But you told me you were on the pill! Children of the Corn (2009)
Well, I’ve made it. I have to say that this hasn’t exactly been an a-maize-ing experience. This series has been pretty corny on more than one occasion and I do have to admit that it has corn-holed my cerebral cortex. It has been truly dreadful in places, with the odd kernel of entertainment, and at this moment in time I’m a broken husk of a man that would rather be beaten to death by a thug wielding a sack full of tins of sweetcorn than watch the newest one. Which luckily for me isn’t out until next year.
I think that’s them all covered, but I’ll be around to field any questions at the end.
I’ve fought my way through 8 films of varying quality, from the dismal to the not too bad. It’s been a struggle, and the reason that I’ve bashed these reviews out so fast is that within about 10 minutes of finishing watching most of them they instantly start to fade from my memory. Seriously, Fields of Terror, which I’m pretty certain is one of the best of the series is now a total blank. Although I do seem to remember some gratuitous juggs in Revelation.
Anyway, this series gets postponed today, as I’ve run out of films. Although there is a “new” one looming on the horizon, this sciffy Channel remake is the last one available right now. I’ll come back and watch the new one, obviously, but at the moment this is where I’m stopping.
Moving on, I’m quite surprised that the Sci-Fi Channel decided to remake Children of the Corn. It’s not exactly screaming out for a new version, and the name doesn’t have the caché of something like, say, Halloween. The sequels have battered it into the ground and Stephen King’s wafer thin premise has been stretched beyond breaking point. So, taking the above into account, why on earth would anyone remake it? Well, damned if I know.
However, in a strange way, I’m almost glad that this reboot was made. To begin with, it’s absolutely superb with the Gatlin mythology- there’s a succession of Boy Preachers, so it isn’t reliant on Isaac, and there was significant effort put into explaining how a suicide cult could function beyond the age of 19. This is, and I’m astonished to say this, a remarkably proficient film and Mrs. Jarv’s most enjoyed of the whole series. Weird.
I haven’t read the original story, or if I have, I don’t remember it at all. I was aware that the original film had departed significantly from it, but was damned if I knew how or where. From what I understand, though, this 2009 version is much closer to the King’s effort than any previous film, which I suppose must be a good thing.
This version opens with Abel, the boy preacher, preaching to his kids in the mid-late 60’s about “He who walks behind the rows”. “He” is an Old Testament style vengeful god that requires mucho sacrifice and is a bit of a bastard all in all. Anyway, after the messy butchering of a pig, the film jumps to 12 years later and introduces us to former marine (see, I do pay attention) Burt, a decorated Vietnam veteran and his dreadful shrewish wife Vicky. For the next half an hour it follows the first film to the letter, with the only difference being character traits (Burt and Vicky really, really don’t like each other).
Isaac is revealed, and he orders Malachi to hunt down the outlanders and sacrifice them in the clearing of the blue man to “He”. Burt and Vicky, meanwhile, are incessantly bickering about what to do with the corpse in the trunk. Burt pulls in and looks in a church for a resident of Gatlin, and this is where the film starts to differ markedly from the original.
First things first, Vicky is tormented in the car by the teenage thugs and summarily executed. Burt comes out to see Malachi torching the car, and seems to be somewhat pissed about this. He then fights off, and messily kills, a couple of the bigger boys. Isaac is seen on the rooftops orchestrating affairs and manages to stab Burt with a knife thrown by himself but “guided by he who walks behind the rows”. Burt escapes into the corn fields and is hunted down by the feral Gatlin kids. He then starts to struggle with flashbacks and snaps an 8-year-old boy’s neck. Eventually, night falls so the kids leave him, and Burt blunders across Vicky’s crucified form before “He” takes his prize. The next day, Isaac reveals that “He” is pissed at them for not killing both strangers so has lowered the sacrificial age from 19 to 18. Thereby including Malachi, who piously accepts his fate in an astonishingly nihilistic ending.
There’s actually quite a lot to say here. I’ve already mentioned that they handle the cult well and the explanation for the prophets is extremely well done. Next on the list will be Adam, who is already seeing visions, but the implication is clear- Abel, the original preacher, walked out into the fields on his 19th birthday. Kudos for having the stones to follow through with it. Furthermore, the Children of Gatlin are a properly functioning society, and there is an explanation as to how they haven’t run out of kids yet (the most uncomfortable scene of the film, actually).The writing, as a rule in this film, is astonishingly competent- even (and this is a first for the series) down to the dialogue. A particularly memorable bit is Vicky explaining her background as a preacher’s daughter and how “Hearing every kind of evangelist preying on the uneducated, the lonely, the weak instead of praying for them” makes her anti-religion is a stupendous (albeit unsubtle) skewering of organised religion, and bangs home the theme of the movie. These kids are in this, obviously evil, cult because they are ill-educated, isolated, and susceptible. It’s a monstrously unsubtle dig at Christianity, but a strangely effective one.
However, the attempt is made to play it as a straight horror, and some significant mistakes were made. The first is in the casting. Kandyse McClure, who plays Vicky, puts in a horrendous performance. Honestly, she’s truly dreadful and hugely unlikable. The character is a vicious, nagging shrew to begin with, but her performance accentuates this and renders Vicky totally unsympathetic. What should be the big “frightening” set piece actually falls flat for me, because I wanted her to die. To be fair to her, she’s not alone. Preston Bailey, who plays Isaac, is far too young for the lines he’s reciting. He clearly doesn’t understand them, and clearly has no feel for them because he rattles them off. There’s none of the cold fanaticism of Eli or Micah and none of the creepiness of the original Isaac. As such he becomes shrill and annoying very fast. Furthermore, Malachi is the big threat of the film, and as played here by animated plank of wood Daniel Newman has the menace of an extremely irate hamster. The only solid performance here is from David Anders as Burt.
Now, this level of shit acting can be explained. Given that all the actors, even the child actors, are regulars (and good in them) in high-end TV and films such as Battlestar Gallatica, Heroes, Dexter etc. there is a disconcerting consistency in the failure of performance- Bailey as Isaac is particularly bad being, as he is, swamped in a mock Amish hat that comes to dominate the whole persona- and that’s the direction by Donald P. Borchers. Borchers, obviously, hasn’t a clue how to handle actors, which would be fine (neither does George Lucas) if he wasn’t so derivative. Almost everything in this film feels like it just “belongs” in the Platinum Dunes shiny but soul-destroying remake pile, and that’s all down to him.
Finally, the Score is, actually, quite good. I am probably wrong about this one, being that they’re all blurring into one in my head, but the score here by Jonathan Elias is the first of the series to actually use choral music. It clearly owes a lot to Phillip Glass’ score from Candyman and in a more competent film, would actually be quite effective.
Overall, I’m actually tempted to recommend this. I don’t in the end, because I don’t recommend any of them. However, if you must (and I mean if it’s a choice between sitting through a Children of the Corn film and being fisted by King Kong) watch one, this is certainly a contender. Overall, I give it 2 Changs out of 4, just because it’s on a par with the original and not as crazily entertaining as The Final Sacrifice.
Interestingly, this is the Children of the Corn film that Mrs. Jarv liked the most. She actually quite enjoyed it and up to her would probably rate it higher than that. Nevertheless, it isn’t up to her, it’s up to me. So 2 Changs it is.
I’m not sure what Horror series to go with next, but I’m not doing it like this again. I’m going back to my old posting pattern of a schlocky number, an underrated, a series film, a vampire movie and the odd other review. This shit properly put me off films and I’m currently wondering if a Kate Hudson series is a good idea as a direct result. It isn’t, of course, but that’s how much damage this has done.
Until next time,