Arrow Video’s spooky fall lineup includes Ridley Scott’s fantasy ‘LEGEND’, murderous youth in ‘CHILDREN OF THE CORN’

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James Clay/ Film Critic

Children of the Corn is now available. Legend will be released on October 12.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)

Rated R, 92 minutes.
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, John Franklin, Courtney Gains

Religious horror is one of the best kinds of horror because it can have real-world implications. Stephen King knew that with his work in THE MIST, and Mike Flanagan has been carrying that torch in the modern age, look at MIDNIGHT MASS. Even Roman Polanski knew in the 1960s that religion could be the real enemy with ROSEMARY’S BABY. 

The point is that God’s word is powerful to some people, and it’s open to interpretation, so why not use it to commit some murder? That’s the question at the center of Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 classic CHILDREN OF THE CORN. Stephen King’s short story about a group of young religious zealots using their faith to kill adults is a fun concept to play around with when you’re a kid, viewing it as an adult not so much. 

The surface is a compelling piece of storytelling with a young couple (Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton, who are both quite good in the film ) traveling across the country to start a new life. Before long, they are trapped in the rural town of Gatlin, Nebraska, an endless loop of cornfields and bastard kids thirsty for blood in the name of the lord. Leading the kids is the visually striking Issace Chroner (John Franklin), a young man decked out in clothes that give off the American Gothic vibe. His cohort and muscle Malachai (Courtney Gains) lurks around the town with his shock of red hair killing the adults. 

The whole film is buy and large not as successful as its reputation suggests due to the screenplay by George Goldsmith. Goldsmith’s scrip was flimsier than King’s adaptation of his own fork, but the less nuanced approach was chosen in true Hollywood fashion. Rumor is that King wanted to focus on the interpersonal relationships inside the cult of kids. That nuance was rejected and we got a film that works great as entry-level horror. Despite the gripes with CHILDREN OF THE CORN, the film is immensely watchable. 

BUY/RENT: This is another excellent 4K upgrade for fans of Arrow Video’s catalog. The transfer looks astounding with crispy colors that articulate the autumn air beautifully. Unfortunately, the success of the disc rests largely on Arrow Video’s restoration of the original 4K negative which always means it’s going to be a swish. 

Along with the fantastic transfer, the artwork has a blood-red palette you’re probably looking at now. It’s an ominous and physically striking image of Isaac that perfectly personifies the film. Inside the disc is an interview with screenwriter George Goldsmith that I enjoyed immensely. Also, there’s an entire commentary track from a CHILDREN OF THE CORN historian named John Sullivan. 

GRADE: B

LEGEND

Rated PG, 113 minutes.
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, Tim Curry

Note: This review is based on the Director’s Cut

If you were a video store kid of a certain age, then the sizeable devil-like creature on the cover of Ridley Scott’s fourth film, LEGEND, was unforgettable. It’s a satisfying film in strange and unexpected ways. From its off-kilter dialogue to the star power at its core, the film is a visual achievement that continues to be underrated. Our editor Preston Barta said, “It’s like Ridley Scott wanted to take that unicorn cut scene from BLADE RUNNER and make an entire film out of that one idea.” He’s not wrong, but Scott’s natural genre trajectory would be to try hard fantasy after tackling Sci-fi and Sci-fi horror pictures with BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN. 

The film does lack emotional depth given that its stars, Tom Cruise and Mia Sara, had not hit their stride as 80s movie stars that can dance between genres, but they know how to dance in-between the frame. The story follows Princess Lili (Sara), who challenges the young forest dweller Jack (Cruise) to find her ring and get married. However, Darkness (Tim Curry), a huge devil-like figure, plans to capture Lili and turn the world into eternal night. He plans to do this by killing unicorns and using their horns to turn off the sun. (Or something like that.) The story is complicated to follow on a narrative level, but the images are some of the best cinema offers. Each frame is composed of astonishing practical effects by Rob Bottin (THE THING) of greenery, goblins, and ghouls that offer loads of visual splendor. 

Although the theatrical cut offers more palatable pacing, LEGEND was and still remains a film not made for general audiences. However, for cinephiles and film freaks, Arrow’s version of LEGEND is a perfect companion piece for BLADE RUNNER. It’s the kind of film that works as a great mood setter for a party; its images force the audience to reckon with what’s shown on screen. This is one of Scott’s more daring accomplishments of his early career, challenging audience expectations and further pushing creative boundaries. 

BUY/SKIP: In my mind, any fan of Ridley Scott would be happy to purchase this edition of LEGEND. It contains both the U.S. theatrical edition and the Director’s Cut, as well as the Tangerine Dream score. The special features are impressive and include making the film from the 2002 DVD, which holds up well to this day. It provides audiences a look behind how these ambitious scripts are made and cut to shreds as they are getting prepped for production. Overall, LEGEND is a flawed film that can be a slog if you go for the director’s cut. Despite the sluggish nature of the movie, its an awe-inspiring artistic achievement that’s well worth the addition to your collection.

GRADE: B

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.