Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chapter 10: "Children of the Corn" (2009)

One day in 1963, a boy preacher gathers a bunch a children. The unnamed boy preacher claims that the drought in Gatlin, Nebraska is due to the sinning of the adults of the town. The only way to bring back the corn is to kill all of the adults over the age of 19 and worship a God of the Old Testament, a God of Sacrifice, a God who was old before Jesus was conceived.

12 years later, Vietnam veteran Burt and his wife Vicky are driving cross country to California. Amidst one of their usual arguments, the run over a boy. Vicky - thinking that the that the car was the tool used to kill the boy, she learns from Burt that someone had cut his throat. Burt ventures into the endless corn rows and finds a suitcase. Afterwards, the couple get into the vehicle and continue to drive to Gatlin.

Meanwhile, in the corn, the new boy preacher - Isaac - bestows unto the children that he had a dream containing a premonition originating from God, He Who Walks Behind the Rows. He tells that outlanders are coming and as a test of the covenant that the children have with He Who Walks Behind the Rows, must sacrifice the outlanders themselves.

Burt and Vicky go to a café, a gas station, and a church. No one seems to be living in this town - something which is making Vicky very scared about. Burt and Vicky continue to argue till Burt just leaves her - with him taking the car keys. Meanwhile, the children start to sneak up on Vicky. Burt goes into the church and sees sights which every God-fearing Christian would call blasphemy - including an extensive editing of the King James Bible.

Vicky stays in the car, till the children start surrounding her. The children are being led by Isaac from a roof top. Soon, the children start wrecking the car Vicky is in. She honks the horn but Burt ignores it - taking it as the "little boy called wolf" commenting. Soon afterwards, Burt comes back out and Vicky is gone. After that, Malachai blows up the car. The kids fight Burt in an alley - but it doesn’t prevail. Off of the roof top, Isaac makes a declaration and throws a knife into Burt’s arm. Burt takes it out and breaks it. Then the chase is on into the corn. Hesitant at first till Isaac and a newly disciplined Malachai came. They start chasing Burt through out the corn, till Burt starts having Vietnam flashbacks which oddly enough help him navigate through the corn. By evening time, the children go to eat while Burt is in dismay as he realizes that he has killed little Children - something that must hurt after being spat on for the Vietnam War.

Burt finally makes it out of the corn in the evening. But he is in a clearing - where he sees on a cross in the shape of a "X" instead of a "t" Vicky and a decomposing Blue Man (a police man). While suffering through delusions of Vicky saying some rather scary stuff to him, He Who Walks Behind The Rows finishes the sacrifice himself.

The next day, due to the sacrifice not being done exactly how he wanted it, He Who Walks Behind The Rows lowers the permitted age limit from 19 to 18. That night, Malachai went into the corn to walk with He Who Walks Behind the Rows with other members - like Amos. Malachai’s wife doesn’t like it though and waits for the fall when the corn becomes flammable to burn it as revenge. However, Isaac is staring furiously at Ruth, knowing about the blasphemous thoughts she has concealed in her mind.

This new Children of the Corn film - first one in nine years and first good one in 16 (I love FS) delivers. Story wise, it is very true to the original short story. So true that it in fact copies lines from the book. Vicky and Burt are the biggest improvements because of this. Hell, they even made good use of the prom queen/Vietnam War backgrounds of the characters only hinted at in the short story. Plus a lot of things which were cut out of Burt’s visit to Gatlin’s one church were used great supplementary when we see the children worship.

Acting wise - it blows most of the films in the whole series and most SciFi Channel originals. But Burt and Vicky are from award winning shows ("Heroes" and "Battlestar Galactica", respectively) so it is not that shocking. Obviously a plus. The children are also a plus, including the new kid who is playing Isaac. John Franklin does make you have a feeling a "creepy", but this new kid - when he just looks at you like when he looks at Malachi’s wife at the end for her impure thoughts - can put dread into your chest. Just too bad he wars shorts a la Ichiro from "Godzilla’s Revenge".

Kudos have to go to some things though: one, Burt getting physical with some of the kids. Then we see some gruesome deaths of little kids. Damn, this film took over what Freddy was supposed to do. The corn does seem to have what King said was lacking to the original film adaptation, it does seem to have a persona of it’s own. Last but not least, they took the safe road and not done anything for a physical appearance for "He Who Walks Behind The Rows". They could have done something with some cheap CGI, and they could have made a cheap design or a very awesome design, but I like it that they kept it in the minds of viewers what He looks like.

But now, we got to go to the negatives. I was psyched when I heard that John Elias would be co-composing this film, including getting a separate credit for the use of the original theme. It would be the second time a composer came back for the series (the other being David Litch, COTC2 and COTC3) And I love the times which the editors decided to use the old theme, but honestly it could have been use a lot more and could have made the film more effective.

Another thing to bitch about is that no matter how true you want to stay with the book, two scenes from the original are in my opinion needed - badly. One was a redo of the coffee shop massacre and Joseph’s hunting down. Borchers being the master director for this material as he has shown, he would have done fantastic, especially since it would be different than the original’s version due to that I bet he would show the blood, but it was a missed opportunity. But then again, an Uncut version is coming out, but there comes another bad thing.

The uncut version may or may make the biggest sin of this production something which ruins it plainly: the ritual sex scene. What the hell were they thinking? "Children of the Corn" - the series - has been one of the only slasher series not to have sex in it ever. Part 3 got close but saved us and Revelations showed some nipple - but nothing sexual - just nudity. But this film, god, it was unneeded. What I would have liked to see was more preaching from Isaac or use the screen time for more killing. But honestly, it is just bad. Unneeded. That kind of stuff is just bad. It could have been one of those things we could have assumed.

Overall, it is my second favorite film in the series (the original is my favorite, FS is tied with this film). Another remake is being planned by Dimension and Borchers said in a report that he wants this film to spawn a TV series, so let’s just see what happens. Just too bad that Joe Harris’ idea from COTC8 has been scrapped by how things have been going as of late. 4/5

Production Notes
The development of this film is easily the most detailed I can provide. Apparently, back in 2008, many rumors were started. First was the rumor that a remake was even being done. Then there was also a rumor created in March of 2008 in which director of some of the Saw films and "Repo, The Genetic Opera!" Darren Lynn Bousman, except for that on his blog, Darren denied it though a blog entry, saying: "Ok... So lets start off with NO - I am not doing Children of the Corn... Yes - it is true I love the movie... Yes, it is true I once pretended to be Malachi running around the corn fields of Kansas City - but NO I will not be 'helming' the remake. However, three months later it was confirmed that Donald P. Borchers was to write and direct the film.

When asked about it, Donald P. Borchers said something among the likes of "I think we stepped up to the line, measured the distance to the dartboard and struck the bull’s-eye. From the script I submitted, not one word was changed because of an instruction from either the studio or the network, Not one line of dialogue was changed." Though is incorrect, since the film has a tacked on beginning and many of the extra scenes is composed from deleted material from Burt’s initial visit to Gatlin’s Baptist Church - now a church dedicated to "He Who Walks Behind The Rows". He talked more in an interview saying, "Not one line of dialogue was changed. I made Stephen King's short story. It's faithful. We took a chance by not going with the traditional Hollywood structure and I think it paid off in spades." Because of the copied lines from the book, Stephen King was actually credited as a co-writer for the screenplay.

But Borchers seemed to show a mountable of disdain regarding the original is very evident. When asked about the project in it’s early stages, he creates the analogy of comparing the original film to a cup of coffee with creamer and sugar and that, Stephen King doesn’t take his coffee with sugar…it’s no longer requisite to have a happy ending. We wanted to stay faithful to the decisions in his original story."

Production officially began in August of 2008. The main cast was chosen in England, while the extras cast was chosen in and around the Quad State area. 1,000 - 2,000 children auditioned for the roles they got at "The Lodge" in Davenport, Iowa around August, 2008. "When we said we needed extras, heaven forbid. The enthusiasm from the people who wanted to volunteer to go on this crazy, educational learning journey of being in the film - what rewards we were given." But it did however, help some. Kandyse McClure found it as a reference point and even though not part of her childhood experience, "it was creepy". Though she picked the yellow dress she wore in the film.

Principle photography officially began in September 8th, 2007 for four weeks in Bettendorf, Davenport, LeClaire and Lost Nation, Iowa. Lost Nation was where most of the film was filmed - especially the town square where the car explosion takes place. Original filming locations originally were Tipton and Wilton since they looked, "too large and too prosperous". Though excite was built up when the sites were original purposed. Travis Elden, the community development leader of the town, said, "In my opinion, this is perfect timing as we are fresh off of our RAGBRAI success and the logistics planning required for that will be helpful with this project." Originally, Alden’s "Hardacre Theatre" on East 5th Street was to be featured. Just like the original film, it was something of a momentous occasion for the people who lived in and around the area they were filming. One town, Oxford Juncture (7 miles from Lost Nation), allowed the kids in a school to visit the set, meet the cast, and even see the filming of a scene. This is a lot more better than the burdens which plagued the production of the second film. On the first day of shooting, the wait for filming to start was lengthy. According to an article published after the film’s SciFi Channel premier in a Quad-state news paper, " the kids had to be on location at 7:30 a.m., but shooting didn't start until 4:30 P.M.… The kids played football and did homework." While the shooting took up four weeks, most of the scenes with just the Children with no real speaking lines other than "Praise God! Praise the Lord!" took only 10 days with the working day being 10-12 hours (the waiting is what makes it long, not the working. So the children were not what some critics called, "sweat shopped".)

The most important part of this whole production would be who made it. At the time of this writing, there is a rumor going around that Dimension wants to try to make their own "Children of the Corn" remake. Some fans were speculating about this. Could this have been just the way they came out with that this remake was going to have a theatrical release in Europe? No, since it turns out that even though Dimension owns the rights to the franchise’s future (and producer of all the "Children of the Corn" films from "Urban Harvest" to "Revelations") Anchor Bay - the copyright owners to the original film - and SciFi Channel - worked on this film without interference from Dimension. It will be nice to see what a third remake could bare. But the point is not a third remake, but that Anchor Bay and SciFi Channel made this without Dimension interfering. Maybe that is one of the reasons why this film was actually "good".

Everyone in the cast seemed to have a fun time with the film. Daniel Newman was interviewed and had this to day about the role: "I just got really excited about getting into Malachi's head," he says. "Knowing this movie was going to be closer to King's vision, I knew it was going to be a bit of task. I went into the audition in character. I covered myself in blood, rolled around in dirt, didn't wash my hair for days. I was driving around in L.A., windows up in the heat with no air conditioning and sweating my balls off. When I walked into the audition, I was a terrifying sight. When asked about the original, ""The first one was scary, but this takes away any campy elements that fell into it. Our film has a different ending, I like this ending much better. It's more of an adult conclusion and more satisfying." But then came the in the inevitable questioning about Malachai’s character in this film. "he's much more developed in this film. The original is more about the sadistic glances he gave, and there will be plenty of those, but here it's a much more fleshed-out role." The same could be said about the character's dynamic with Isaac. "The whole challenge between Isaac and Malachai is a lot stronger in this one. You didn't really see that until the end of the original. I mean, pretty much Malachai is worshipping Isaac through the whole thing, but in this one, he's got more of a leadership role and has a gang of...well, I shouldn't say much more."

On the topic of Preston Bailey, the child who plays Isaac in the film, he seems to have received some nice acclaim. D. Newman said, ""That kid is terrifying. He's so young and to see him handle such a big part is amazing. He's really on top of it." It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that Bailey is a good actor, since he is in another highly acclaimed show, Showtime’s "Dexter". In an interview, Preston liked being an antagonist since he usually got protagonist parts. But, there were the usual drawbacks, like the parents having cautionary thoughts regarding the film’s religious overtones - naturally. Though there is an interesting anecdote related to the filming of the scene where he coordinates the children to abduct Vicky: "…when I was up on the roof there were dummies I could see from the top of the room, and I get to throw a flame on dead people. It was fun." It is also crucial to note that Preston’s older brother, Brennan, plays as an extra as one of the children.

One thing which was brought up durring an interview with Borchers would be the subject of a television series to go along with this made-for-TV series. Borchers revealed that it depends on the remake’s ratings, but if so then he and David Simkins, Borcher’s former classmate from University Notre Dame and executive producer of "Warehouse 13" would work on it together. Though it would be interesting how they will tackle such a concept considering that it would either be a remake of a pre-existing movie or they do a story arc on the children themselves, something which would cut down on the horror edge of the Children of the Corn mythology.

Something interesting to analyze about the film is the film’s message which Donald P. Borchers claimed he tried to convey with this remake of the film: the culture of the religious extremists in the Middle East. This has been said to be the reason why the film is taking place in the 1970’s, though on the contrary, it would have to take place in the 1970’s since this is supposed to be word from word from the original short story. But what is Donald portraying in this film? He is not giving a message, he is just showing what he feels that the extremists act like. There is no real allegory to speak of hear. Though it is interesting seeing that a passage from the Bible is chosen to end the film from John 1 5:21, "Little Children, keep away from idols". This is something good though, since it helps keep the original’s message of blind worship alive.

This leads us to the biggest thing we need to acknowledge about this film: it is not a remake. It is a film which uses the same source material. This is a misconception, but this is to get it right. The only hints of the 1984 original film is that some of the lines from this film are copied from the original and maybe because of wanting to fallow suit, the iconic image of a kid’s arm with a bladed weapon from the theatrical poster of the original is on the side of the DVD release, therefore matching it up with the "Divimax" DVD release of this film. Though only time will tell when a box set will come out in the UK, with the first three films of the original series and this re-imagining.

An interesting scene to analyze is the beginning scene with the pig sacrifice. The scene is easily provides fans with one of the more intense beginnings for a "Children of the Corn" film - almost up to that of the original. However, once the pig is uncovered, we see that it is a fake prop pig filled most probably with corn-syrup blood. But what was in the shots with the bag pre-breaking of the pig’s neck? It was not a pig but actually one of the extras who played as one of the children - (at the time) 8 year old extra Donovan Klutho. To do this additional scene, he was paid $50 extra dollars - something which his brother (also one of the children in the film) got envious of. The tent scene was actually the last scene filmed, but it took a whole day to film it.

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