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‘Children of the Corn’ review: The kids still aren’t alright in this scattershot remake

Director Kurt Wimmer takes a crack at the 1977 Stephen King short story that’s high on gore, but skims on substance.

RLJE Films

The town of Rylstone, Nebraska, has seen much better days. Corn blight has destroyed the local crops so severely that most businesses are closing down. Restaurants are advertising selling day-old bread. Depending on whom you ask, things have gone south for a couple of reasons. For starters, Rylstone accepted an offer from a company to buy pesticides to spray over their farms – thus ruining everything. If you ask the local pastor, Penny (Bruce Spence), the town has become morally and spiritually bankrupt. That slight nod to religion is where the ties between Stephen King’s 1977 original short story and writer/director Kurt Wimmer’s latest remake of Children of the Corn end.

Rather than go into the more biblical undertones of King’s story, Wimmer moves to make this third reimagining (other than the 1984 original adaptation and 2009 version) try to stand on its own. It doesn’t skimp out on the brutality, but doesn’t seem quite to nail down the central focus. Instead, it elects to show many ideas – some of which quickly fall away due to the weight of one or two. Not only does Rylstone have a horrible drought on its hands, but it’s a town dealing with tragedy. A teenager emerges from the corn field, and starts to murder grownups for no reason. To stop him, the sheriff and the remaining grownups decide to pump gas into a stop he holds up at – killing 15 children.

That’s a horrible idea, and you can see why the kid’s little sister Eden (Kate Moyer) would be upset. However, she’s been spending time in the cornfields – hinting at something sinister operating in the background. Within all this, Boleyn (Elena Kampouris) is preparing to go off to college in Boston for microbiology, much to the dismay of her brother Cecil (Jayden McGinlay). Eden feels guilty because she still cares about her hometown and has some belief it can arise from its hardships. But things are about to go very wrong as the collective townspeople elect to do away with the corn together through a government plan.

While agricultural plight can be scary, Children of the Corn is ultimately about..well, the children. Outside of Eden’s overtures, the audience receives little indication that these kids are about to go homicidal instead of an ill-advised game of walk-the-plank. Otherwise, it’s concerned looks from Boleyn at Eden to guide the way. The film also tries to tie together the treatment of the children from their parents to their choices with the crops to make one whole issue. Yes, we can all agree that sometimes parents aren’t the greatest sources of change. There are instances of abuse hinted at. Boleyn and Cecil’s father, Robert (Callan Mulvey), is progressively down in the dumps. It could be because of the town or his marriage on the rocks. We never get something to dig into outside of a couple of interactions.

This iteration of Children of the Corn’s primary purpose is to get to the carnage – doubling as the high point. When isn’t an assembly of murderous children taking over a town frightening? However, that point is probably scarier than the He Who Walks entity pulling the strings in the background. That character seems more like a CGI luxury supporting villain than a grand reveal. Sandwiched everything is dramatic dialogue choices that don’t carry the weight they think they should have. When characters lose people they care about, the audience is supposed to feel the pain. Unfortunately, you don’t spend enough time building the cache to watch when these things happen.

Stephen King's story adaptations seemingly pop up almost every two months with varying degrees of success. Children of the Corn, a short story, has spawned 11 feature films (including this one). Wimmer at least tries to bring real-life problems in his version but abandons it too quickly. You get a film impatiently seeking the apex without the pacing to make it count.