Children of the Corn (2020) Review
The film Children of the Corn, based on the Stephen King short story, spawned a franchise of considerable durability, but rather dubious quality. The first film was released in 1984 and the series sputtered to a halt in 2018 after the tenth entry, Children of the Corn: Runaway. But nothing ever really dies in the corn and two years later Children of the Corn got its second reboot.
Or rather a reboot was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer. Wimmer who has directed Equilibrium and Ultraviolet is no stranger to reboots having written the new versions of Point Break, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Total Recall. But after filming it seemed to disappear back into the cornfields for three years of vague mentions of release dates that came and went.
The film opens with a massacre at an orphanage as a young boy walks out of a cornfield and begins stabbing the adults at the facility. An attempt by the local police to subdue him using gas meant to sedate cattle leads to the death of not only him, but the other children as well. “There goes my re-election,” says the sheriff in one of the film’s more realistic moments. There was one survivor, a young girl named Eden (Kate Moyer, Our House, Delia’s Gone) who has now become the leader of the local kids.
Boleyn (Elena Kampouris, Wifelike, Before I Fall) on the other hand is preparing to leave for college in Boston, much to her brother Cecil’s (Jayden McGinlay, Sweet River, The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay) dismay. It leaves him more isolated in this dying town, with its fields of dying corn. Corn the local farmers are about to plow under and apply for federal subsidies. This doesn’t sit well with Eden, or with He Who Walks Behind the Rows.
The first half of Children of the Corn feels slow, not slow burning, just slow. Wimmer is obviously trying to build suspense but his lack of experience with the genre shows. Yes, Ultraviolet was about vampires, but it was a sci-fi action film, his only actual horror project was the script for the voodoo themed Spell. He seems to have no idea how to build atmosphere and scenes that should be creepy, Eden and her followers feeding the corn with the blood of a slaughtered hog, just come off as silly instead.
The film improves considerably after the Children of the Corn rise up and start killing off the adults and there are a couple of scenes, such as a pit full of adults being buried alive, that are horrifying. But most of the killing takes place offscreen and all we see are the bloody remains. It’s also never made exactly clear how the kids manage to overpower the adults, especially once they know the fate that awaits them.
He Who Walks Behind the Rows actually makes an appearance in this film and while it’s never explained exactly what it is I’m guessing it’s some kind of nature spirit that’s pissed off about all the chemical fertilizers and GMO seeds we hear about in the first act. That would explain the children of the corn’s ability to control the adults and the film’s ending.
Though if it is so powerful you would think it would take out some huge corporate factory farm rather than manifest in East Nowhere Nebraska and kill a few small farmers. But who am I to argue with the wisdom of the Corn Gods?
The effects are mostly CGI and not very impressive. The creature itself is passable but a lot of the fire and explosion effects are weak and the digitally rendered effects of a baseball bat to the face are laughable. Some of the bodies we see look like practical effects and are fairly realistic. Cinematographer Andrew Rowlands (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Nightcrawler) gives the scenes in the cornfields and the corpse-filled barn a bit of a boost.
Put into perspective, Wimmer’s film is nowhere near as good as the original Children of the Corn, and I haven’t seen the 2009 reboot so I can’t compare them. But this is better than most of the sequels. That’s a low bar to get over, but if you’ve been following the franchise then you should find this one an improvement. Everyone else will probably find it to be another generic creature feature that needed to feature its creature a bit more.
RLJE Films will release Children of the Corn in theaters on March 3rd. It will be available on VOD, Digita Platforms, and the streaming service Shudder on March 21st.