Syfy’s Children of the Corn
by Jef Burnham
Premieres Saturday, September 26 at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.
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The 1984 original film version of Children of the Corn has become quite the cult classic, and spurred a long line of sequels ranging in quality from tolerable to downright detestable. Looking to breathe some new life back into the series, or perhaps simply jump on the unnecessary horror remake bandwagon, Syfy revamps the original film. For their version, Syfy keeps structurally truer to Stephen King’s original short story of the same title. But that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The original story involved the mystery of the children being unraveled by the husband, who reads through their records in the church. That doesn’t make for very good cinema, especially in a horror movie (though there is a sequence of the husband reading in the church which doesn’t produce much results). Instead, the filmmakers rely on an inordinate amount of scenes in which the children are preached to by Isaac, the prophet of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Though the original film is known partially for the goofy delivery of lines such as “Outlander, we have your woman!”, what sticks out to most is the opening of the film in which the children of Gatlin, Nebraska murder all the adults. Too many scenes of the children in the Syfy version leave the film bereft of any of the original’s eeriness.
Another unfortunate effect of the focus on being true to the source material is that the married couple driving through Nebraska do nothing but bicker. Most of the first half of the movie is two people yelling in or by a car. Within thirty seconds of meeting Vicki (Kandyse McClure, Battlestar Galactica), her constant bitching will have you pulling your hair out.
There are just so many problems. The husband Burt (David Anders, Heroes) was in Vietnam, but it never amounts to the anti-kid guerilla warfare it portends, just a handful of deaths and a flashback freak-out. The children simply aren’t as scary or strange as their 1984 counterparts. He Who Walks Behind the Rows is once again absent from the film’s climax. The ending, which does appear in the original story, feels tacked on and unrelated to the rest of the film. And the day for night footage is pitiful.
However, the movie shines when there are evil children to be killed, and let’s face it, that’s probably the #1 reason anyone will tune in. The child with the slit throat being run over by the couple in the film’s opening act and the sound effect of him being peeled off the road are particularly gruesome, and Burt’s few Vietnam-style kills are very fun.
Staying true to source material when it’s Stephen King is rarely a formula for success, and Syfy’s Children of the Corn is no exception. Still, what Syfy offers up may be a mess, but it is still better than most of the original’s sequels.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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