CHILDREN OF THE CORN (2023)
Release Date: 03/03/23 [Cinemas]
Studio: RLJE Films
"The film describes the events leading up to, and including, the massacre of the adults of a small town in Nebraska by their children, after the adults' irresponsibility ruins the crop and the children's future."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
What are the odds that a film named Children of the Corn could be so…corny? Sure, it’s a tasteless metaphor, but it’s one that hopefully illustrates just how equally tasteless the film is.
Now, this is the third adaptation of Stephen King’s short horror story of the same name. The first film was released in 1984, and developed enough of a cult following to manifest eight sequels. The second came out in 2009, aired on TV as a Syfy channel original, and was essentially more of a remake of the 1984 film than an attempt at relaunching the franchise. The painful irony about this third adaptation is that it is clearly an attempt to revamp the series and spawn a more modern franchise, yet it looks and feels like it belongs on the Syfy channel more than any of the previous films.
King’s original short story, as well as the 1984 and 2009 versions, follows a couple who end up in an abandoned Nebraska town. While they originally think they are alone, they eventually come to find out that it’s inhabited by a cult of murderous children who worship a demon that lives in the local cornfields known as “He Who Walks.” This version, however, deviates from the source material by reimagining both the origin of that town’s turmoil and why the children turned against their parents. For the average horror fan, it may sound like an awesome idea on paper, however it actually winds up being executed in every worst way possible.
The film opens up with a mass murder at a foster home. A seemingly innocent little girl named Eden watches as one of the other children enters and begins killing several of the adults. The event clearly changes Eden, but all the adults - and even some of the older children - gloss over her bizarre behavior. A short time after the murders, the film picks up from the perspective of Bo, a teenager who has her sights on graduating and leaving her small town behind. When we meet her, she’s grazing the town’s corn maze with her brother, Cecil, trying to tell him the good news about getting into college. He doesn’t take it well because he views her success as her leaving him behind. Before they can chat more about it, they are interrupted by Eden performing a blatant sacrificial ritual on one of the other kids from town. A major red flag, it’s actually the first of many moments in the film that exemplify how dumb all the characters are and why they almost deserve their demise.
The catalyst for children turning on the adults is the decision to remove the town’s corn. Even with the corn occupying so much of the town’s space and being its chief export, it’s dying. Uninterested in investing to repair the soil, the adults would rather remove it and do something else with the land. Surprisingly, Bo leads the charge against the parents. She plans to have a fair trial with all of the kids pleading their cases about why the corn is their future. Having fostered an odd relationship with the corn (another red flag) Eden decides to take matters into her own hands and leads a murderous uprising. But much of that uprising - and even most of the film’s violence - is more tell than show.
With the exception of two characters - one who isn’t even an adult - all of the deaths in the film happen offscreen. Considering the film’s clear R rating and the weight of the franchise’s name, that’s probably the most surprising thing here. It’s even more surprising than director Kurt Wimmers’ decision to go all in with showing us what “He Who Walks” looks like, a character whose appearance has been left up to interpretation for many of the previous films. Still, even his big reveal is underwhelming. Rather it’s hard to fully immerse yourself in his presence when everything that has come before it makes so little sense.
The only thing worthy of praise about the film is the performance by lead actress Elena Kampouris. Despite the lackluster material, Kampouris moves mountains as Bo. Although her character is also guilty of making some terrible decisions throughout the film, she has such an energetic and earnest presence that it’s hard not to root for her. She owns the last 20 minutes of the movie - even that embarrassing epilogue.
Honestly, there are probably too many things in this film that make no sense. For example, for a majority of the film Bo’s brother turns on her, joins Eden’s army, and is fine with Eden trying to kill her - all because she wants to go to college. There’s one random sequence where it’s heavily implied the town’s preacher is a pervert. There’s also a plot point that involves Bo and Cecil’s mom potentially having an affair with someone else in the town. They talk about it in the film’s first 10 minutes, but then it’s never mentioned again. In case it isn’t obvious, if there’s anything worse than the characters, it’s the script. There’s so much inconsistency that it looks like the producers were working from an unpolished first draft.
While there have been plenty of horrible Stephen King adaptations, this one might be the cream of the crop. Even so, it’s not enough to say that this version of Children of the Corn is fruitless. Once again, it’s a neat idea that might have worked in the right hands, but it’s executed so poorly that you can’t help but wonder if the entire root is dead for good.