Review: Children of the Corn 2009
In the history of cinema, particularly in the made-for-TV movie genre, Stephen King adaptations are touch and go. For every venture like It or The Stand, there's also The Langoliers and The Shining. All ranging in scope from divergent to die-hard faithful, the latter not always being an optimal viewing experience, as evident by the film I discuss today. Having premiered on the SyFy channel earlier this month, Children of the Corn is now available on uncut DVD at a retailer near you. This new vision comes partially from King himself, who takes a credit on the screenplay, stars David Anders (Alias, Heroes), Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica) and a slew of really creepy children and teens.
The premise, if you're unfamiliar with either the original short story or 1984 adaptation starring Linda Hamilton (Terminator), finds a couple on a road trip who, through circumstances beyond their control, wander through the remote Nebraskan town of Gatlin, where the religiously zealot children have purged themselves of adults and started their own society. Donald P. Borchers screenplay closely follows King's original story, making few embellishments on the way. In an age where the hardcore fanbases call for absolute faithfulness in their adaptations, maybe they should just stay quiet for a minute.
What Worked: The kids were downright disturbing. While only four or so actually have a character to speak of, the mob mentality and Yearning for Zion-esque wardrobe and daily routine are enough to keep me from ever going to Nebraska, even though I clearly get the difference between fiction and reality. Daniel Newman stands out in the role of Malachai, with a ferocious edge and unyielding devotion that only exists in youth. Seeing him one moment tender with the girl carrying his child, quickly screaming into the leader of the militia-like group of men, accompanied by anyone old enough to stand and carry a weapon. The most gut wrenching moment of the ordeal comes in the beginning of the third act when we see the prophet child Isaac overseeing a fertilization ritual between a newly of age male and female. In Gatlin, those of mid-teen years must pair off and reproduce, before they're sent in exile and self-sacrifice to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, their alleged god in the corn.
What Didn't: Almost everything else, for me anyway. I didn't find a great deal of chemistry between the two leads. Their banter at the beginning of the story is the kind of everyday conceit that works amazingly in King's prose, but not so well on screen. The climax is a bit lacking, however true to the source material it may be. Say what you will about 80s horror movies, but I found myself missing some of the artistic liberties taken in the original, including the adult travelers' fighting back. There's a great moment after our female lead has had her encounter with the townsfolk where her male companion shows the children who's boss. I just wish he'd gone a little further. The war veteran/PTSD subplot held a lot of promise at the beginning, but failed in its execution. One comment on the atmosphere, Gatlin seemed to sunny and bright all the time for me to feel any real sense of dread.
Ultimately, this remake/reimagining falls short of both its source and 1984 film. Lacking any moment of catharsis and failing to truly break any new ground, you're better off renting the original.