Stephen King was so appalled by 1992’s The Lawnmower Man that he sued New Line Cinema to have his name taken off the film and all the marketing materials. He should consider doing the same for the new reboot of Children of the Corn. Hollywood cannot get this story right. The first attempt to bring it to the screen, in 1984, resulted in a disaster, albeit one that’s humorously cheesy in retrospect. Since that time, there have been nine other sequels or reboots, the best-reviewed of which still only has a 22% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ll admit I haven’t seen them all. This does not seem like a venture worth continuing to pursue, though.
This new iteration takes place in a small Midwestern farming town. The corn crops aren’t what they used to be because the farmers all cut a deal to have chemical pesticide sprayed on them and it ended up being destructive. Now the town’s most influential farmer, Robert Williams (Callan Mulvey), is advocating that everyone take a subsidy in exchange for ripping all the corn out of the ground and burying it. That doesn’t sit well with his teenage daughter Boleyn (Elena Kampouris), who thinks it’s wrong to give up. And it really doesn’t sit well with Eden Edwards (Kate Moyer), a creepy little girl who leads a cult of other children in worshipping an entity called “He Who Walks” that is rumored to dwell out in the crops. The former hatches a weird plan to put the adults on trial, with “a big-time reporter from Iowa” in attendance, while the latter has a more nefarious solution.
Children of the Corn contains a whole lot of unanswered questions. How have Eden and her followers accumulated so much power in town? Why have no adults – or welfare agencies, for that matter – stepped in to stop them? What does Boleyn think a mock trial is going to accomplish? What was up with that prologue where Eden’s brother murders a bunch of adults, causing vigilante farmers to gas a group of kids in an orphanage in order to subdue him? The screenplay by Kurt Wimmer (who also directed) doesn’t bother to explain any of this stuff. Consequently, you spend the bulk of the film trying to figure out what’s supposed to be scary about this nonsense. Have you ever spent time in the presence of somebody who’s seriously drunk and endlessly rambling, but you have no clue what they’re talking about? That’s precisely what watching this movie is like.
The appeal of King’s story, which the ’84 version at least got right, was the idea of children worshipping an unseen demon, killing the adults, and existing in this rudderless cult overseen by a kid who has clearly gone off his rocker. In the new version, He Who Walks is mostly an afterthought, with the story focusing on the town trying to decide what to do with their corn. Exciting! That does change in the last half-hour, when we actually get to see the demon. Yeah, it’s a huge corn monster, accomplished through dull CGI effects. At this point, Children of the Corn becomes just another creature feature.
A few of the gore effects are done well, although the gross-out level of them is disproportionately high compared to the overall tone. Maybe it would feel less that way if those moments were better integrated into the plot. Instead, the film tosses them in during the third act, as if Wimmer suddenly remembers he intended to make a horror picture, rather than an eco-thriller about the hazards of pesticides.
Children of the Corn doesn’t stay true to King’s story in content, theme, or mood. It’s a pathetic cash-in, utilizing a familiar title to attract attention, without bothering to give viewers even a tiny bit of entertainment value.
out of four
Children of the Corn is rated R for violence and bloody images. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.