Kurt Wimmer’s newfangled Children of the Corn is a rotten husk of a Stephen King adaptation. It’s hardly a remake of Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 supernatural slasher, as Wimmer’s screenplay drops the former’s theological flavors for an ecological commentary that evaporates by Act III. The core idea of pipsqueak children eradicating adult populations in a rural Nebraska town holds true, but the execution barely meets the standards of the ninth or tenth Children of the Corn sequels. Wimmer struggles to blossom storylines or characters with entrenched, explored roots, lost in abysmal visual storytelling that crumbles like stale, dried-out cornbread under even the most gentle inspection.
Rylstone used to be home to Nebraska’s “happiest” corn until supposed miracle chemicals ruin the town’s prime export. Robert Williams (Callan Mulvey) wants Rylstone to embrace government subsidies to once again become economically prosperous—the children, whose futures are impacted by reckless and greedy adults, disagree. Orphaned Eden Edwards (Kate Moyer) preaches the words of a deity living in the corn, turning against the town’s dismissive adults with violent mob justice. It’s up to future microbiology undergrad Boleyn Williams (Elena Kampouris) to stop the murderous spree before her parents are executed, saving Rylstone from Eden and whatever lurks behind the corn rows.
Wimmer’s problems start with fundamental on-screen transitions, as characters magically transport locations without context clues. Children of the Corn plays too fast and loose with continuity, focusing too extensively on the idea that wee kiddies can easily overpower burly farmers or furious parents. It becomes clear that whatever’s not shown is because the script doesn’t have answers, and what is demonstrated tries to distract with gory details. Wimmer strives to hit horror-forward highs without putting in the work to ensure the narrative structures make sense both during and around crucial set pieces. The result is sloppier than a novice butcher’s apron.
Children of the Corn never commits to a storytelling lane. Any eco-horror toxicity or importance behind Boleyn’s environmental studiousness deflate as Eden’s cronies indulge in senseless kills. Frustrations about younger generations paying for their elders’ sins remain flimsy throughout. Boleyn’s billed as a rousing heroine strong enough to squash Eden’s rebellion, yet is given few opportunities to prove these empowering dialogue drops are valid. The movie about children scooping out a shameful pastor’s eyeballs muddies its thematic messages until they’re rendered ineffective. Moyer is a riot as an evil corn whisperer, but her airtight knee-high villain routine can’t shoulder otherwise sensationless farmland slashings.
Save for choice landscape frames of Andrew Rowlands’ cinematography, where cornfields sway in hazy sunlight, Children of the Corn ain’t pleasant to behold. Wimmer often opts for computerized effects designed by Digital Domain, and it’s almost exclusively the wrong choice—whether that means gore shots during action scenes, the cornfield creature interpretation of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows,” or other letdown moments. Green husky tentacles or blood geysers from baseball bat wounds are all CG’ed, each instance less appealing than the last. Actors are frequently asked to respond to frightening images that aren’t physically there, which becomes evident as their performances either oversell or underwhelm—go ahead and throw in tonal ambiguity as yet another critique.
Plain and straightforward, Children of the Corn is a poor reimagining that lacks imagination, only capable of starting conversations that the screenplay never intends to finish. Kurt Wimmer’s navigational instincts as the director steering the experience are oddly unaware since the film lacks both fluidity and momentum. Moyer would shine in a better movie as an underage cult leader with a professional maturity beyond her age, but she seems wrong for this year’s Children of the Corn, especially playing against her more stereotypical supporting cronies. Good luck even finding a kernel of positivity in Wimmer’s frustrating maize maze that takes too many shortcuts around a crazy little concept called “plot development.”
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Bruce Spence
Release Date: March 3, 2023
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.