  • Trailer
  • Booklet featuring writing by John Sullivan and film historian Lee Gambin. Sullivan’s essay recaps the making of the original film and addresses some of the urban legends behind the film’s lost scenes, and Gambin’s essay examines the child preacher character of Isaac, and the history of the trope and of religious zealotry in general across Stephen King’s work.

Children of the Corn is now available on 4K UHD courtesy of Arrow.

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