OCTOBER 5, 2009
I frequently argue that Carpenter’s The Thing is not a remake, but merely an adaptation of a short story (a more faithful one at that). My argument is, if The Thing is a remake, then Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dracula 2000 are "remakes" of the Bela Lugosi Dracula. Basically, if the source material is anything but another movie, then I think it needs closer examination before lumping it with the Halloweens and Stepfathers of the world. It’s not a black and white assessment for anything based on a story though; I DO consider Amityville 2005 to be a remake of the 1979 one, because it took stuff from the filmed version that wasn’t in the book. Anyway, in Children Of The Corn’s case, I am going to take the ‘non-remake’ side of the (possibly non-existent) argument. By director Donald Borcher’s own admission, the 1984 film (which he produced) changed quite a bit from King’s story, whereas this one is far more faithful, for better and for worse.
If you haven’t read the story, I hate to spoil it, but it’s far grimmer than the 1984 film was. Our protagonists are hateful, angry people and they both die at the end. These elements are retained for this new version, something I quite appreciated. However, based on reactions from friends who watched the film’s premiere on Sci-Fi channel (my mind won’t let me type out the new, idiotic moniker), the bitter characters were too hard to swallow, and they all hated it. Maybe because I was prepared for this, I didn’t mind it as much. Again, they were like this in the source material, so it’s not some random decision on the part of Borcher’s, and who are we to argue with Stephen King? Perhaps it goes a bit overboard (the Vicki character has not one sympathetic moment in the film), but I’ll take it over the original’s annoying singing/dancing version of the character.
Also, this movie pulls no punches when it comes to killing the evil title characters. Burt stabs one kid and snaps the neck of another, and Vicki shotguns one. And the plot-starting car accident is up there with Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black and Paul McCrane in Robocop among the all-time greatest scenes of someone being hit by a car. The film boasts the most guilt-free depiction of fighting off evil children since Who Can Kill A Child?, and the asshole in me much appreciated the candor.
Less perversely appealing, however, was a horribly gratuitous sex scene between two of the (older) children near the film’s conclusion. Not only does it come out of nowhere (and one of the few sequences in the film that has zero relation to the source material), but the actress playing the role is STILL not yet 18 in real life, and this movie was shot a year ago. Plus they dub in an older woman’s cries of passion, and cut to pre-teen corn kids jumping up and down and smiling as they watch the lovemaking, which makes it all the more icky. As I said in my review of the 1984 one, Borchers is a guy that simply makes me uncomfortable anyway, and this skyrocketed those feelings.
It also gets repetitive. There are seemingly two of every scene; two scenes where Vicki tries to get Burt to stay in the car with her when he wants to go check something out, two scenes of little Isaac preaching to his flock, and at LEAST two scenes of Burt running through the cornfields as he has ‘Nam flashbacks. The short story as is doesn’t lend itself to a feature, so you know they have to expand it a bit, but I wish they had added in a scene like the one in the 1984 film with the mechanic, instead of simply doubling up on everything.
On a technical level, it’s an improvement over the original, despite being filmed for less money (even without factoring in inflation). As the ending is sort of ambiguous, we are spared anyone’s visual concept of He Who Walks Behind The Rows (there is a suggestion that he doesn’t exist at all), allowing for the money to be put elsewhere. Borchers is a decent director (or he has a really good DP), though he overuses the “zoom cut” effect (show a corpse in a wide shot, then BAM! a medium shot, and then BAM! a closeup. Also the two leads are quite good - Kandyse McClure is both talented and beautiful, which makes her hateful character easier to handle. And David Anders (hey, weird, McClure is from Battlestar, and there’s a character on it named Anders) is a great everyman hero. He is saddled with some clunky dialogue (particularly the Vietnam stuff, which I think is another invention of the screenplay), but unlike Vicki, his outbursts and un-sympathetic moments are evened out with some genuine human moments. I wish they had played a bit more with the concept of two people who want to see the other one dead having to work together to survive, but maybe the upcoming Dimension remake can tackle this idea (yeah, right).
As with the other film, Anchor Bay has put together a nice collection of extras (all the more important since the film aired for free on TV before its disc debut). We start with a (shudder) Borchers interview, in which he explains that the script he was using was actually an unused draft that King wrote back in the early 80s (King otherwise had no involvement with either production). Then there are a few on-set interviews with the primary cast members, followed by a look at the FX and production design. Rounding out the forty or so minutes’ worth of material (which can be Play All-ed - thank you!) is some fly on the wall set footage, which is worth a look to see Anders embarrass himself with his inaccurate memories of Three Amigos (it was Chevy who had the extra water, you fool!). As with most collections of bonus material, your enjoyment of it depends on how you felt about the film. Audio/Visual quality is typically top notch.
Had I not been told for the past week how awful and unwatchable the film was, maybe I wouldn’t have had such a good time with it. Expectations can be a bitch for judging a film (hence my concept for this year’s October Extras series, which you guys haven’t been helping me on at all!), so maybe in a few years I will take another look at it and feel differently. But no one can deny that the film is a far more faithful version of King’s story, so if you liked the print version (which I did), then you should enjoy the filmed one as well.
What say you?