As notorious as 1984’s CHILDREN OF THE CORN may be, one could hardly call it a cinematic masterpiece. Whatever its shortcomings, and there are many, it remains memorable almost solely due to the genuine, can’t be faked creepiness of its two main stars and no, I’m not referring to LINDA HAMILTON and PETER HORTON. As Isaac, the preternatural preacher, JOHN FRANKLIN (25 at the time) gave off a disturbingly uncanny vibe the likes of which audiences would not witness again (until perhaps just recently with ISABELLE FUHRMAN’s remarkable turn in THE ORPHAN). Isaac’s right hand ginger general Malachi (COURTNEY GAINES) provided an almost equal amount of consternation with a mere glare that could stop a clock.
The Syfy Channel’s 2009 interpretation may have had the intention of adding a darker more hopeless vibe with an assist from original author STEPHEN KING, but the results, thanks to erroneous casting, are an unpopped kernel. It may not seem fair to place all of the blame for this movie’s failure on the lap of child actor PRESTON BAILEY, but without a believable or at least remotely menacing Isaac (BAILEY should be shilling Welch’s grape juice rather than shepherding a cult), the entire effort is pointless. Don’t expect the new-fangled Malachi (DANIEL NEWMAN) to pick up the slack either; the only type of fear he instilled in me was the type that had me scrambling to IMDb to check out his date of birth (thankfully dude is 28). For further evidence, check out the photo below. Now, which Malachi do you want to run away from and which do you want to go paddle boating with in Central Park?
Epic casting fails aside, there’s more wrong here than the Smurf-ification of the children. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s KANDYSE McCLURE (who did KING a disservice once before as Sue Snell in the CARRIE re-blotch) is borderline intolerable as one-note harpy Vicki. Although Vicki’s in-car gang assault does manage to muster up some steam, it’s not nearly strong enough to make up for the fact that most of the kiddie mob scenes resemble poorly staged grade school war reenactments. Worse of all, unless I had a blackout that I’m not aware of, the film just stops with what has to be one of the most anticlimactic closings I have ever witnessed. CORN fans disappointed with the original film’s reveal of “He who walks behind the rows” will find that issue solved by credits rolling speedily past instead.
As a fan of STEPHEN KING’s short story I really wanted to like and was excited for a more a faithful adaptation of his tale. There are some interesting tweaks like having main guy Burton (relatively faultless DAVID ANDERS) suffer from ‘Nam flashbacks, but for the most part I was left mostly depressed about just how weak the pen is when up against lackluster filmmaking. An uncut DVD is just around the corner, but unless it includes an entirely different production amongst its features, I say chase it out of town like an outlander.