Children Of The Corn (2009)

OCTOBER 5, 2009

GENRE: CULT, KILLER KID
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)

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?

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

11 comments:

  1. I thought this one was all sorts of barfy. I can appreciate the attempt to be more faithful to the original, but the actors selected for the leads sure as hell didnt sell the characters. They still drew the hate they deserved, but for all the wrong reasons. Had they created naturalistic characters that are each flawed like in Natures Grave, it may have been another story, but their terrible acting on top of shoddy writing had me checked out before the 5m mark. Do people really use each others first names in every sentence when arguing??

    I tried giving it a chance, and the original is by no stretch a favorite of mine, but I found this one to be unwatchable and I cant see myself ever reproaching it over the 84 version

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  2. Got to check it out, too bad cable was cut due payment (Lack), as for the sex scene, well.... in the book "It" the six boys have sex with the girl at the end, maybe not at the same time, but one after the other, and they were described as 12-13 years old,... Spoiler Alert!, huh? too late? Oh well, never mind..

    So maybe the studios will push the envelope in the "It" remake, I mean for the sake of being faithful to the source? I´m a fan of the King, so let´s see what happens.

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  3. I think this is another good example of a story that they shouldn't try stretching into a movie, but instead should show as a quick little 'shocker' before a major motion picture event (hey, wouldn't that be cool if they really did things like that before horror movies?), or do another Nightmares and Dreamscapes show just with more stories from Nightshift.

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  4. i'd have to say the car crash in the intro to "the descent" ranks high in my book.

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  5. Call me an old fogey, but I just can't watch remakes with the same open mind as some people can. And I would view that as a remake in a sense, even though it's a different interpretation direction. Interesting review, but I'd probably skip it, especially with teen "bordering=on=porn" sex in it. They've just tried to remake too many horror films for my liking so I'm bitter to that anyway.

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  6. I just saw this yesterday, and I like you, really prefer the grimmness of the original story and thought this film did many thingss right. The film had a constant sense of dread, the faithfulness to the source material and not using crappy SFX to show the monster. It's down sides were Isaac and Malachai were nowhere near as meomorable as they were in the 1984 version and too much damn time in the cornfields. But all in all, I really enjoyed this one, same as I enjoy the miniseries of the Shining in a different aspect than the Kubrick version.

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  7. just watched this movie...the reason i was intrigued to watch it is one of the guys i work with his son was one of the finalists to play the creepy lil kid but ended up being beat out by this kid in the end....the beginning opens with the couple and right from the get go i couldnt wait for the women to die...she was soooo annoying... the whole thing where the boy gets hit and she wont shut the F*CK UP! i would have shot her and stuck her ass in the trunk too..i mean hell he was a vietnam vet so he could have pulled a PTSD moment (which he seems to have constantly!!!)..i know i would have...i just wish they would have showed her die....and yes BC the random sex scene was like..wow...really? but at least the girl was hot...she was like the only positive of the film. I still prefer the red headed malakai and the other creepy dwarf kid from the first film....I honestly wouldnt watch it again because i couldnt handle the countless jawing and the vietnam flashbacks in the corn field...

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  8. I'm downloading the movie right now (I saw the first version in the theater in its original release, incidentally), so I can't say for sure, but I do know that in pre-Christian Europe, it was very normal to have public sex rites in agricultural fields. Often a "King" and "Queen" would be chosen among the young people, who would then copulate on the field while the rest of the community observed, followed suit, chanted, etc. It sounds to me as if the director was trying to allude to a sort of pagan revival in Nebraska, and cleverly suggesting that an ancient version of the cult of He Who Walks Amongst the Rows was once the dominant faith in Europe.

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  9. "Why are you downloading???"

    Um...because I want to see the movie?

    Anyway, it wasn't that great. Perhaps a little better than the '84 version, however. I'd have to do a comparison to be certain, but I'm not inclined to watch the '84 version again at this time. I preferred the original Malachi, but I thought the young kid from the 2009 version did a good job as the leader.

    That Black woman was easy on the eyes, but she's a terrible actress, and any woman in bitch mode literally each and every time she spoke would actually be mentally ill. I've been married twice, and otherwise done the whole man-woman thin with dozens of women (this is a horror movie blog, after all, so we undoubtedly have some aged virgins among the readership), and no woman acts like that. I've seldom seen a more deserved slap.

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  10. I don't care what downloaders think, quite frankly. Feel free to express your opinions elsewhere.

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