Children of the Corn (2009)


I think it is safe to say that this Syfy effort to reimagine the Stephen King story, from 2009, would be somewhat compared to the 1984 film in terms of what went right and what went wrong. Vicki spends her time enraged at Burt, while Burt swallows a lot and retaliates with specific remarks. Vicki just wants to go wherever it is they plan to go while Burt sees fit to stop off at Gatlin, Nebraska, to find “justice” for a child who run in front of his car with his throat cut. Burt driving over the kid’s body by accident, Vicki torments him with the idea that he just run through him because he wasn’t paying attention. Burt surveys the dead kid, realizing his cut throat would have been the main reason behind his death and that the car that ultimately finished him off wasn’t the lead weapon behind his impending demise. So he packs up the body and stores it in his trunk, looking for adult law enforcement in Gatlin. Vicki does not want to stay in this desolate, deteriorating town, a cult figure made from stick, corn, and straw found in the dead kid’s suitcase (it does appear he was on the run from the kids who worship “he who walks behind the rows”) ultimately unnerves her. While away looking for somebody to help, Burt peeks inside the town church, finding it made up with plenty of “corn iconography” as if there’s a god they have built up and worship, with God’s Word just a device to encourage evil doings by all the kids in Gatlin. The 2009 film has a married couple in need of some serious therapy. At least with the couple in the ’84 film, they were tolerable and not altogether horrible to each other. Sure you could tell they were having marital difficulty, but not to the extent as the couple in this ’09 film. There is also another problem. By 2009 there have been countless sequels to the 84 film. Countless times spent with evil cult kids continuously going after adults because that is what “he who walks behind the rows” so desires. The evil kids genre is a popular subgenre with plenty of potency to it. Violence from kids towards adults and the idea that adults must kill kids is a horrifying act to see fulfilled onscreen. And the ability to do that: to have the guts, and have the brass balls and boldness to carry it out explicitly onscreen, is why few of these films truly get made. The Europeans did it, but few American films have been willing to. The Children of the Corn films are such the case. Isaac commands, using scripture mixed with “inspired words”, and Malachi appears to be his weapon that leads. In the ’84 film, Isaac and Malachi were cast damn well with a significant look and speech that got under the skin and left an indelible impression. In the ’09 Children of the Corn film, the kid actors simply pale in comparison to those in the ’87 version. Once the ’09 Children of the Corn finishes, neither of those actors leaves anything lasting. The direction has a town in ruin, kids willing to spill blood in the name of their god, corn fields that you get easily lost, an adult lead defending himself against unfriendly odds (while also combating traumatizing memories in Nam), and serious child violence that has the wounds of self-defense when they emerge with only murderous intent…so there was serious efforts to replicate the dread and drama of the King novel. The kids hired for the film repeat their lines as expected (even if not all that well, creepily, or convincingly) and the director makes sure to point out how being under their own guidance as something evil seems to inspire them offers very little hope for any adults driving through small in number. There’s talk of not staying in the corn fields after dark as the kids congregate in their blasphemous church to perform their rituals involving “being fruitful and multiplying”. Just kids committing abhorrent acts without parental assistance in their growth right there in the church as if typical behavior expected by “he who walks behind the rows”. And there is Burt in the fields gradually losing his mind while they gather and copulate…no adult support available to him. Vicki eventually exits the film due to Burt leaving her at the car and the strength in numbers becoming too great, with no escape route as all the kids form a circle around her. The car is totaled by them as farming weapons cascade upon it with Vicki vulnerable and outnumbered. The kids are quite young, with pure faces, full of youth and voices still carrying an innocence that their words and actions do not. That part of the film was well done. Dying after eighteen and walking into the corn as “he who walks behind the rows” awaits is left in this film. No hope for adults remains in this film, too. Plenty of kids, quite a harvest, and a god that seems to guide them throughout their year; if you are an adult driving through Nebraska, avoid Gatlin. In the ’84 film, the route is different. Of course in the ’84 film, you literally get a climax with that evil presence surfacing. So the 2009 film endures seriously rough casting with very little attachment to the adults…without concern for them and appall for what happens to them, the bad behavior exhibited by the kids doesn’t leave as much an impact. Or it didn’t impact me.

Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton gives the ’84 film a bit of juice, due to their talents and name value, but I think it is John Franklin (who literally looks like a shrunken man) and Courtney Gaines as Isaac and Malachi respectively responsible for this adaptation’s cult following. I actually revisited the ’84 film not too, too long ago, but it hasn’t aged well, AT ALL. Still Franklin and that damned shrill voice and Gaines’ skin-crawling gaze eclipse anything their counterparts in the ’09 have to offer. If I had anything to praise both versions for it’d be the way Gatlin’s ghost towns leave behind an eerie reminder of lives lost and time standing still. And the use of skeletal remains, and “the blue man” used as a scarecrow, show just how far gone the town of Gatlin now is. But He Who Walks Behind the Rows continues to reap its harvest.

While Kandyse McClure is not bad to look at, she’s just such a wreck, and her outbursts towards her husband, played with very little conviction by David Anders (John Gilbert in The Vampire Diaries), becomes a bit insufferable. These two become quite an endurance test. Their demise didn’t leave me with much pause.