Director/Producer – Donald P. Borchers, Screenplay – Donald P. Borchers & Stephen King, Based on the Short Story by Stephen King, Photography – Jamie Thompson, Music – Jonathan Elias & Nathaniel Morgan, Based on a Theme by Jonathan Elias, Visual Effects Supervisor – Kevin Kutchaver, Visual Effects – Himani Productions, Inc., Mechanical Effects – Ultimate Effects, Special Effects Supervisor – John Hartigan, Makeup Effects – Robert Kurtzman’s Creature Corps. (Supervisor – Robert Kurtzman), Production Design – G. Andrew Hussey. Production Company – Planet Productions Corp.
David Anders (Burt Stanton), Kandyse McClure (Vicky Stanton), Daniel Newman (Malachi), Preston Bailey (Isaac), Alexa Nikolas (Ruth)
The year 1975. Vietnam veteran Burt Stanton drives through Nebraska with his wife Vicky, they arguing the whole way. Suddenly, in the midst of their arguments, a boy runs out from the cornfields onto the road and Burt hits him with the car. They are hysterical, although upon closer examination the boy appears to have had his throat slit, not to have been killed by the car hitting him. Arguing over what to do, they place the body in the trunk and drive onto the next town Gatlin. They find the town strangely deserted. While Burt heads off to investigate, children surround the car and attack Vicky. Burt returns to realise that he is dealing with a town full of children who have slaughtered all the adults. They have created a church where they worship a figure they call He Who Walks Behind the Rows that demands the sacrifice of human blood to make the corn crop grow.
The Stephen King short story Children of the Corn (1977) has proven the most fertile of all King adapted works to date – which is a surprise given that the story was only fifteen pages long. The story was first adapted to the screen as Children of the Corn (1984), which is generally regarded as one of the poorest adaptations of any Stephen King work to date. Despite not being liked much, this has seen an amazing eight sequels with Children of the Corn II: Deadly Harvest/Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1992), Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995), Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996), Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998), Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return (1999), Children of the Corn: Revelation (2001), Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011) and Children of the Corn: Runaway (2018).
This remake of the story comes from Donald P. Borchers who was producer on the original Children of the Corn. Borchers had worked as a producer on a number of genre films, including everything from Vamp (1986), Two Moon Junction (1988), Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Doppelganger (1993), Leprechaun 2 (1994), Number One Fan (1995), Voodoo (1995), The Demolitionist (1996), Little Witches (1996), Moonbase (1997) and Ligeia (2009). Borchers had previously directed the supernatural horror Grave Secrets (1997) and the non-genre Perfect Fit (1999).
This time Stephen King is credited as the co-writer of the screenplay and, as a result, the film returns far more closely to the original short story. In the 1984 film, the married couple were rewritten as something generic and bland but the remake returns to the story’s conception of them bickering and arguing as they drive to sort their marriage out. The film faithfully recreates incidents from the story such as their venture through the town, noting how things have not changed since the 1960s; the scene where Burt snatches Vicky’s keys and leaves her in the car while he goes to investigate the church; the birth ledger where the names in it have been changed; the ending where Burt finds the slaughtered bodies; and the epilogue where it is announced that the date of death has been lowered to eighteen.
All the extraneous material that was added in the first film – R.G. Armstrong’s old timer, the clairvoyant children that Burt and Vicky find – have been eliminated. The film even keeps the setting in the time period when the story was written. It is perhaps one of the most reverential and faithful adaptations of a source work that one has seen in some time.
Children of the Corn 2009 accrued mostly negative reviews but I would be one voice to the contrary. It is extremely faithful in its adaptation of the original and far better than the 1984 film. The major negative point is the bickering couple whose dramas and mutual abhorrence become so strongly emphasised that it makes them unlikeable as lead characters. What the film needed was a scene where they suddenly come together in the face of the menace but the film is too faithful to the story for this and has her abducted fairly soon after arriving in the town. Certainly, David Anders, who one has only seen sporting a British accent up to this point and is surprised to find he is actually an American, does quite reasonably playing the role of the redneck Vietnam Veteran.
Donald P. Borchers directs with a general competence. During the early scenes, he gets off one good shock with a kid momentarily appearing behind David Anders in the cornfield – so much so that he plays the same shock three times in as many minutes. In fact, shots where people constantly creep up behind others unseen seem for a time to be all that Borchers has in his arsenal, although he does eventually acquit himself. Maybe we didn’t need David Anders to be having Vietnam flashbacks in the cornfields but Borchers builds the body of the film out reasonably well. More time is spent on exploring the children’s religion than the original film – even their fertility rites – which adds colour and depth to the film. The roles of the children are also much better cast than in the first film with Daniel Newman in particular standing out as Malachi.
Other Stephen King genre adaptations include:- Carrie (1976), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), Christine (1983), Cujo (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), Children of the Corn (1984), Firestarter (1984), Cat’s Eye (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), The Running Man (1987), Pet Sematary (1989), Graveyard Shift (1990), It (tv mini-series, 1990), Misery (1990), a segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), The Lawnmower Man (1992), The Dark Half (1993), Needful Things (1993), The Tommyknockers (tv mini-series, 1993), The Stand (tv mini-series, 1994), The Langoliers (tv mini-series, 1995), The Mangler (1995), Thinner (1996), The Night Flier (1997), Quicksilver Highway (1997), The Shining (tv mini-series, 1997), Trucks (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), The Green Mile (1999), The Dead Zone (tv series, 2001-2), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), Carrie (tv mini-series, 2002), Dreamcatcher (2003), Riding the Bullet (2004), ‘Salem’s Lot (tv mini-series, 2004), Secret Window (2004), Desperation (tv mini-series, 2006), Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (tv mini-series, 2006), 1408 (2007), The Mist (2007), Everything’s Eventual (2009), the tv series Haven (2010-5), Bag of Bones (tv mini-series, 2011), Carrie (2013), Under the Dome (tv series, 2013-5), Big Driver (2014), A Good Marriage (2014), Mercy (2014), Cell (2016), 11.22.63 (tv mini-series, 2016), The Dark Tower (2017), Gerald’s Game (2017), It (2017), The Mist (tv series, 2017), Mr. Mercedes (tv series, 2017– ), 1922 (2017), Castle Rock (tv series, 2018-9), Doctor Sleep (2019), In the Tall Grass (2019), Pet Sematary (2019), The Outsider (tv series, 2020- ) and The Stand (tv mini-series, 2020-1). Stephen King had also written a number of original screen works with Creepshow (1982), Golden Years (tv mini-series, 1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Storm of the Century (tv mini-series, 1999), Rose Red (tv mini-series, 2002) and the tv series Kingdom Hospital (2004), as well as adapted his own works with the screenplays for Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet, Pet Sematary, The Stand, The Shining, Desperation, A Good Marriage and Cell. King also directed one film with Maximum Overdrive (1986).