All the Children Of the Corn You'll Ever Need

Children Of the Corn is the killer kids movie.  It's not the first, or the best, but somehow it's the definitive one.  Anyway, it has its moments.  And it's still better than the eleven(!) other Children Of the Corn movies.  I mean, you should see Part 3 once just for its epic climax, but otherwise, this is the only one worth bothering with.  Strangely, it still kinda holds up.  You can't really be a fan of this twisted subgenre and not have it in your collection.  And I certainly couldn't not have it on this site.
In my case, it helps that I grew up a Thirtysomething devotee, so Peter Horton always helps sell me on this.  But even if you didn't roll hard for The Michael and Elliot Company, the cast is elevating this movie to places it normally couldn't reach.  A pre-fame Linda Hamilton does an above average turn, but it's the "kids" (in quotes, because one actor was actually in his 20s) who play Isaac and Malachai who really carry this film.  Otherwise, it's shot and scored like a TV movie, the effects are mixed and as good as the aforementioned kids are, most of the other child actors are entirely unconvincing.  But the premise of a ghost town populated only by its children who murdered all the adults is powerful (even if another movie beat them to the punch).  All the "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" mythos undercuts what works about this film more than enhances it, but the corn husk imagery is at least a little interesting and gives the movie a valuable sense of personality.
I suppose it's worth mentioning that there's possibly a longer director's cut out there.  It's described on the film's imdb page, and people have posted on forums (so take that for what it's worth) claiming to have seen it on television.  Check out the lengthy discussion in the comments of this blog post, for example.  Apparently, the prologue is more elaborate, with additional characters and kills, and a few additional moments.  But it seems to be seriously lost, if it ever existed at all.  I remember 88 Films delaying their release to search for it, and ultimately coming up empty-handed.  I'd certainly love to see it restored if possible, and I wonder if it would actually make for a superior film; but I don't hold out a lot of hope anymore.
Children Of the Corn has had an extensive history on disc, starting out with an Anchor Bay 2001 DVD, followed by a 2004 Divimax edition, which also turned it into a special edition adding a bunch of extras.  Then, in the HD era, AB released it as a 25th Anniversary Edition blu-ray, which is the first one we've got here.  Then the rights shifted to Image, who released it on DVD and BD in 2011.  88 Films released it in the UK in 2016, but it was quickly overshadowed by Arrow's 4k restoration in 2017, which was released in both the US and UK markets.  But, of course, it was only a matter of time until that BD was reissued on UHD, and that's what happened in 2021 in the US, and 2022 in the UK.
1) 2009 AB BD; 2) 2011 Image DVD; 3) 2017 Arrow BD; 4) 2021 Arrow UHD.
For starters, all of these are 1.85:1, except the Image, which is 1.78:1.  You can see the Image is essentially the same framing as the Anchor Bay just with the slim vertical mattes removed.  But then Arrow doesn't just restore mattes; they keep the extra vertical information from the Image disc and instead restore the 1.85 AR by revealing more on the sides.  The colors and general look of the picture is rather consistent across all releases - I think they're all from the original 35mm negative (Arrow's definitely is; their booklet tells us so).  But the grain is soft even on Anchor Bay's blu.  Arrow really captures it well for the first time on blu with their fresh scan, which smartens up detail as well.  The backwards "B" is distinct for the first time on the Arrow discs in that second set of shots.

The UHD is barely even an upgrade in that regard, because their BD encodes it all so well.  But the UHD, graded as it is in HDR/ Dolby Vision, is more vibrant.  The older releases look a bit washed, which Arrow's blu emboldens nicely, while still separating them.  Notice their naturally bluer sky.  And then the UHD pushes the colors even further.  The mechanic's yellow hat, and even the red on his color, are deeper and richer.  This is definitely a case where the UHD's upgrade is in the HDR.  You really have to zoom into the shots to appreciate the boost in resolution (though if you're looking for that, check out the car door handle and gas cap at five or six hundred percent to really appreciate it).

And here's another reason to upgrade to the Arrow: Anchor Bay and Image both just have a 5.1 remix track (despite earlier AB DVDs having the original track, too), but Arrow has both the original mono and the 5.1 remix in LPCM and DTS-HD, respectively.  Image also doesn't have any subtitle options, though the other three all have proper English ones (AB also has Spanish).
Straight outta Gatlin
Anchor Bay already had some solid extras in their pocket by the time they of their 25th Anniversary edition, starting with a really strong audio commentary by the director, producer Terrence Kirby, and the actors who play Isaac and Malachai.  This diverse quartet have a lot of memories, good information and keep the discussion lively.  There's a good 30+ minute featurette that sits the commentary gang in front of the camera, and yeah, they repeat some stuff, but it's still worth the watch.  They also had the trailer and some galleries.  ...And when AB came up with their blu, they kept all that and added some more.  They also added three great new interview featurettes, one with Linda Hamilton, one with the composer and production designer and one with producer Donald Borchers.

Image, meanwhile, has nothing but the trailer.
Disciples Of the Crow
Arrow happily went in the complete opposite direction.  They carry over everything from Anchor Bay, old and new.  And they came up with a bunch of new stuff.  There's a second, expert audio commentary, which is okay.  They do have some new pieces of good info sprinkled throughout the track.  Of even more value, though, they have new interviews with the screenwriter, the actors who played the two good kids, the actor who played "the blue man" and a visit to the original filming locations.  And I was very happy to see they threw in the original adaptation of King's short story, Disciple Of the Crow, a short film from 1983 that was originally released on VHS as part of The Nightshift Collection.  It's presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio in 1080p and does not appear to have been restored in 4k like the feature, but it looks a lot better than a VHS rip.  It's a lot lower budget, cruder and under 20 minutes long, but it's creepy enough and I daresay better than some of the later CotC sequels.
The UHD doesn't have anything the BD 2017 release didn't have, but it keeps everything.  And both releases come with a full-color 28-page collectors' booklet, in a slipcover with reversible artwork.  For whatever mysterious reason, you definitely can't seem to keep this series of films down, but it seems like this will be the final, definitive chapter on this film for a good long time.

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