After a short prologue, we're introduced to a young, tense couple on a drive across country. Burt (David Anders) has recently returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, while no real backstory (other than a few side notes about her preacher father and the fact that she was the "prom queen") is provided for Vicki (Kandyse McClure). Amidst an argument over petty things like the radio and when and where they should stop for food, Burt is distracted from the road just long enough to slam into a young boy, and the couple stop to try and figure out what to do.
I've only seen the original once (something I plan to rectify on Blu-Ray), and I don't recall it in great detail (other than that I liked it), but I feel like I'd remember if Linda Hamilton's "Vicky" was even half as annoying as McClure's "Vicki". Vicki shrilly and loudly complains about almost everything Burt does; whether if it's a big mistake (hitting the kid) or a little one (asking her to read the map), she treats all of his decisions and statements as if he's asking her if he should punch her in the stomach and set the car on fire. The unspoken implication is that feminist revolution is in the air, but just because she acts empowered and independent, or more importantly, might be right (the pair eventually makes their way to Gatlin, a ghost town that Vicki desperately wants to leave) doesn't mean the audience will just tolerate her horrendous attitude. Then again, the occasional, unexplained, two-minute mood swings where she briefly decides to be remorseful are almost worse, because they come and go without explanation and the idea of feeling sorry for her starts to become even more repulsive than her regular demeanor. I'm not a particularly vindictive or hateful person, and it's also sometimes easy to understand the purpose of a negative character in a movie or even enjoy the way the role fits into the mechanics of the picture, but after about ten minutes of Vicki's negativity, I just wanted the Children to rise up and kill her already.
Sadly, the revolution is sluggish, and not particularly threatening. One of the few things I can remember about the original is that I thought the child acting was very good, but lightning doesn't strike twice. Preston Bailey plays Isaac, the pint-sized leader of the villainous title characters, and his pre-pubescent growl just isn't very frightening, and all of the obsessively "proper" English in the screenplay is clunky and distracting. Oddly, Bailey is one of the few legitimate children in the movie; there are crowds of people when our antagonists finally descend upon Vicki and Burt, and some of them are certainly young, but the film still might as well be called Teenagers of the Corn. In addition to the major role of Malachai (Daniel Newman) and the constant appearance of his girlfriend Ruth (Alexa Nikolas) in the background, each shot is peppered with a surplus of older actors, and there's also a sex scene in the middle of the movie with what looks like two 18-year-olds, for no real reason other than to have a sex scene in the movie. Obviously, I don't think they should be showing 12-year-olds having sex and it isn't that I have a problem with the story's suggestion that the kids are climbing under the covers (Ruth is pregnant), but even if it's straight out of King's novella, in the film it seems exploitative and unnecessary.
I wondered briefly if the major reasoning for the remake was the fact that Stephen King co-wrote the screenplay, but the movie wants you to believe that King had more to do with the project than he actually did. Mostly, the new film is supposedly closer to his original novella; the 1984 film was set in 1984, whereas this one is set in 70's. I suppose the parallels between Burt's frantic attempt to hide in the cornfields of Gatlin and his memories of hiding from the Viet Cong in the fields of Laos might have been interesting, but writer/director Donald P. Borchers stages it with the expected finesse of a television movie, showing this parallel literally rather than attempting to imply it. Borchers also tosses in ridiculously bad dialogue like "Why don't you stick that in your God and smoke it?", which doesn't even seem time-appropriate for the mid-1970s.
Ultimately, it's kind of funny how Children of the Corn 2009 is not only artistically unjustified, but almost cosmically short shrifted as well. Bob Weinstein announced recently (presuming his company survives) that there are plans to mount a big-screen remake in the next year or two, making this version seem like an awkward victim of circumstance and timing. Then again, it seems perfectly fitting that the best and most likely venue available for the viewer to see any of this movie is exactly where it already is: on the SyFy channel, where it won't cost anything to watch something you'll regret and a solution is always handy, in the form of the remote.
The DVD, Video and Audio