Saturday, September 26, 2009

I like horror movies.  I like Stephen King.  Yet rarely do I enjoy a horror movie based on a Stephen King book.  In fact most of the best Stephen King adaptations are either not horror or a mini-series (usually on ABC).  And I like adaptations of Stephen King books or short stories even less when King himself has had a hand in the project. (look no further than Maximum Overdrive for King's handy work)  So I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was less than impressed by the SyFy Channel's remake of Children of the Corn, which was co-written by King.  The movie, which airs tonight at 9/8c, starts out strong, but limbs to the finish line.

Burton (Heroes' David Anders) and Vicki (Battlestar Galactica's Kandyse McClure) are a bickering couple who do a fantastic job of getting on each other's nerves (and yours) by picking at old wounds and mocking each other endlessly, and not in a loving way.  On a road trip to California, as the couple continue their endless fighting, they hit a young boy who's in the road in the middle of nowhere.  Thanks to Burton's military training, he was in Vietnam, he quickly realizes that the boy's throat was cut and he was dying before their car ever hit him.  Knowing that the boy couldn't have been attacked far from the road Burton goes into the surrounding corn fields to look for clues.  After not finding anything Burton and Vicki wrap the boy up in a blanket and take him into the nearest town to tell the local authorities what has happened.  But when they reach the town it appears to be deserted.

This portion of the movie works really well, director, Donald Borchers, does a great job of amping up the suspense.  As Burton searches in the corn we catches glimpses of a creepy teenage boy, covered in blood, moving around him, and a couple of times with-in arms reach of him.  The same boy also appears behind Vicki as she sits in the car waiting for her husband.  And, as the couple investigates the town we see several more creepy kids moving around in the shadows, or just out of the couples eye shot.  It all works really well, until the kids are revealed to our couple. 

At that point the movie goes downhill fast.  The first sign of weakness, and absurdity, is when the children surround Burton.  He is standing in an alleyway blocked in one direction by 30 armed children and the other way by two armed teens.  As he proceeds to kill the two blocking his exit, the other children, standing inches from him, just stand there and stare.  After that the movie devolves into a 30 minute chase scene, most of which takes places in a corn field, which means you really can't tell what's going on most of the time.  While in the corn Burton has some flashbacks to Vietnam, which honestly, don't work real effectively.  And when he kills a couple of the kids, thinking he's back in the jungle, the scenes don't have the emotional resonance the director was clearly going for, because the kids were trying to kill him first.  And the last 10 minutes of the film make hardly any sense, throwing a heretofore unused, supernatural presence into the mix.

I will admit the titular children are quite creepy, and the fact that they are using their religion to slaughter the innocent does have a very strong message, but at the same time I felt like I could have used less of their back story, and rituals, and more of the suspense that so effectively filled the first half of the movie.

Overall I felt like I had wasted my time.  I probably would have turned it off had the first half not been so effective, but by the time the movie took a turn for the horrible, I was already sucked in.  I've never seen the original film (or any of it's 39 thousand sequels) but I'd say if you have to spend this evening with Children of the Corn, you're probably better off renting the original or better yet, just reading the book.

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jana said...

The original movie was FANTASTIC. You should rent it. I think it may be one of the scariest movies in my experience. It's right up there with The Shining. But, seriously, David Anders a vietnam vet? Is the movie set in the late 70's early 80's or are we supposed to assume that he's well preserved for his age?

The CineManiac said...

It's set in the 70's.

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