I will admit: I didn't have high hopes for the newest Children of the Corn film, an apparent remake of the 1984 classic horror film. Based on the Stephen King short story of the same name, the new film is directed by Kurt Wimmer (2015's Point Break). Despite the fact that it premiered at a Florida film festival in 2020, it wasn't picked up for release until 2023. But the new take on Children of the Corn turned out to be a surprisingly satisfying slasher.
The film opens in a Rylstone, Nebraska, orphanage. Eden, a young charge, greets another kid who wanders out of a cornfield. He picks up a big knife off a table, goes inside, and starts killing the adults. When even the authorities can't stop him, they come in with a cow tranquilizer and gas everyone inside. Eden is the only survivor of the slaughter, having wandered into the corn, where she spent nearly a week before the authorities found her. She's then "adopted" by the town pastor.
Sometime later, the surviving adults meet to discuss an offer from "big corn" to grow GMO corn, loaded with pesticides and other chemicals that ruin their crops. From there, the town has no choice but to take part in a subsidy to not grow corn. When the kids' opinions on the matter are rejected, some of the older teens plan a public shaming, invite a journalist to town, and plan on holding a sham "trial." The journalist doesn't arrive, and when the older teens arrive, Eden has already killed some of the adults. The rest are imprisoned, only to be gassed like earlier, and transferred to a pit in the cornfields, where they are buried alive. Things only get wilder from there.
This new Children of the Corn is less of a remake than it is a reimagining. Most notably, the adults aren't the focus; the kids are. And unlike the original, there are no religious zealots running the town. Instead, the new film features a town of kids being led by Eden. Played by Kate Moyer, Eden is both adorable and disturbingly evil. And her reasoning behind slaughtering the adults is a combination of ecological commentary and general adolescent angst and anger.
Eden is the best part of the film. She has a certain insanity that feels very authentic and very adult. She wasn't just a kid who was whining about a later bedtime or a broken toy. She had genuine problems and concerns; she just solved them with a more "Michael Myers" approach than most people would.
The government comes in, promising the town riches if they go against their traditional farming ways by using genetically-modified seeds and toxic pesticides. When that doesn't work, the adults are ready to abandon everything, taking the quickest way out. Meanwhile, the kids are worried about their future, thinking about their legacy, and what kind of world their parents are leaving behind for them. It is all very obvious, yet at the same time, it serves the plot without feeling heavy-handed.
Additionally, Eden has added trauma due to abuse she suffered at the hands of the pastor (who pays for his unspecified--but undeniable--sins). Her experiences give you the feeling that Eden was close to losing her shit even before the influence of He Who Walks, the supernatural entity who lives in the corn. I'm not sure if these obvious motives are just because it fits the story, or if it is because evil youngsters with no discernible motive are too disturbing.
The rest of the cast is mostly a blur of faces. The only other character who gets any amount of screen time is Bo, played by Elena Kampouris. She is a 17-year-old who is leaving town to study microbiology, with the intent of returning to fix the crops. She leads the other elder teens in their attempt at rebellion, but those teens don’t do much besides agree with Bo. There is the journalist who is spoken about more than she is actually seen. There is the pastor, whose sins are mentioned but never seen. There is Bo’s dad, who might be the mayor of the town--it is never specified, and Bo’s younger brother, who becomes forgotten when he joins Eden’s cause. Then there are legions of children who are just credited as “Eden’s Posse.”
He Who Walks is seen way too much in this film. In the original film, you don't see He Who Walks Behind the Rows until the final act of the film, but in this version of Children of the Corn, the entity is seen frequently, and he's not particularly scary. He is designed to look like a corn demon, though, ultimately, he looks like a child's drawing brought to life. I can't help but wonder if it is meant to be some sort of anti-GMO message--that the GMOs and pesticides created He Who Walks. The movie doesn't make it clear what his exact purpose is. Regardless, the filthy, blood-stained kids are far scarier, and because He Who Walks is so present, he loses his mystique.
Children of the Corn is far gorier than the original film. While it lacked the original's shocking, seemingly unprovoked mass murder of adults at the top of the film, it more than made up for it with some truly bloody kills. One person has their eyes ripped out; another is ripped in half. There was even a scene with the kids basically playing in pig's blood. If you like your horror flicks gory, this one's for you. Maybe it is because of the extra gore, but the music was a bit heavy-handed, making it feel unnecessarily dramatic, when the gore and the situation did a fine job of that.
Ultimately, Children of the Corn is very different from the original, but it is a remake that has been updated in a useful and important way. Rather than just remaking a good movie, a new spin was put on the concept, and updated with current concerns like GMOs, government overreach, and climate change. The script, penned by director Kurt Wimmer, was solid--nothing special, but nothing bad. The acting was good, especially lead child Eden. It was fun, it was gory, and there were terrifying, blood-thirsty children running all over the place.
Children of the Corn is in theaters on March 3 and on demand on March 21.