DVD Review: “Children of the Corn (2009)”
Released By: Anchor Bay
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Number of Discs: 1
Approximate Running Time: 92 Minutes
Special Features: Interviews, Behind the Scenes Footage
Suggested Price: $26.97
Stephen King’s 1977 short story about a rural town where children kill the adults and build a society around the worship of a bizarre entity provides the basis for this modern remake. A young couple at the end of a failing marriage stumbles upon the isolated town of Gatlin during a cross country road trip that will change their lives forever. In this new version, which follows the original story more closely than any of its predecessors, protagonist Burt has recently returned from the war in Vietnam and the children are in for a few surprises of their own when they realize their latest victim isn’t as helpless as he might seem.
The Fanboy Factor:
Children of the Corn was originally brought to the big screen in a 1984 adaptation that proved to be a modest box office and even bigger home video success. This version gave us a likeable couple, a pair of cute kids immune to the mania that has infected their peers and an upbeat ending that deviated completely from its literary source. Twenty-five years later, the producer of this film, Donald P. Borchers, returns to direct the remake and, by his own admission in the interviews, correct his previous mistakes.
In the current culture of remakes, re-imaginings, and sequels, it is refreshing to see a producer revisit his work with a sincere desire to improve it. The major reinstatements include the disposition of the lead characters and the mid 70’s setting that makes it much easier to believe this town could have dropped off the map unnoticed. To Borchers’ credit, the short story did not give him a lot to work with originally. The massacre of the town’s adults that was only hinted at in the story is almost a requirement in a film version and was used to great effect in the original. For the new version, this is almost ignored in favor of only a few brief scenes showing the town’s previous religious zeal.
The 2009 Children of the Corn starts off as an almost too faithful adaptation of the story. The first half of the film is dedicated to the almost unrelenting bickering of an incredibly unlikable couple that leaves the audience wondering just how they ever got together in the first place. After a very slow start that painstakingly lays out the playing field, the film finally kicks into high gear at exactly the point it starts to differentiate itself from its source material.
The major changes between the original short story and the 2009 film lie in the character of Burt, who has recently returned to the United States after a difficult tour of duty in Vietnam. When the corn hits the fan and the gravity of the situation finally becomes clear, Burt not only rises to the occasion but has some unhealthy flashbacks to keep him going. It is a refreshing twist to see the look of fear on the children’s faces when they realize that having their victim outnumbered may not be enough to bring him down. The final act where Burt uses the corn field as a substitute for the rice paddies of Vietnam is both clever and well played but the film returns to King’s story for an ending that is less satisfying here than it would have been in the 1984 original.
As with most modern films, this Anchor Bay release looks and sounds great. The extras include plenty of interviews from almost every level of production and some behind the scenes footage. A feature length commentary from Donald Borchers is conspicuously absent even if it would have been a rehash of his intriguing interview. The case boasts that this DVD is “uncut and uncensored” but I noticed very little gore that wasn’t present in the version premiered on the Sye Fye Channel (I hate that new name!).
The Bottom Line:
Fans of Stephen King’s short story will find more to like here than in the previous film version or any of its inferior sequels. Fans of the series, or at least the first film, will find that there were some elements that worked and should have been carried over. The 2009 version of Children of the Corn is not a classic but it does manage to give viewers more than the same old corn.