Children of the Corn (2020)
children of the corn | kurt wimmer | based on | short story | stephen king | elena kampouris | kate moyer | callan mulvey | lovecraftian | monster | creature | remake | cult | children | united states | bruce spence | stephen hunter | jayden mcginlay | ritual | folk horror
Film: Children of the Corn
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer and Callan Mulvey
This is a remake that didn’t shock me when I heard it was being made. Technically this would be a re-imaging of the source material from Stephen King. This short story has legs and can be made well if the right elements are used. What didn’t bode well was this being made in 2020, but not getting its release until 2023. I missed this at the theater as it had limited showings. Seeing that it was streaming on Shudder, I made this a featured review.
Synopsis: follows the events leading up to, and including, the massacre of the adults of a small town in Nebraska by their children, after the adults’ irresponsibility ruins the crop and the children’s future.
We start this outside of a group home, or at least that is what I think it is. Boyd (Rory Potter) appears from the corn. We learn that he had been out there for days. People were worried about him. He comes out and talks to Eden Edwards (Kate Moyer) before grabbing a knife and attacking the adults inside of this place. The police are called and it is a hostage situation. Sheriff Gebler (Andrew S. Gilbert) botches it and leaves children dead by using gas to knock out animals.
It then shifts a bit forward in time. Eden is taken in by Pastor Penney (Bruce Spence). I take it she was close to Boyd and that also includes her love for corn. She isn’t the only one as it is the lifeblood of this town. This includes Boleyn Williams (Elena Kampouris) and her brother, Cecil (Jayden McGinlay). They’re on the outs as she is going away to college and he feels like she is abandoning him. This duo sees Eden appear on horseback from the corn and follow her deeper.
There is a clearing and see she that despite being younger, others listen to her. She is demanding another boy walk the plank on a silo as they’re playing a dark version of pirates. It is here that we meet Cal Colvington (Orlando Schwerdt) who seems like the muscle for Eden with his bow and arrows. His older brother, Calder (Joe Klocek) also shows up. Boleyn and he are in the same grade and used to be friends. He makes a comment about her leaving and he has taken to selling marijuana to get out.
They walk back to town and learn there is a meeting happening. Leading it is Bo and Cecil’s father, Robert (Callan Mulvey). His recommendation is abandoning corn. The reason is that this year’s crop has gone bad. They bought in with a big company and it was supposed to make them rich. Instead, it soured the crop and it is now growing fungus. He now wants to subsidize, plow it under and try again years down the line. This upsets Bo who is going off to school for microbiology. She thinks that it can be salvaged and to try again next year. Calder, Carly (Ashlee Juergens) and Tanika (Sisi Stringer) are close to her age and agree. Eden and her crew also called out since they didn’t get to vote. Calvin (Stephen Hunter) is the father to Calder and his brother. He laughs at them. Pastor Penny also believes it is God punishing them.
He might not be too far from the truth. Eden seeks out an entity that lives in the corn. The name she calls this is ‘He Who Walks’. Bo also comes up with a plan that Cecil is helping with. It involves a reporter as she wants to expose what was agreed upon by the adults. Like the synopsis says, Eden and her followers try to cleanse this town of its bad decisions.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that I listened to a podcast, Horror in the House of Sammons, before getting my thoughts down. They brought up good points that made me think. I’m glad that I listened to their show even though it will influence me. I still have different ideas on this movie and aspects as well.
First, let me go into what is used from the source material and what this does differently. Both are taking place in Nebraska. This isn’t in Gatlin though. Brian Sammons brought up that this could be a different interpretation of the entity from the story and I can roll with this. This elder god, bordering on making this Lovecraftian, could be called ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’ for the cult in Gatlin. It could have a different name elsewhere. The version that is speaking to Eden is ‘He Who Walks’. I love this idea and I can run with it. This could be a different experience in a different town from what King originally wrote.
Sticking then with this cult, I also like Eden as our new Isaac. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get more refences to Alice in Wonderland or not, but she is seen wearing a red wig like The Red Queen. I thought that was an interesting touch. It is also fitting since that other character wants sacrifice for upsetting her. We also see Eden and her crew painting the roots of the corn red with other members who follow her to help heal it. That was another good touch. I love that we are getting an almost ‘Wicker Man-like’ group that are getting back to nature. They need sacrifice to heal what those before them did. I’ll also credit Moyer here. She was good as this leader. My only issues I think come more from writing issues with the script and less of her delivery if I’m honest.
That is where I’ll then go. This script had potential to be good. You have a great concept that is built in already. There are this group of children that are influenced by an entity living in the corn. It is an isolated area so it could happen. What is a problem though is that we get bad dialogue. There are also things that get introduced, then go nowhere. Ergot gets brought up. I didn’t know if we were going to move with the idea that this fungus is taking over the minds of these children. It could explain what Eden is seeing. It could also make Robert, Calvin and other adults become violent as well as make bad decisions. This falls into the same trap that Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice fell into. It introduces a logical explanation, but then we go supernatural. There needed to be tightening up with this script to fully work.
Since I brought up the supernatural, let’s go to filmmaking. I thought that the look of this town was fine. It feels like it is the Midwest. We have corn everywhere, which makes it eerie. They don’t do a lot with cinematography, but I didn’t have issues there. I’d also say that the effects were fine. My only issue is with CGI. The look of He Who Walks reminded me of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, just made from corn. I think this was a misstep. It would be stronger to keep it hidden. Other than that, I thought the soundtrack was fine. It fit what was needed without necessarily standing out.
All that is left then is with acting. I’ve said that Moyer was fine as our new cult leader. Kampouris also works as our lead. She doesn’t do anything to necessarily stand out, but my problem with her is much like everyone else. I think the dialogue isn’t written that well. Also, certain characters aren’t fleshed out in a way for me to care. Mulvey, Spence and Hunter are fine as parents. A problem there is that we don’t get redeeming qualities from them. They try to make the children care about them so we would. It didn’t work that well for me. I’d also say that McGinlay, Juergens, Stringer, Klocek, Schwerdt, and the rest of the cast were fine. They don’t do much to stand out for me.
In conclusion, this is better than the latter Children of the Corn sequels. It does at least feel like this was a script intended to be in this series. What would work better is using more of the source material instead of the routes we go. Moyer and Kampouris are the two bright spots. The writing hinders their performances though. There are good elements with filmmaking as well. My issue there is the look of the monster. This is just over average for me. I can’t recommend it unless you are interested in this series and want to see a decent remake. For most though, I’d say avoid this. It is free with your Shudder subscription so I’d recommend it there.
My Rating: 6 out of 10