March 5, 2023 Children of the Corn (Movie Review)
Master of Horror Stephen King’s novels and short stories are primed for television and film adaptations. His 1977 short story Children of the Corn inspired more films and series than any other King piece, with Writer-Director Kurt Wimmer’s (Equilibrium 2002, Ultraviolet 2006) Children of the Corn serving as the twelfth installment of this tired franchise. This modern adaptation from RJLE Films will have a limited theatrical release beginning March 3rd before finding a permanent home on Shudder starting March 21st.
Like nearly every entry before it, Children of the Corn has little to do with its source material aside from borrowing a basic framework: a cult of corn demon-worshipping kids murder all of the adults in small-town Nebraska. While some, like the 1984 original, remain more faithful, others are completely off-the-wall. So where does the latest offering fall on the spectrum?
First off, Children of the Corn is not a remake of the 1984 film, nor is it a faithful adaptation of King’s short. Set in present-day Nebraska in the fictional town of Rylstone, Boleyn (Elena Kampouris: My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 2016, Shoplifters of the World 2021) gears up to head to college and ditch her corn-obsessed home for good. She knows that something has gone wrong with the town after a “Big Corn” company promised an easy life for farmers if they agreed to plant the company’s seeds. An unexpected blight sends the town into turmoil, leaving dozens of kids dead after law enforcement failed to bring down a murderous teen who spent a night out in the corn fields. The kids form a cult and rebel against the adults, led by sole survivor Eden (Kate Moyer: The Handmaid’s Tale series, Our House 2019). Boleyn and her father Robert (Callan Mulvey: 300: Rise of an Empire 2014, Outlaw King 2018) try to reason with their town, but there is no stopping Eden’s killing spree.
This version of Children of the Corn serves as both a prequel and a retelling of the short story by showing how the town came to be taken over by killer kids. This choice is a strange one, as the majority of both the short story and the 1984 film’s biggest chills involve the uncovering of that mystery. However, even the 1984 film is not necessarily something worth aspiring to, so it is difficult to imagine why this franchise has been resurrected nearly a dozen times in the last forty years. Nearly every adaptation is universally panned by critics and sent to rot in some forgotten direct-to-video bin. Children of the Corn will undoubtedly be no different. To put it plainly, it is just boring. Wimmer’s interpretation fails to say anything worthwhile aside from a shrugging “GMOs and big agriculture are bad, I guess.” What could have been an insightful commentary on family farming in an age of automated technology is instead a loose gathering of half-formed ideas that amount to nothing. Characters are so poorly realized it is often challenging to remember who is who and why they matter.
Visually the film is about as bland as the corn itself. Cast in a yellow-brown tint, each shot does little to give the film’s titular corn fields any kind of character. Every jump scare is cheap, and even the most gruesome kills fail to impress. Wimmer’s first directorial outing in 14 years feels more like a student film than a project with a budget in the millions. Perhaps Children of the Corn was doomed from the start. The film began production in New South Wales, Australia in March 2020 just at the start of the pandemic. Three years on, it finally found a distribution deal that does not bode well for its success.
If there is one bright spot in this blighted adaptation it is Moyer’s delightfully unhinged portrayal of cult leader Eden. She easily carries the film, often out-performing her adult counterparts as she hacks, slashes, and burns her way through them all. Hopefully, we see this talented young actor finding her way into more exciting roles soon.
A single short story to have so many adaptations is a baffling marvel in itself. The premise remains eerie, but so far no attempt has managed to turn this story into anything worth watching. If nothing else, Children of the Corn proves that this franchise may be best left on the page. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives 2023’s Children of the Corn 1 out of 5 stars.