I grew up in the Midwest, and even though I didn’t see the 1984 adaptation of Children of the Corn until college, I knew enough people who had, and thus, was always a little wary of the cornfields that bordered my small town. That film went on to spawn a number of sequels and reboots that incorporated various versions of murderous kids and strange, godlike entities that crept among the cornfields. It’s one of those horror franchises that manages to remain present without ever making much of a splash. It’s more than ready for a solid reboot that will jump start the series and breathe some new life into it.
Children of the Corn opens at a group home for children. A teenage boy stumbles in from the corn field, his eyes crazy and his clothes disheveled. On his way, he passes Eden (Kate Moyer), a resident of the home who is outside alone, playing. They have a strange exchange before he takes up a knife, goes inside, and attacks the staff. The police are called, but apparently the stand-off inside is so extreme and unsolvable that their only option is to gas the entire place. Everyone inside is killed, with the only survivor being Eden,due to the fact that she wandered into the corn field as the event was beginning. She was found several days later, alone and confused.
Fast forward a couple of years and the town of Rylstone is in dire straits. The corn is rotting in the ground and the businesses that support the small agricultural town are closing left and right. The residents are feeling desperate. The payday that they were promised a few years earlier when they partnered with a large agricultural company has never come. The chemicals and fertilizers that they agreed to use on their crops haven't had the desired effect. The corn, rather than thriving, is covered in fungus and dying. A complete loss.
One of the farmers brings forward a new plan - government subsidies. He urges the others to sign up, stating that it is now their only option. His daughter Bo (Elena Kampouis) feels otherwise. Why just give up? Why give in when they can try to reverse course and correct their past mistakes, rather than making new ones that will again lead nowhere? What will they leave behind for their children after this next round fails?
Bo, like many of the older teens in Rylstone, is looking for a way out. She is mere weeks away from heading to Boston to pursue a degree in molecular biology. She, however, wants to bring the knowledge home with her. Instead of just running away, she wants to save the town that she came from. She wants to improve the soil, bring the crops back to life and restore the fields and the town back to the way they were before the last generation sold out.
The adults are hearing none of it. Desperate, they are looking out for the nearest lifeboat. The last one didn’t work, so surely this one will. After all, it is their last option. Or so they believe.
At this point, you might be tempted to say “This doesn’t sound very Children of the Corn-ish.” And you would be right. But it’s here that the plot turns and melds with the Stephen King story. The town’s children, led by Eden, strike a coup on the adults of Rylstone, killing most of them immediately, and saving a few more for some more interesting deaths later on. Eden leads the children in the name of “He Who Walks,” the creature who lives in the cornfields and cared for her the few days she was wandering alone after her friends were massacred at the children’s home. He Who Walks demands blood, and she will happily serve up the blood of the townsfolk who betrayed her and the other children with their selfishness and greed.
You see, at its heart, this version of Children of the Corn is an eco horror tale that pits one generation against another. Sure, the things that Eden and the other kids are doing are horrific, but their point of view isn’t wrong. The adults have used up everything and are content to leave nothing behind for the next generation. Their greed and the eternal promise of more and something better have led them along the path of poor decisions and now they are out of time.
It’s a fantastic allegory for what we are currently facing. With Boomers declining and Millenials and Gen Z taking center stage, we’re really being forced to come to terms with the massive mistakes that one generation is leaving to another. The messes that the older people leave behind for the younger people to clean up. Specifically when it comes to the environment. Choices made in selfishness and greed are creating disastrous consequences that the decision makers won’t be around to see. What responsibility do they have? And shouldn’t the upcoming generation get a voice in their own future?
It’s a great premise, but unfortunately, one that fails to fully pay off. The film lacks cohesion. Every transition is jarring and this is no collective flow. Wimmer makes an effort to give his characters purpose, but that purpose is diminished by the fact that they don’t feel like fully fleshed out people. Bo is a driven young woman who wants to fix her small town, but why? Why did the adults come to the ludicrous conclusion that the only way to stop the crazy boy at the beginning was to gas an entire orphanage? We get a lot of information via sloppy exposition, but none of it seems to carry any weight. Though the film is centered on a great idea, it frustratingly lacks purpose.
By the end of the film, the thesis on the environment and generational friction is pretty much gone in the name of churning out another version of a well-trod tale. It’s not really clear if the purpose here is to revamp the franchise or simply create another entry, but either way, it doesn’t really land. The things that make this st9ory unique are half formed, and the classic Children of the Corn elements are rather lifeless.
I’m all for horror movies taking big swings, and that’s the part that I really did appreciate about this film. It did try to do something new and inject a timeliness into the narrative. But unfortunately, it just isn’t enough and the final result feels like it needs some additional growth.
Movie Score: 2/5