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HomeGamingOne of Stephen King’s dreariest horror franchises is back

One of Stephen King’s dreariest horror franchises is back


by Zac Efron Fire starter got a lot of buzz in early 2022 for being a lousy remake of a Stephen King book-to-movie adaptation that wasn’t all that great to begin with. Well, there’s good news for that movie: the 2023 revival of the Children of the Corn franchise is even worse. This is the 11th film and second remake based on King’s 1977 short story about a murderous cult of children who sacrifice their parents to appease a pagan maize god in rural Nebraska. And while it’s not the worst movie the franchise has to offer just because the competition is so weak.

The last Children of the Corn was led by Kurt Wimmer, a journeyman of sorts who wrote the Total recall And Point break remakes, and whose last gig was as a director Ultraviolet back in 2006. That’s on brand before Children of the Corn, a franchise to which no particularly prominent filmmakers have ever been attached. Wimmer’s directing is competent enough, with little styles here and there. But with such a bad script, not much can be done to save a movie. And since Wimmer also wrote it, he has no one to blame but himself.

This is a remake in name only, if Children of the Corn holds onto the concept of kids rebelling to kill their parents in the name of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows”, then throws out pretty much everything else. Wimmer’s first major mistake is eliminating King’s outside POV in the story, a grown couple trying to make sense of what went wrong in a seemingly deserted Nebraska town. He replaces them with a high school student named Boleyn Williams (Elena Kampouris). Boleyn will soon leave the small town of Rylstone, Nebraska, and go to college. She wants to study environmental science and help Rylstone recover from a series of bad harvests caused by genetically modified corn. Then everything falls apart.

Photo: RLJE Films

Boleyn is both an insider and an outsider. She’s a kid in Rylstone, so she’s safe from the plan hatched by 12-year-old psychopath Eden (Kate Moyer) to slaughter every adult in town. (The “why” of it all is saved for the end of the movie and is groan-worthy when revealed.) Boleyn resists the plan. Until it’s too late, she believes there must be a peaceful solution to the conflict between the city’s feuding adults and children. The adults are eager to flatten Rylstone’s corn crop for the government subsidies and move to Florida. The bloodthirsty children… don’t want that. (Again, the “why” is both elusive and silly.)

Kampouris does her best horror movie emotion as the plot thickens, but Wimmer doesn’t know what to do with Boleyn once the story gets moving. That means she spends much of the movie looking horrified and not really doing much of everything. The same goes for her father, Robert (Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s Callan Mulvey), who throws up his hands and declares that there is nothing he can do about Rylstone’s destruction, making his character irrelevant for the rest of the film.

A more successful bit of recasting comes in the form of 14-year-old Moyer, who steals the show as the female equivalent of the original film’s preteen preacher, Isaac. She’s a mini Joker in the chaotic Heath Ledger/Joaquin Phoenix sense of the character, with added shades of genocidal dictator and murderous cult leader. Moyer gives her everything as Eden, and her hammy delivery as this evil, underhanded villain is a hoot — in fact, it’s the only really nice thing about this picture.

An area where Children of the Corn deciding to inexplicably stay true to the original source material is the portrayal of He Who Walks Behind the Rows, briefly described in the short story as a green man-plant hybrid with glowing red eyes. Wimmer goes to work with this idea and overloads the back half of the film with unconvincing CGI effects. (One scene cuts off immediately king kong, like He Who Walks comes out of the corn to snag a woman tied to a cross.) We see a lot more of this cornstalk scarecrow monster than we need to, and every time it appears, it looks a little crazier out.

Pre-teen villain and cult leader Eden (Kate Moyer), a girl in a dingy pink dress with lace at the neck and cuffs, stands outside in a cornfield at night, holding up a hand with a brightly colored plastic sunflower-shaped ring in the 2023 Children of the corn

Photo: RLJE Films

If Children of the Corn were just an empty-headed hybrid of a creature feature and a killer kid’s movie, it could have been pretty fun. What really lets this remake down is the fact that it brings up so many socio-political themes that Wimmer never follows through on, which raises the question of whether he came across them by accident. Kids and parents clash over environmental stewardship is extremely relevant in an era where Gen Z is making headlines for its climate activism. This movie references that connection and then drops it. Eden and her followers rationalizing their behavior one step at a time parallels the way ordinary people become fascists in real life. Wimmer is not interested in that theme either.

It’s frustrating, and attributing these errors to incompetence rather than apathy is not good Children of the Corn more fun to sit through. Watching what potential the film has set itself on fire, walking into a dry cornfield halfway through is oddly disappointing: there’s a lot of screaming and gore, and kids giggling as they hold rusty farm equipment, but none of it leads to anything. Not a single thought is provoked, and not a single emotion is aroused – let alone fear. “Nothing ever dies in the corn,” one child explains to another before going on a killing spree in the opening scene. Maybe it’s time for this franchise to change that.

Children of the Corn debuts in theaters on March 3 and will be available on digital outlets like Amazon And Vudu on March 21.

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