Given the recent slew of Stephen King reboots, it was only a matter of time before we returned to the dusty corn fields of Nebraska and the blood-soaked, murderous children running around in them. Despite no one asking for it, CHILDREN OF THE CORN has been remade. Rebooted? Requeled? (I can never tell anymore). Rather than focusing on religiously zealous youngsters and their pious killing spree, the new film tells the story of a farming community whose adults have sold out to big farming, ruined their crops, and left the children with no future. Sound familiar? Enter Eden (think a chaotic evil Greta Thunberg, braided pigtails and all) leading a charge of unsatisfied and bloodthirsty children, and you have a pretty decent, modern take on the tired old tale…at first.
Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer (EQUILIBRIUM, ULTRAVIOLET), the film makes some pretty bold deviations from the short story and 1984 film it’s based on. Being that this is the eleventh (that’s right, eleventh) installment in the franchise, the changes are welcome and, at times, interesting. However, in terms of storytelling, the film fumbles the ball pretty quickly and can’t quite seem to get a solid grasp on it again. A confusing opening sequence is followed by poorly explained/executed events that are better left unquestioned, giving the sense that the film was possibly edited for time at the sacrifice of pacing and coherency.
Say what you will about the movie itself, it is undeniable that young actor Kate Moyer (IT, OUR HOUSE, THE HANDMAIDS TALE) gives a child performance well beyond her years. At just eleven years old at the time of filming, Kate’s maturity, smarts, and grounded ability to make sense of the ham-fisted script is truly revelatory. If there’s any justification for watching this movie, it’s to see what she’s capable of. Also giving the performance of her young lifetime is Elena Kampouris (SACRED LIES, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2), playing Bo, Eden’s nemesis. At an age between her teenage years and adulthood, she’s pulled between the two worlds and makes great use of that tug-of-war despite everything falling apart around her (namely the plot). Also worth mentioning is Andrew Rowland’s sweeping cinematography, which gives the film a lot more clout than it might deserve. Wimmer owes a lot to him for making the movie look better than it is. Tim Count’s score also gives the film a lot more to work with.
Ultimately, this is not a great film, but it’s certainly not the worst in the franchise. Does a movie have to be good to be entertaining? Of course not. The intent is clearly to separate this film from those that came before it, but asking audiences to view this with no preconceived notions of previous installments is impossible. There are certain things we associate with CHILDREN OF THE CORN, and while the noble attempt at modernizing the story is admirable (and should have worked), removing the religious fanaticism aspect of the story leaves it feeling too far removed from the source material. Still, while mainstream audiences are sure to jeer at the movie, I believe horror fans will find aspects to enjoy. Just don’t look too hard.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN is currently in theaters.