Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Children of the Corn: Episode VIII

The era of the remake - oh boy! Around this time, executives and producers decided hitting the reset button was way easier than trying to create a new idea, and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes was recasting horror flagships with amped up violence and even more amped up editing (to pointless effect, usually). Meanwhile, Stephen King franchises were getting their own person do-overs as Made-for-TV flotsam. The time was sort-of...kinda-not-really ripe for some corn on the SyFy Channel!

Well, apparently even Stephen King didn't want anything to do with this bullshit (although who is he to be high and mighty re: "The Langoliers"?), so it was up to 1984 film producer Donald Borchers to bring this project together as the public so desperately craved. And the results? Sigh. Maybe I'm shell-shocked at this point, but Children of the Corn (2009) wasn't that bad. Was it good? Oh my no, but by going back to the beginning we've managed to slough off all the peripheral nonsense that ever glommed to the premise by the time of the first sequel. When there's nowhere to go but backward, your franchise really sucks.

One smart move was altering and/or specifying the time period: the film begins in 1960s Gatlin, where the chillins are starting their revolt - and hey, this time they're actually children! Ok, good. Then we cut to 12 years later, 1975. This version of Burt and Vicky follows the original story - they're attempting a second honeymoon even though they hate one another with the most bitter and vile acrimony in an onscreen couple this side of Martha and George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They spend the first half of the film (in which nothing happens) bickering to the point that it's a logical disconnect when neither just murders the other.  We never get a good context for where the tension is coming from, so we don't really care. Burt is a Nam vet, another sensible change in the story, but it doesn't really establish much either except his inevitable ability to beat cultist children to death; I guess it also provides for some interesting flashback sequences when he's running through corn, confusing Vietcong foot soldiers with Mennonite children...

Anyway, we've seen this before. B & V run over a kid, discover the kid had already been gutted, bicker, then roll into the mysteriously deserted Gatlin to find all sorts of creepy mischief and no townsfolk. This part played out decently, again, because of its resemblance to those 14 "Twilight Zone" episodes with abandoned landscapes, but it unfurled at the speed of erosion and was punctuated by Vicki's pointless rancor towards Burt. It's a relief when a kiddie mob shows up and Isaac's ginger enforcer does away with her. Burt comes to grips with what's going on and uses his soldierly skills to murder a few of the children in one of those uncomfortable when-the-worm-turns moments. Isaac toes a fine line between creepy (being an actual child) and annoying. Burt gets chased into the corn, where he is lost for approximately 30 minutes in another unforgivable plot lag while the kids wander off and have some weird ceremony ending with the surprisingly graphic coitus of two teenagers on an altar. Damn, SyFy! Must've been for the uncut DVD release. Burt finds Vicki's body and then gets gobbled up by an unseen force anticlimactically.

This was a surprisingly lean remake that sticks closer to the original source than the 1984 version and, I'd say, is probably better for it. The short story (short, damnit) King provided can ultimately only sustain a 45-or-so minute narrative unless you make clunky changes (as with the original), so this flick really dragged its ass from start to finish. Ultimately the small tweaks to the story gave this Children of the Corn an interesting twist, shifting the focus from a coven of religious zealots hiding out in the midst of a developed nation (and reminding us of our roots as a fringe wilderness society) to the would-be victims. In other words, the film seems less concerned with the existence of a supernatural cult of children than Burt's ability to butcher them, even if in self-defense. Frankly, I've always felt like this franchise never took advantage of depicting comical violence to 8-year-olds. We also never really get to see He Who Planks Behind the Rows, although His presence is implicit in the denouement. A distancing from the supernatural in artistry is usually a smart move, but who are you kidding, Children of the Corn? Ingmar Bergman you ain't, and I wanted to see a damn demon! Anyway, there are positive things to say about this entry, strangely, but ultimately there's not enough material in the inception here to warrant the effort. Not that it more, dear god.

The Gaffer's Rating: 2 Cornholios out of 4.

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