Children of the Corn
by Lisa Draski
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Children of the Corn is the latest horror franchise to survive a slew of sequels and undergo a reinvention. The 2009 version of the 1984 cult classic premiered on the SyFy channel but can currently be seen on DVD in its uncut and unrated version. Donald P. Borchers, one of the original film’s producers, celebrates the 25th anniversary of its release by stepping behind the camera as director.
Children of the Corn, uncut and unrated on DVD, starts with a premise straight out of Horror 101: when kids perform violent or evil acts normally reserved for adults, creepiness ensues. In mid-1970s rural America, Burt and Vicki (David Anders and Kandyse McClure) are just passing through Nebraska on a cross-country attempt to repair their broken marriage. When they hit a child with their car, the couple gets embroiled in the nefarious happenings of the small town of Gatlin.
The corn-centric Gatlin is a ghost town. The only building still being used is the chapel, and the only residents still living are the children (specifically, those under 19). Under the leadership of young Isaac (Preston Bailey) and his teenage muscle Malachi (Daniel Newman), the children of Gatlin take religious extremism to a new level by ripping the New Testament out of their bibles, making human sacrifices, and serving the fire-and-brimstone God of the Old Testament and the ominous wishes of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Social commentary? Check.
In the current version, Burt is a Vietnam vet fresh out of the jungle, and while at first this characterization device seems gimmicky, it actually develops quite nicely and culminates in a harrowing chase scene in the cornfield. Burt and Vicki are also far more compelling here than in the original, and there’s a sense of purpose and urgency that’s lacking in the meandering, cheesy classic. Based on a short story by Stephen King, 2009’s Children of the Corn benefits tremendously from having King as co-screenwriter alongside Borchers. Sure, the kids could have been creepier, but the remake owes a great deal to inventive production design (a virtual, and deserted, corn kingdom), a looming score, natural acting, and solid, believable storytelling.
While 2009’s Children of the Corn can’t match the original in eerieness, it’s slyly wicked and a far, far better film.
Lisa Draski Lisa Draski is a freelance writer and film scholar living in Chicago.
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