Review: Latest Children of the Corn Adaptation Updates Stephen King’s Story but Loses All Its Bite

Admittedly, it’s been a few decades since I read the original Stephen King short story Children of the Corn, which was first adapted into a film in 1984 and spawned something like 27 ill-advised sequels. This latest version, which I guess is best described as a reboot, has been sitting on the shelf for two or three years and comes courtesy of writer/director Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet, Equilibrium) and bears few of the markings of what made the original film something of a cult favorite. Still set in a small Nebraska town, this movie version has driven out much of the religious-fervor elements from its plot and turned this story into one about a monster made of corn (which is referred to in the King story and only glimpsed in the original movie) that enlists the town’s children to protect the area cornfields, even if it means killing all the adults who want to burn down the corn in order to get government subsidies. There’s nothing like a lesson in farming economics to spice up your horror movie.

Elena Kampouris plays Boleyn Williams, one of the oldest and most responsible kids in the town, and she implores the adults, including her father (Callan Mulvey), to try to save the corn harvest by using alternative means of growing and not using seeds from a big agriculture company. But at a big town meeting at church (led by the creepy Pastor Penny, played by the great New Zealand actor Bruce Spence, from The Road Warrior, the original Lord of the Rings, Dark City), the town folk decide to take the payout and destroy the cornfields. This doesn’t sit well with the corn monster or the kids it has gotten under its control, including 12-year-old Eden Edwards (Kate Moyer), who leads the children on an exceedingly bloody killing spree—they either kill the adults themselves or lead them into the corn and let the monster feed on them.

I’m genuinely surprised it has taken someone so long to remake this movie, but the changes made here effectively neuter whatever themes King originally intended. He’s never been a fan of organized religion, and Children of the Corn made that very clear; this adaptation takes that right out and replaces it with an environmental messages braided with one about not trusting corporate farming suppliers or the government. This version also eliminates entirely the couple passing through town, who were meant to represent big-city folks’ fear of small town America. Tthis just pits neighbor against neighbor, and children against adult, and it results in a film that is neither scary or insightful about the world we live in.

I love a good creepy-kid movie as much as the next person, but other than Kate Moyer delivering her lines with a certain amount of truly evil flair, the film even falters at making these kids particularly menacing. I certainly wasn’t looking for a rehash of either the short story or the first film, but this Children of the Corn didn’t even feel like it was going for anything unique or interesting in its approach to the material. That shelf it was on was probably the best home for it.

The film is now playing in theaters, and will be streaming and OnDemand on March 21.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.