Children of the Corn Reviews
I may have missed it but it was unclear to me exactly what they were doing driving in the middle of nowhere, whereas it was briefly explained in the original. The original Isaac was a tough act to follow, but this young "actor" just doesn't fit the bill. There's nothing creepy about him for starters. His lines are rushed and lacking any sense of fear or authority through his inflections. As an actor he didn't seem to have a full understanding of what he was saying! Perhaps not his fault, as his intentions/motivations were seemingly explained poorly to him.
The story begins "twelve years ago" (1963) and takes place in "present day" (1975), however Isaac, among others, hadn't aged during this long period. One may recall that in the original the year was ambiguous, mentioning only "present day" and "about three years ago". Much of the music is the same with several minor changes. The ultra eerie child chanting music is there but not nearly as loud or significant. The 1984 film can be a fine example of how score can make or break the overall feel.
The Malachai character often overacts, as if he's trying hard to live up to the bizarre nature of the original role played by Courtney Gains. The rest of the children speak in unison so often that it loses its creepy nature after awhile and just seems contrived. One thing I did like was more interaction of the children with each other. They verbally communicate, eat together, and so on. The aforementioned elements left an unresolved curiosity in the 1984 version. It hardly saves the film, though. The majority of the acting is stale and lifeless. Job and Sara are taken out of this one altogether. Essentially it's Burt against this world.
An interesting church scene shows two of the older kids fornicating on the pulpit in front of Isaac and the rest of the kids. Pretty gutsy for made-for-TV to have nudity, sex movements and noises while kids cheered on excitedly. I thought it superfluous to have Burt running from the children through the corn experiencing Vietnam flashbacks. The running alone would have sufficed, especially since it was shot almost to the letter to the description in the short story. The kids stop cold when they get to the foot of the cornfield, obvious that they have a learned fear of entering the corn without the presence of their leaders.
Another element that brought this down as a horror film is that these murderous children are just simply too normal. They have more personal dialogue here, but it was too often and too "every day". With the exception of children acting in unison, holding weapons, and wearing dated clothes, there wasn't much else strikingly unusual.
The cinematography was halfway decent. Many shots paid tribute to the original, like the corn "coming alive" around Burt. It's difficult to swallow the relationship between Isaac and Malachai because without Isaac's creepiness there's no intimidation factor. Being that Malachai is a bigger and older presence, it doesn't work. Burt and Vicky's actors have zero screen chemistry. Also because of Vicky's annoying nature, I never cared about what happened to her. The end result of her fate was disturbing to see, not because it was her, but rather because it was anyone. This yarn creates very little sense of mandatory chills, fear and scares. It missed that special ingredient that makes great horror.
Vicky's scene towards the end was notably disturbing and well done. I at appreciated their staying loyal to the original story. Like many M. Night Shyamalan films, we wait and hope that something big and exciting and grand will happen, but it runs out of gas early. It had potential but just did not hit the mark. The last fifteen minutes is worth watching for true fans.
Marc I. Daniels
The film follows a bickering couple (David Anders and Kandyse McClure) whose marriage is at an end. They're still together but you can tell all of the love is gone and they are constantly bickering. While driving near the two of Gatlin, they hit and kill a young boy running away from a cornfield. While attempting to find help and discover what happened to him, they stumble upon a cult of children who have taken over Gatlin and murder anyone over 18 as an offering to "He Who Walks Behind the Rows".
I mean it when I say that our heroes are hard to sympathize with. Burt (Anders) and Vicky (McClure) are always bickering. They go out of their way to be nasty to each other and it gets irritating quickly. Once the characters encounter some real peril there is never a scene where they start working together or get over their differences and in fact they seem to prioritize their distaste for each other over self-preservation. You'll find it hard to care if they live or die.
This is a movie about dumb people. There are 3 scenes where Burt fights off assailants and has the chance to arm himself with a weapon (and not something like a plank of wood or a stick, we're talking about something substantial). Despite being a seasoned war veteran he never takes this opportunity. Upon witnessing creepy sights or bizarre events he seems reluctant to believe that something might be wrong. I don't know about you, but the second I stumble upon a ghost town and I notice that the church has strange messages written all over the walls and several pages of the bible pulled out, I'm never looking back. Not our hero though, he stops to read several passages to himself (out loud) while his wife is outside waiting for him.
It's ambiguous for a long time what this God the children are worshipping, but one thing's for sure. This movie is set in some kind of science fiction universe where the laws of physics do not apply. Apparently although you can't hear a dozen people banging on a car with weapons from inside a neighboring building, you can hear a single shotgun blast. Lest you think the picture is sexist, there's equal opportunity idiocy present. Vicki has the same self-preservation skills (and terrible peripheral vision) as her husband and her dialogue is non-stop exposition about her childhood and general hatred of religious organizations. It's almost as if she believes that the man she's married to has somehow never heard this before. It's either that or we're treated to her nagging and being completely impossible to stand. When she gets attacked you'll want her to die just so she can shut up.
Unlike the first film adaptation and the short story, this version is oriented a lot more towards a realistic story with horrific elements but it seems like the writer/director couldn't quite make up his mind as to whether the supernatural direction should have been dropped or not. Because of this the ending comes out of nowhere and isn't satisfying. The movie does have some interesting themes about blind dogmatism, with the children following passages from the old testament to the letter, without regard to it's proper context or real meaning and there are several scenes that follow this theme that are quite good. You won't really care about the main characters though and the dialogue is often very bad. The acting is decent (although some of the young children aren't very convincing) and for a low-budget production, it is competently put together.
This "Children of the Corn" is a decent adaptation of the story, for what it's worth. There are a few shining moments and some creepy stuff too but it doesn't quite hit the mark. (On DVD, February 18, 2013)
No human being is as venomous as either of the two bickering leads presented here. If they weren't such terrible people (impossibly awful as they may be), maybe we'd actually give a hoot whether they got turned into scarecrows or not.
It's too bad that a pretty clever Vietnam allegory is wasted here.