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Fantasia Review: In a Valley of Violence
Burt Stanton and his wife Vicki are traveling across the country. Their marriage is in the sh*tter, and neither one are happy with the other. While driving, Burt accidentally hits a boy who's standing in the middle of the road. Upon further investigation, the boy just had his throat slit before running into the road. Burt and Vicki decide to drive to the nearest town, Gaitlan, to report the boy's death. However, once they arrive, they find out that all of the adults are either missing or dead, and a child named Isaac leads a cult of depraved children in doing the bidding of 'He Who Walks Behind The Rows.'
Another remake? Oh, joy! Man, I sure love watching these attempts at destroying memories of the original films in the name of the almighty dollar and a serious dirth of creativity. Oh look, this time it's CHILDREN OF THE CORN's turn! Seeing as how I was so enamoured with the original, what are the odds that SyFy (where all good horror franchises go to die in direct-to-TV films) will give us a version of Stephen King's 28-page short story that surpasses the original film?
First off, Gaitlin looks to be a place where you definitely wouldn't want to be stuck. Director Donald P. Borchers (who also produced the original) certainly flexed the cinematography muscle with this one (to be more accurate, his Director of Photography), bringing us a grim-looking film. Granted, Borchers loves his "zoom cut" effect a little too much, but it can be forgiven.
Staying with Borchers for a moment, I do like how he decided to stick closer to the original short story with this one, rather than the rewritten version that we saw in the 1984 original. This is probably why Stephen King's name is featured prominently, and why he's credited with co-writing this screenplay. The results of this are better shown in the ending, which is bleaker and cuts out some of the dated and less-believable elements from the original film's finale. Instead, it's pure tension.
Unfortunately, the praise for this remake ends here, as it's a piss-off everywhere else. I know I said that the kids in the original weren't scary, and here it's no different. While they're certainly a bit younger this time around, five-year-olds wielding pitchforks aren't scary. The kid who plays Isaac in this version, Preston Bailey, is probably the best example of why you shouldn't be scared of these kids. Really, the hat he wears makes it look like he punked it from an adult, and is way too big for him, making his presence about as threatening as your kids playing dressup with the clothes in the attic. Probably the most unintentionally creepy thing about the film is the pointless sex scene involving two of the (older) children near the film's conclusion. Not only does it come out of nowhere (nor does it have any relation to the source material), but the actress playing the role wasn't even 18 in real life when the scene was shot. Cutting to pre-teen kids jumping up and down and smiling as they watch the lovemaking doesn't help, either.
Probably the main reason you won't like this remake (unlike the original) is that you can't stand the protagonists. For one, David Anders and Kandyse McClure are using the dialogue from the original story, which is problematic because it all consists of minor excuses for arguments coupled with proper English that realistically shouldn't be coming out of incensed peoples' mouths. Also, there are just some putrid lines that are just laughable, with which I doubt King had any involvement. He'd be appalled. The second is that also unlike the original, it's hard to believe that these two have been married for such an extent of time that they've been through a bad marriage. Moreover, they come off as bitchy and whiny, particularly Vicki. Vicki yells at Burt for everything, and really can't endear herself to you when you want Isaac to split her lengthwise with a scythe. Burt's not much better, either. Really, you want us to care about the story and the characters? Make it so you don't end up rooting for the not-very-scary kids.
So as you can tell, this remake is garbage. Sure, it's closer to the original short story, but that's no excuse for giving us this sorry sack of a film, let alone a remake. Our heroes are totally unlikeable, the villians are about as threatening as, well, regular kids, and a script that was in serious need of revising. Here's hoping that Dimension gets it right with it's (announced) remake, since this is crap on a cracker. Put this into your God and smoke it!? SMOKE THIS!
Video: Presented in 1080p 1.78.1 widescreen, this certainly looks good for a film with a $2 million budget. The whole film is cast in a yellow tint, which is kinds of odd, but you get used to it. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, with some nice detail throughout. Film grain is minute but unobtrusive.
Audio: The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track is also nice, featuring a well-balanced presentation with no distortion. Dialogue is crisp and clear as well, with the score and various ambient effects filling things out nicely.
Nothing! And when I say that, I really do mean nothing. Sure, there are chapter stops, but there aren't any menus! It's like Anchor Bay said 'f*ck it!' and threw this out there as if it were a promo disc. The movie starts up and plays to the end, then loops back around. This is a joke, especially when the DVD version had some extras to it.
A joke of a film that gets a joke of a Blu-Ray, at least in terms of functionality. Really, the presentation is nice, but where are the menus and the extras that made their way to the DVD? But who cares, when you think about it? This film is closer to the short story, but we also get a pair of truly unlikeable protagonists, more kids that aren't scary, and a lousy script. Stick with the original for your fix.