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CHILDREN OF THE CORN
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Fritz Kiersch

Starring:
Peter Horton
Linda Hamilton
John Franklin
Courtney Gains

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

A young couple named Burt and Vicky are on their way to a small Nebraskan town to setup Burt's new medical practice when they get sidetracked and end up in Gaitlan, where all of the adults are either missing or dead and a bunch of kids have taken over the place. Led by Isaac (with some help from his henchman, Malachi), the kids follow some sort of cult which involves doing the bidding of 'He Who Walks Behind The Rows.' Sounds like someone's in need of a spanking!

Is it good movie?

Steven King is a master of writing, and with this mastery comes the calling of Hollywood to adapt his works into film. Some adaptations are genuine classics in the genre (CARRIE, THE SHINING), while other are less than classics (GRAVEYARD SHIFT). CHILDREN OF THE CORN, based on the short story of the same name, falls into the latter category. Sure, there have been sequels based on the original, but as you know, just because they've continued to use the original as a basis for more films, doesn't mean the original warranted them.

Where to begin with this? Perhaps starting with the fact that the majority of the film has Burt and Vicky driving around looking for a way out of the town, the rest involving the children looking into the rows of corn listening to Isaac spout crap like "so take you his life, and spill his blood," and so on. Or maybe that other than Peter Horton (Burt) and Linda Hamilton (Vicky) doing a passable job, the kids simply suck at acting. Most of the time they sound like they're either reading cue cards or running through rehearsal. But what'd you expect from a 25-page story?

Another thing is the idea of kids in horror movies never jived with me, and for two reasons: 1) Kids in horror movies the majority of the time are annoying and are there to scream and be helpless, and 2) The kids are hardly scary in these movies. Okay, there are exceptions (Gage from PET SEMETARY and the kids from the original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED come to mind), but seriously, how scary is it when you could take these kids out with a quick backhand to the head? Also, when you realize that Burt and Vicky are in a car and could easily pull a DEATH RACE 2000 and mow down some unruly kids for points, there's the obvious question of why is there a movie in the first place?

I will give the film props in a couple areas like the cornfields, which are creepy themselves and hold mucho potential for scares (too bad they're wasted). Another would be the kids closing in on the lone adult left after their rampage, closing in on the dude like a pack of wolves would close in for the kill. The chilling score by Jonathan Elias is also a plus, even though the atmosphere it presents with the OMEN-like chorals is outweighed by the lameness of the picture. But other than those positives, the film is rife with an agonizing pace, plot holes that would make INDEPENDENCE DAY blush (what kind of town in this day and age doesn't carry guns?), lame special effects (yay for neon skies!) and a dumbass ending makes the film a rental, barely.

Video / Audio

Video: While Anchor Bay took the time to release a Divimax edition of the film back in 2004, for their Horror Legacy series of reissues we have the original DVD transfer from 2001 for this film. This anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is merely okay. The image tends to be soft throughout, and there are many instances of color muting and grain. Black levels are pretty solid. The film exhibits a fair bit of edge enhancement at times, and given that the image is still soft, Anchor Bay obviously did what they could back then, but the Divimax transfer shows much more improvement.

Audio: Not too much difference between the 2001/Horror Legacy and the Divimax editions. A (then) newly created 5.1 Dolby Digital track adds dimensionality to the chanting score and sound effects, but at the cost of the dialogue, which tends to become drowned out at points. Also included is the 2.0 English Dolby Surround track, and while it's not much better than the 5.1 mix, it preserves the original way the film was presented.

The Extras

Given that this is basically the same disc Anchor Bay released back in 2001, and not the 2004 Divimax release that added much more in all categories, what do you think you're getting? Aside from a new slipcase cover that accompanies all the Horror Legacy reissues, we also get the film's deceptive theatrical trailer, which makes the film more exciting than it really is, and a sixteen-page collector's booklet, featuring images from the film and liner notes by some guy named Michael Flesher.

Put it this way: the Divimax Edition of the film has a 37-minute documentary on the film, a commentary by director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and the kids who played Isaac and Malachi, the trailer, still galleries, and a link to the screenplay online, what version are you going to look for?

Last Call

Trying to adapt a film from a book isn't easy, but when a story is only 25 pages long, there's obviously a difference between difficult and downright impossible. While some films have been successful at transferring from a short story to celluloid, this isn't one of those films. And given that Anchor Bay had released a much better version of the film on DVD four years ago (along with extras), why bother with this quick reissue, or the film, at all?

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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