Latest Children of the Corn Scares Up a Bumper Crop of Boredom
Having sat on a shelf since being completed in 2020, writer-director Kurt Wimmer’s (Ultraviolet, Equilibrium) adaptation of Children of the Corn finally hits theaters this weekend. The production values are reasonably high. The two leads at the center of things, Elena Kampouris and Kate Moyer, turn in solid, emotionally authentic performances worth applauding. Wimmer stages a couple of suitably unsettling shock sequences, most notably the potential mass burial of a group of terrified adults trapped in a giant pit.
Unfortunately, none of this makes this latest attempt to tackle Stephen King’s source material worthwhile. This film makes the cardinal horror-thriller sin of being dull. Outside of the two leads, there is not one memorable character, which is truly sad, considering you have a creepy pastor portrayed by Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Dark City legend Bruce Spence. Even the eventual arrival of the ominous-sounding “He Who Walks” doesn’t add up to much, the being’s initial appearance falling strangely flat.
In a small Midwestern town known for its corn, after a heartbreaking tragedy that resulted in the death of ten children, the crops inexplicably begin to fail. Blaming the genetically modified seed they were paid handsomely to switch to, the community makes the collective decision to take government subsidies to plow over their fields and destroy all the corn.
This decision does not sit well with 18-year-old Boleyn Williams (Kampouris) or 12-year-old Eden Edwards (Moyer). The former’s father Robert (Callan Mulvey) was the leading voice for the farmers to take the subsidies; the latter is an innocent-faced orphan who was taken in by the piously sanctimonious Pastor Penny (Spence) after her older brother seemingly went mad and killed a handful of adults, claiming “nothing ever really dies in the corn” before doing so.
Wimmer has made significant changes to King’s story, but once Boleyn and Eden decide to team up to put the entire town on trial for wanting to destroy the corn, the similarities between the film and the source material do begin to materialize. The problem is, after two previous failed attempts to make this work (the well-known 1984 version with Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton, and a 2009 remake that premiered on the SyFy Channel and then was immediately forgotten), I’m starting to think Children of the Corn is unfilmable. Look, when the most memorable features birthed from King’s prose are the eight DTV sequels to the ’84 film and not any of the three actual “official” adaptations, that pretty much says it all right there.
In this instance, Wimmer doesn’t make even a passing attempt to conceal that something is murderously wrong with Eden. Whereas Boleyn is a determined environmentalist who can’t wait to leave the town in the rearview mirror, her partner in holding the adults accountable likes to dress up as the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and attempts to literally set her friends on fire when she’s playfully sentencing them to “death.” When she makes her games real and hypnotically convinces all the rest of the children to assist, what should be a disturbingly devastating turn of events is anything but.
Not that Boleyn’s plan is a good one. It’s terrible. She’s putting the town’s adults on trial? How? In what way? What leads her to believe that all of the children are capable of pulling something like this off and, even if they were successful and got the publicity they were after for this crazy bit of adolescent lunacy, why does Boylen think she’d be lauded in such a misguided manner? I’m all for suspension of disbelief when it comes to horror, but this is a whole other level of incomprehensibly idiotic.
By the time the supernatural elements kicked in, I’d honestly stopped worrying about almost anything that was happening. Other than Boleyn and Eden, the remaining characters — adult, teenage, prepubescent, you name it — were all so nondescript and thinly constructed that none of their actions made an impression. Random mutilated bodies of those who tried to leave town? Didn’t care. People ominously sent into the depths of the corn one at a time to meet who knows what? Their fates meant nothing to me.
It’s a testament to the strength of Kampouris’s and Moyer’s performances that the film never became a complete waste of time. They’re much better than the material frankly deserves, and the latter is especially chilling during the climactic stretch where Eden’s fanaticism takes over completely and her unhinged obsession with Boleyn becomes gleefully maniacal.
Wimmer stages a couple of effective shock sequences, and cinematographer Andrew Rowlands’ sly, seductively minimalist camerawork is surprisingly strong. The more ambitious visual effects are also relatively well realized, and the balance between the digital trickery and the practical makeup work is laudable. But as far as positives go, there’s not much more to say. The only emotional response this Children of the Corn scares up is boredom, and that’s a frustrating shame.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 1½ (out of 4)