Review by Tatiana Miranda
Inspired by Stephen King's 1977 short story of the same name, Children of the Corn is the 11th film based on the classic horror tale. The most popular iteration is the 1984 film, which focuses on a traveling couple targeted by a cult of adult-killing children in rural Nebraska. While this new interpretation shares the same name as the short story and cult classic, its plot differs significantly from its source material and predecessors. As one of the first movies shot during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, this version of Children of the Corn strays away from the original's demonic and cult-based horror that was popular in the '70s and instead focuses on environmentalism and the possible effects of fungal diseases.
Whereas the original Children of the Corn thrusts the film's protagonists into the hands of an already established cult of children, this film acts as a sort of prequel, showing how the death of the town's adults came to be. The film opens with a teenage boy leaving the cornfield and entering the local children's home, killing every adult in the building off-screen. In order to try to stop him, the local police use cow anesthetic, which does kill him but kills the other children in the home as well. The only survivor is a young girl named Eden, who subsequently makes it her mission to avenge her friends and overthrow the town's adults.
Compared to its source material, in which all of the children of the town — whether old or young — are part of the cult, several older teenagers rebel against both the actions of the adults and the kids. The film's protagonist, Boleyn, aspires to leave her rural hometown and stands up against her father's cowardice. Similarly, her friend Calder hopes to one day escape his abusive dad. Although both teenagers recognize their parents' downfalls, they are understandably hesitant to side with Eden during her reign of terror. Since Boleyn and Calder, along with their two other similarly-aged friends, are between childhood and adulthood, they can see the situation more clearly.
Along with the film's commentary on the changing perception of adulthood as one grows older, Children of the Corn attempts to have an environmentalist message, citing the town's diseased corn as a byproduct of GMOs and other toxic chemicals. In the source material, the failed corn crop is seen as a religious punishment, which makes the children's worship of the crop itself an interesting contrast to the adult's religious devotion. With this tonal difference, the film's supernatural aspects feel out of place. This is especially true with this iteration's choice to physically show the demonic creature He Who Walks Behind the Rows, which did not have a physical depiction in either the short story or the 1984 film.
While Children of the Corn has some good performances and unsettling scenes, it could be more cohesive in terms of storyline and tone. Because of this, even the most horrifying shots feel lackluster and silly rather than scary. Yet, this version is bold in its attempt to take a new approach to an already very worn-down story.
Children of the Corn releases in theaters on March 3 and hits VOD on March 21.