Film reviews and more since 2009

Children of the Corn (2023) review

Dir. Kurt Wimmer

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★½

One would think — scratch that, hope — that the second do-over for Children of the Corn would lay the foundation for this series to make something of Stephen King’s short story. One would unfortunately be incorrect.

Shot in the early days of the pandemic before subsequently being shelved for three years, Kurt Wimmer’s reboot of the series is another misbegotten entry in a franchise that has gone on for so long and has done so little right. Wimmer’s attempt is honestly worse than the forgotten (and now next-to-impossible-to-find) Syfy remake from 2009. It’s plagued by a drearily long prologue, more than a few undeveloped ideas, and plot-holes galore.

Wimmer’s crack at King’s source material simultaneously sets this story in modern times yet also serves as a prequel. In the opening scene, we’re dropped in a Nebraska town — I can’t remember the name, but it’s not Gatlin, mysteriously enough — where a teenage boy goes on a murderous rampage, killing all the adults at a foster home. In an attempt to stop the boy, the town sheriff uses toxic gas, which kills all the kids at the home, save for Eden (Kate Moyer), the killer’s younger sister, who was outside swinging at the time of the rampage.

Sometime later, the town is in deep despair after its corn-crop was a total bust after the local government struck a deal with a genetically modified seed company known as GrowSynth. The adults’ morose mindset has trickled down to their children, who are hopeless as they mull a future in a nothing town with no fruitful job opportunities nor a way to forge a quality living. With the help of Eden, the children have turned their attention to “He Who Walks” — consider that a pithy, hashtag-able version of “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” — a mysterious figure they claim lives in the cornstalks. Eden has the command of almost everyone, save for Boleyn (Elena Kampouris), a high schooler who implores the young girl, her mayor father (Callan Mulvey), and the rest of the town that there are better days ahead if the grown-ups simply put some faith in the kids.

If you know Children of the Corn, you’ll be able to assume that Boleyn’s heartfelt message falls mostly on deaf ears. Eden and her pint-sized companions round up half the adults, including a suspicious pastor played by Bruce Spence, into a jail-cell and another into a sizable trench in the middle of the corn-field, where they will each suffer a fate akin to Eden’s friends at the foster home. Unlike the previous two Children of the Corn adaptations (the 1984 film and the 2009 TV movie), Wimmer and company elect to show He Who Walks. He’s a tall, lurching figure who is made up of corn stalks and leaves. He’s ungainly to look at, and seeing the oft-referenced deity humanized doesn’t provide the film any additional depth nor scares. Dare I say, it just provides a corniness.

Wimmer’s script turns what could’ve been 15 minutes of backstory and exposition into 40 minutes of monotony before the first kill even occurs in the present. Children of the Corn‘s best attribute is its visuals, which are attractively filmed by cinematographer Andrew Rowlands. He casts a moodiness on this town that’s both dark and dreadful, yet appealing to the eye. Even when clear and obvious budgetary constraints force the wacky climax to be conducted with animation, Rowlands’ photography is vibrant.

This might be the most eye-catching adaptation of King’s short story. If you must watch it at all, I recommend doing so on mute.

NOTE: Children of the Corn is now available to rent on a variety of VOD platforms.

My review of Children of the Corn (1984)
My review of Children of the Corn (2009)

Starring: Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Bruce Spence, Stephen Hunter, and Erika Heynatz. Directed by: Kurt Wimmer.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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