THE STORY – Possessed by a spirit in a dying cornfield, a 12-year-old girl in Nebraska recruits other children in her small town to go on a bloody rampage and kill all the adults and anyone else who opposes her. Soon, a bright high school student who won’t go along with the plan becomes the town’s only hope for survival.
THE CAST – Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Bruce Spence, Stephen Hunter, Erika Heynatz & Anna Samson
THE TEAM – Kurt Wimmer (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 93 Minutes
Ever since 2017’s “IT” drove its clown car straight to box office glory, movie theaters, and streaming services have been inundated with new Stephen King adaptations, including “Pet Sematary,” “Doctor Sleep,” and “Firestarter.” King’s novels and stories have been popular source material for films ever since “Carrie” was released in 1976, and the latest in this line of spooky offerings is “Children of the Corn” by writer-director Kurt Wimmer. And while it shares a name with King’s short story and the 1984 feature film adaptation (along with the eight sequels that followed), the newest movie is quite a departure from the original tale. Innovation doesn’t always lead to a more satisfying harvest, and “Children of the Corn” is incomprehensible and absurd, inspiring more unintentional laughs than screams.
As can be guessed by the title, the film takes place in the rural farmlands of Nebraska. The small town of Rylstone has fallen on hard times thanks to the dual tragedies of their failing corn crop and a horrific accident that led to the death of 15 children. Out of the angry, upset group of townsfolk rises Eden (Kate Moyer), a young girl on a mission to take over the town on behalf of a malicious entity that she and her fellow children worship.
If nothing else, a film must at least make sense within the rules it establishes for itself. “Children of the Corn” doesn’t even accomplish this simple and necessary task. Character motivations are often ambiguous, and allegiances shift with little explanation. There are even several inexplicable moments where what exactly is occurring and why are entirely unclear, and it’s not until a character in the following scene remarks upon what just happened that the audience can be sure of things. Beyond these failings on the part of the screenplay, the mismatched, poorly paced editing offers no support to perplexed viewers. At times, characters seem to transport across great distances between scenes. The film calls to mind the logic of video games, where locations and characters only come alive when the player interacts with them. In “Children of the Corn,” the heroine Bo (Elena Kampouris), wanders through town and field, coming upon various meetings, rituals, and characters who seem to merely be waiting for some sort of activation to spring to life. The necessities of the plot drag the circumstances and happenings of the film behind it rather than having important moments happen organically. In that sense, the film is a GMO-riddled, artificially cultivated crop.
The one selling point is Kate Moyer’s entertaining performance as Eden, the young leader of the cult of corn-crazed kiddies. For such a young actor, she brings a shockingly knowing quality to the role, emphasizing the sarcasm and glee in her wicked character. Her line readings and physical choices are surprisingly reminiscent of that of a seasoned character actress. This isn’t Moyer’s first horror film; hopefully, she will continue down this spooky career path. Besides her captivating work, the rest of the film’s ensemble turns in performances that range from lifeless to ridiculous. At times, based on how odd some of the line readings are, it feels like there was only time allowed for one or two takes. In a film filled with so many children, the blame for any lackluster youth performances must fall on the filmmaker rather than the actors. Wimmer’s uninspired, aimless direction leaves his young cast hanging out to dry.
“Children of the Corn” wastes its audience’s time with an uninteresting, needlessly confusing story told in as unscary a way as possible. The film is full of accidentally hilarious dialogue, scenes, and performances, but it’s almost paradoxically dull, which means it can’t even be recommended as an ironic watch for horror junkies. Stay out of this field. Burn the crops and salt the earth.