Movie Review: How they became “Children of the Corn”

You’d think even Stephen King would be tired of “Children of the Corn” remakes by now. But as he’s having another “moment,” in which everything he ever wrote is potential fodder for a new franchise reboot, here we are with the tenth telling of a version of that tale and another check for the screen rights to his short story in the bank.

Kurt Wimmer, a screenwriter specializing in remakes (“The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Point Break” and “Total Recall”) and a writer-director credited with mostly disasters like “Ultraviolet,” eschews suspense for sadism in this prequel, which tells us how a Nebraska town’s cornfields got custody of its “children” and how the real enemy is Big Ag feeding high fructose corn syrup to a planet of addicts.

If you recognize a few familiar Aussie faces in the cast, most famously Bruce Spence from the original “Mad Max” movies (he plays a preacher), that’s because they turned filmed Down Under and turned Oz into Rylston, Nebraska for this corn dog.

An orphaned boy who spends too much time “in the corn” stalks in and butchers the adults in his (apparently) abusive orphanage in the film’s opening scene. A “hostage situation” develops, and an incompetent attempt to “gas” the place by the local sheriff (Andrew S. Gilbert) kills all the children there, save for one.

Eden (Kate Moyer) survives, and turns the rest of the tweens in town into minions, extras in her production of “Lord of the Flies,” “Lost Boys” and girls punishing kids by having them walk the plank.

The grownups are all worked up over a blight that’s killed much of the corn, thanks to GrowSynth’s GMO corn and breed-specific fertilizer. They want to plow all the fields asunder and take government subsidies in doing that.

One of the older teens in town, Boleyn (Yeah, right.), played by Elena Kampouris of Netflix’s “Jupiter’s Legacy,” dreams up a mock trial in front of a reporter to hold the local rubes — including her Dad (Callan Mulvey) — accountable via “public humiliation” for the brain-drained village’s biggest blunders.

But Eden and her “posse” have other ideas.

Wimmer’s cleverest touch might be having the locals watching a “Twilight Zone” episode about a supernaturally tyrannical child send adults “to the cornfield” (“It’s a Good Life”), acknowledging the font of many of Mr. King’s most marketable horror ideas. But even that’s head-slappingly on-the-nose.

Having a child wonder if they are “making a childish mistake” isn’t the cleverest turn of phrase Wimmer’s ever typed. “It’s never a mistake to try and change the world” isn’t much better.

The challenge here was to build a story around a rightfully, even righteously vengeful child out to punish adults for the world they’re leaving her and her peers, a pitiless Greta Thunberg with a taste for blood.

The writer-director isn’t up to it, giving away the game early, over-explaining almost as early and showing us the Groot of All Evil in too much detail. It’s no use expecting a child actress to save the picture with her performance.

Kampouris, the heroine here, is a pale, willowy presence at the center of the picture, but handcuffed by a thinly-sketched-in character with college on her mind and the skinny girl brass to send her big, tough daddy “for help” while she tries to thwart the psychotic tween and her crew on her own.


This “Corn” sat on the shelf during COVID lockdown, but we can’t say it went stale during the delay. This was cynical in conception and rotten in execution long before the masks came out.

Rating: R for violence and bloody images.

Cast: Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey and Bruce Spence.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Kurt Wimmer, based on the short story by Stephen King. An RLJE release.

Running time: 1:33


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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