I was a rural kid who first saw the 1984 supernatural horror film "Children of the Corn" thanks to our family's giant (and admittedly gaudy) backyard satellite dish (kids, they were exactly as weird as they sound -- ask your parents about them). Ever since then, I've always had a soft spot for the film, which was based on a 1977 Stephen King short story. It is unquestionably flawed in ways that stand out even more today. Yet I've always found myself entertained by the movie, drawn into its setting, and intrigued by some of the ideas that sit at its core.
Nearly 10 years after the original movie's release, the rights to "Children of the Corn" were acquired by Dimension Films, who would pump out six mostly straight-to-video sequels between 1993 and 2001. Dimension released yet another sequel in 2011 and Lionsgate dropped one in 2018. That's a lot of movies, and I'm sure there are actual fans out there who could tell you everything you need to know about the CornVerse.
There was a 2009 television reboot on the Syfy channel, and now we have another one. Completed in 2020 but just now getting its proper release, this new "Children of the Corn" doesn't have much in common with the 1984 film. That story followed two travelers who seek help in a dead and abandoned Nebraska farm town only to discover its disturbing and deadly secret. This one actually shifts its focus to the small town itself and the bloody horrors that befell the people who lived there. It's a cool idea and an interesting take on King's story. Sadly, writer-director Kurt Wimmer can't quite bring it all together as I had hoped.
The small rural town of Rylstone is on the ropes. It lives and breathes on its corn production. But bad deals with the big corn industries have left their fields ravaged by harmful herbicides, which have led to a devastating blight. With businesses closing and people losing everything, the townsfolk are desperate. For 17-year-old Bo (Elena Kampouris), watching her hometown erode has been heartbreaking. But she's optimistic and believes it can be fixed. She's about to head off to college in Boston much to the chagrin of her kid brother Cecil (Jayden McGinlay), but she tries to encourage her father, Robert (Callan Mulvey) and the other adults not to give up on their little town.
But Rylstone isn't only struggling financially. There are references to its moral decline, mostly from the mouth of the town's frustrated preacher, Pastor Penny (a really good Bruce Spence). And there's still the looming cloud of a recent tragedy -- when a teenage boy, fresh out of the cornfield, grabbed a knife and walked into the Rylstone Children's Home, carving up several of the adult staff members. During the resulting standoff, the town's redneck sheriff and a dimwitted farmer gassed the children's home thinking it would knock the killer unconscious. Instead they killed every adult and child inside. Brilliant.
The creepy killer seemed to be acting at the behest of a creepy young girl named Eden (Kate Moyer) who the town's creepy children follow with a creepy cult-like allegiance. Of course the reason for it all is out in the cornfields, and it eventually comes to light through the eyes of our protagonist, Bo. Much like the past "Corn" movies, this film's mystery lies in those sprawling cornfields. Unfortunately there's not much suspense to be found in this lukewarm update because the secret is so glaringly straightforward. Even more, it seems like there is so much information the movie leaves out that could have helped make this a more intriguing and detailed story.
So we end up with a new "Children of the Corn" movie that sets itself up nicely but that ends on a pretty flat note, highlighted by a mostly unintelligible final line that (I think) may be setting up a sequel. I still find the setting compelling, and King's original concept is chilling. But here the supernatural takes a backseat to something far less interesting. And despite taking an earnest swing, this is a remake that has a hard time justifying its existence.
82 Cast: Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Bruce Spence, Stephen Hunter, Jayden McGinlay, Joe Klocek
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes