Children of the Corn (2023) opens with a flourish of menace and foreboding, setting the stage for a chilling horror story. There is something wrong with the children in small town Nebraska and the audience is hooked.
Lord of the Flies vibes
Our attention is drawn to the lead protagonist, Boleyn (Elena Kampouris), the daughter of a local farmer who is trying to escape from her surroundings. It is obvious that she loves her hometown but is desperate to learn at university and bring back the skills to save it. The crops have started dying and the shops are shuttered as the money dwindles. The older generation have given up but Boleyn wants to lead the children in a mission spurred on by hope to help save the local community. That is her intention, but rather than innocent hope from the other children, all we see is malice, cruelty and evil. Their attitude is akin to the children in Lord of the Flies and we know the ending won’t be pretty.
Based on the 1977 short story by Stephen King, writer/ director Kurt Wimmer plays fast and loose with the original story creating what can definitely be described as his own version. The central idea of a couple arriving in a town populated mainly by children is dispensed with and instead we get something closer to an origin story. The town is populated by the adults at the start, and as is typical of most of Stephen Kings’ works, the adults are generally repellent, especially towards the children.
The opening stages of this new adaptation are by far the strongest element of this film. The direction from Kurt Wimmer is vibrant and gives the film energy. The score from Tim Count and Jacob Shea is scratching at the surface, creating an air of menace within the scenes which builds well. Whilst the story is refreshing, the lines themselves can be a little bit clunky and the young cast struggle to deliver them despite their best efforts. Kate Moyer (Eden) brings suitable menace when she appears on screen but it evaporates, through no fault of her own, when it is time to deliver her lines.
Horror or Horrible
Kurt Wimmer has certainly found a new way into this story and it created a level of optimism after the first 20 minutes. There were a few beautifully creepy moments, especially whilst the kids were playing at ‘pirates’ in the corn fields.
However that is where the tension and menace ends and the film spirals out of control with lines which result more in giggles rather than tingles. Logic is thrown out of the window just to manoeuvre characters into the correct place and set pieces are signposted far too early, which leaves you waiting for a moment rather than being surprised. Overall, one is left disappointed for the lost potential which was offered in the setup.