The Syfy remake of Children of the Corn caught me off guard in a few different ways. For one, I wasn’t expecting a film not even 14 years old to be so difficult to find. The film is absent from any streaming service, even the paid VOD services such as Vudu and Google Play. Both the DVD and Blu-Ray have been out of print for years, and trying to track down a copy at a reasonable price (given the quality of the film itself) isn’t an easy feat. Even most of those shady, virus-laden websites don’t have it uploaded. This is a TV movie that’s fallen through the cracks and plunged deeper than many long-forgotten 70s flicks of the same breed.
The other surprise was that I preferred this version to the 1984 film. That being said, the film still has its issues, namely in the acting department. However, the two vehicles into the world of Gatlin, Nebraska (Burt and Vicki) are far more interesting this time around, the bond between the titular children feels more lived-in, and the final 20 minutes showcase some significantly more audacious filmmaking than what was on display in the first crack at adapting Stephen King’s short story.
12 years after the town of Gatlin experienced a severe drought, and the children committed their lives to serving the deity known as “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” and subsequently massacred all the adults, including their parents, a Vietnam vet named Burt (David Anders) and his wife Vicky (Kandyse McClure) are arguing their way through town en route to a second honeymoon. The two engage in venomous, sometimes violent arguments. He is too distant. She is too needy. They’re actually one of the most miserable movie-couples I’ve seen in some time.
The bickering turns to panicking when the the two hit a young boy head-on after he stumbles out of the cornfields. Burt notes how the boy’s throat was slashed and it wasn’t necessarily the impact of the car that killed him, but by this point, Vicky is too paranoid to care one way or another. Much to her dismay, the two stuff the boy’s body in the trunk, hightail it to Gatlin, and try to inform someone about the accident. It’s when Burt leaves Vicky alone in his Cadillac while he goes to explore what looks to be an abandoned church that the indoctrinated children of Gatlin emerge. The children take orders from a young preacher named Isaac (Preston Bailey) and his subordinate, Malachi (Daniel Newman). They spout biblical doctrine as they surround Vicky, demolish the vehicle with whatever weaponry available, and then finish the job.
From there (which, by this point, is the second half of the film), Burt reverts back to his Nam mindset of killing everyone in sight. He’s overpowered to say the least, but he finds some safe-ground when he flees for the cornfields. Amidst the rows, he starts experiencing vivid flashbacks to combat. The children turn into soldiers, and their shouted commands might as well be bullets flying in every direction. It’s quite harrowing stuff.
That is without a doubt the most compelling detail within Children of the Corn. Directed by Donald P. Borchers — a producer on the original film — this remake sometimes forgets it’s a TV movie, showing us some boundary-pushing gore and mutilation. If the acting were more up to par, I’d argue this would certainly be the definitive version of the story. But Bailey’s Isaac simply isn’t half as charismatic as John Franklin; where Franklin spoke his words with fierce conviction, Bailey comes across as if he’s reading from a script while doing his scenes. The verbal sparing between Anders and McClure wears itself out too, to the point where the actors sometimes don’t even believe these two would still be together, less so if they can’t manage to be cordial during their second honeymoon. Apropos of nothing, but it’s good to see Alexa Nikolas, even if she’s afforded very few lines. My fellow Zoey 101 fans will agree.
If you take the best elements of the 1984 film — the suspense, the acting of the children, and the visuals of the desolate town of Gatlin — and combine them with the best elements of the 2009 remake — the jolting war between Burt and the children, the attention-to-detail in Gatlin, and the improved explanations of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” — you’d get a Children of the Corn movie that could very well be one of the strongest Stephen King adaptations out there.
NOTE: As of this writing, Children of the Corn is unavailable to stream. I saw the movie online via M4uHDTV. I only condone streaming films on these types of websites when I have no other option, and no avenue I’d take would support the distribution company nor those involved.
My review of Children of the Corn (1984)
My review of Children of the Corn (2023)
Starring: David Anders, Kandyse McClure, Preston Bailey, Daniel Newman, Alex Nikolas, and Remington Jennings. Directed by: Donald P. Borchers.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!