Vietnam, Giant Hats, and Teen Moms: Is Children of the Corn (2009) Worth It?

This is part of the Horrorathon for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO). 

The Children of the Corn franchise rested for eight years between the seventh entry (Children of the Corn: Revelation) and this eighth entry. My understanding of why there are so many mediocre straight to video entries in this middling franchise is because of a weird rights deal where the studio is trying to retain the rights to this franchise, but must use those rights to retain them by releasing films vs. just sitting on them. Part of the reason they want the rights is the hope of making money off a remake. But somehow, I’m assuming things went off course because this entry IS a remake of the first film…that was released on the Syfy Channel.

This remake is directed, written, and produced (usually an ominous trio of credits when attributed to one person) by Donald P. Borchers, one of the producers of the original 1984 film. He felt that the original film had been too “Hollywoodized“, and wanted to create a far more faithful adaptation of the bleak short story. And boy did he go for it. While the original film reimagined Burt and Vicky as a strained but loving and moreover likeable couple, the Burt and Vicky in this remake are a bitter, unlikeable duo on the brink of divorce. This movie shares far more DNA with the short film adaptation “Disciples of the Corn.”

The result is a very ernest remake of the first film that takes itself pretty seriously till all the wheels fall off during the second half of the movie.

Recap:

The movie begins with a small child giving a fire and brimstone sermon in a tent in 1963. He has the other children sacrifice a pig, and vows they will never suffer a drought or go hungry again if they listen to him and punish the adults.

Look at his lil outfit. You are too cute to be the new Isaac

The movie jumps forward to 1975, and we are introduced to Vicky and Burt – a bickering married couple on a road trip to California.

A disoriented boy runs out into the road and they hit him with their car. They are appropriately horrified at this event, with Vicky even vomiting when she opens the door. But instead of focusing on coming together through trauma, Vicky LAYS into Burt about the situation. She brings up the fact his is a Vietnam veteran and that he will probably want to “brag to his NRA buddies about what he bagged in Nebraska” – something that will come up throughout the movie.  

Vicky screams at Burt so much he slaps her before they realize, just like in the original, the boy’s throat was cut. Burt briefly goes into the corn to investigate, finding the boy’s suitcase. They take the body and suitcase and decide to drive to the closest town, Gatlin, to report the murder. As they drive away, we get our first glimpse of our new Malachai and Isaac in a pretty badass fast-paced zoom.

Burt finds one radio station, and it’s Isaac on the radio. He is giving a similar sermon to the preacher in the first film, shouting “there’s no room for the fornicater! No room for the defiler of the corn! No room for the homosexual!”

Vicky comments that this drivel makes her sick and Burt comments about the odd corn line, which is really only out of place if you haven’t been watching all the Children of the Corn films in a row. But for a seasoned fan like me, I already know defiling corn is a big no no!

Vicky says she can’t wait to get back to sunny, sinful California . She also reveals she grew up as a pastor’s daughter and was used to hearing nonsense like the stuff they just heard on the radio.

She opens the dead boy’s suitcase to see what’s inside, and is terribly disturbed to find a pretty baller looking corn-a-fix (trademark pending).

Kiss it like a corn-a-fix

She calls it blasphemous and wants to get rid of it (despite JUST saying how she isn’t religious anymore!) but it’s literally just a piece of corn art. If she thinks that is blasphemous, maybe she’d prefer the cute corn-a-fix with a little face drawn on it back where the cult hangs out:

I know in my heart this is the single greatest image any of these movies is going to give me.

Isaac is giving a sermon, but he is just cute as a button. Just look at his gigantic hat on his lil head:

Despite how cute Isaac is trying to look serious in his gigantic hat, the other children look bored af listening to this sermon.

Isaac tells the children they must hunt down and sacrifice the outlanders (Vicky and Burt) just like they did the”blue man” crucified in front of them.

Burt and Vicky make it to town and Vicky is irate that it appears to be a ghost town and insists they just keep going. They visit a deserted diner, and then Burt sees a church with an updated sign outside. After a vicious fight where Vicky casually throws out suggestions that Burt raped women in Vietnam as well as a racial slur about Vietnamese people (she’s attempting to mock hawkish military attitudes but WTF!?!?), Burt tells her he is going inside to investigate and won’t be responsive to her attitude anymore.

The children eventually encircle Vicky and the car with weapons. Vicky honks for Burt, but he’s still mad and ignores her. Eventually she shoots one of the children in self defense, and he runs out upon hearing gunshots just as it looks like they murder Vicky off screen. Before he can get to the car, Malachai sets it on fire but it is unclear if Vicky was inside.

But we now have a baller Children of the Corn rock album cover!

The children then chase after Burt, and this is where the movie just gets ridiculous.

And I’m not even talking about this knife throw!

This really isn’t the time to get into a screaming match with a child, but Burt does it anyway.

Burt: What have you done with my wife? Is she dead?

Isaac: So it was that the will of God be done!

Burt: Oh, so you enjoyed it?

Isaac: The Lord loveth a cheerful heart and a glad countenance!

Burt: Watch! All of you.

*Burt pulls the knife out of his shoulder and breaks it in half*

Children of the Corn (2009)

Weirdly triumphant music starts to play as Burt basically brags about how hard he would be to kill if the kids come after him.

Burt: You better have more than kitchen knives and screwdrivers, kiddies. You’d better find a flamethrower. This is my game. I’ve played it before and on better courts than yours.

Isaac: The Lord is not mocked.

Burt: Neither am I, sonny!

Children of the Corn (2009)

It truly feels like Burt is pumped for an excuse to physically fight children.

Burt runs into the cornfields where the children dare not go. I love this image of one of the older boys having to pull back one of the younger kids. It really shows the sense of community between the children:

Eventually, Malachai and Isaac show up and instruct the kids to chase Burt through the cornfields. In a moment of surprising humanity and poignancy, Malachai comforts one of the smallest children who is terrified He Who Walks Behind the Rows will eat him.

Burt begins flashing back to Vietnam, even hallucinating Vietnamese soldiers shooting at him. He goes into a sort of stupor, and when he awakens he’s killed the adorable kid that kept hugging Malachai because he was scared.

The boys vacate the cornfield at dark, having asserted that nighttime is “His” time. Malachai’s very pregnant teenage wife Ruth is excited to see him but he breezes past her – resulting in a delightfully realistic reaction of a teenage girl not getting attention from the boy she likes:

Ruth’s mind in this moment

Burt has to eat raw corn for dinner as he helplessly wanders around lost in the cornfields. Maybe he will wander into In the Tall Grass eventually.

After dinner, cute as a button Isaac gives a sermon and says, “the time for fertilization has come.” Then two of the teenagers COME ONTO THE STAGE AND HAVE GRAPHIC SEX IN FRONT OF THE YOUNGER CHILDREN WHILE THE YOUNGER CHILDREN CHEER.

I revoke my Midsommar joke about Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return. THIS is the worst straight to video sequel to Midsommar ever.

The climax of the sex scene is intercut with Burt screaming out in frustration at how lost and hopeless he is.

The corn begins smacking and attacking Burt because this movie appreciates the best part of Children of the Corn movies: watching corn attack people.

Burt eventually wanders into a clearing where he sees that Vicky has indeed been sacrificed.

Unfortunately Vicky still talking shit in death – reanimating long enough to taunt Burt about her horrific mutilation at the hands of the cult before He Who Walks Behind the Rows kills Burt as well.

The next morning, Isaac declares that though the outlanders have been killed, He Who Walks Behind the Rows was upset at having to kill Burt himself. As a result, the age to sacrifice oneself to He Who Walks Behind the Rows has been lowered from 19 years old to 18 years old. Malachai is now slated to be sacrificed despite his pregnant wife’s obvious displeasure. In an after credits scene, she even fantasizes about burning the fields.

Ruth’s mind in this moment

Malachai, faithful and obedient to the end, walks willingly into the cornfields and the movie truly ends.

Random Notes/Analysis:

  • Heteronormativity may not be completely preserved, but the patriarchy sure is! This movie makes it clear the boy folk hunt while the girl folk do the cooking in this cult.
  • One of the most interesting choices in this movie is how the children are depicted vs. Burt and Vicky. The cult appears to be a pretty well-functioning community. Malachai and Ruth are shown to be a far more loving and devoted couple than Burt and Vicky, who represent outlanders with their bitter fights and inability to work together like the children do. Ruth really captures a teenage girl in love in a relatable way, reinforcing her as a foil to Vicky.
  • Vicky is ridiculously unlikeable. Her and Burt are both terrible, but this still falls into the “at least he’s rational/his mistakes are accidents!” and “she’s hysterical and vindictive” trap of script writing.
  • I’m still intrigued that someone had the thought to combine Vietnam War commentary with a mediocre and predominantly straight to video horror series. I don’t think it paid off, but it was a creative choice that added some nice historical context vs. setting the story in a vacuum
  • Some beautiful shots including some nice use of lens flares to highlight the weather and atmosphere of a long drive through rural roads off the interstate
  • The end credits state “This production was filmed entirely on location in the great state of Iowa” – apparently the Iowa Department of Economic Development recommended the movie be filmed there

Is It Worth It?

Shockingly, I would say yes this movie is worth it. It is both self-serious and ridiculous, but provides a really interesting contrast to the original film by remaining FAR more faithful to the original short story. Despite how (intentionally) irritating Burt and Vicky are, Malachai is a standout presence. He is scary and oddly endearing in turns. Although Isaac is way too cute to be taken seriously as a cult leader and doesn’t hold a candle to John Franklin’s iconic iteration in the original, that is a small price to pay for some otherwise interesting moments.

But don’t just take my word for it! Here are some of my favorite comments from others who made the ill-fated choice to pay $1.99 to watch this movie on Youtube:

Next post will be 2011’s Children of the Corn: Genesis aka a triumphant (?!) return to straight to video sequels. It doesn’t bode well that a Syfy channel original was a highlight at this point.

2 thoughts on “Vietnam, Giant Hats, and Teen Moms: Is Children of the Corn (2009) Worth It?

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