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Children of the Corn.jpg

Now on Shudder: The New 'Children Of The Corn' Is an A-maize-ing Garbage Fire

By Jason Adams | Film | March 21, 2023 |

By Jason Adams | Film | March 21, 2023 |

Children of the Corn.jpg

As a wise woman once said, “There are thousands and thousands of uses for corn, all of which I will tell you about right now.” (RIP Jan Hooks, eternal queen.) And one of the most successful uses (save popping) has been for Cinema. Hollywood loves itself a cornfield. Is there a more idyllic American expanse than those amber waves of green and gold undulating as far as the eyes can see? Instant Americana; a Michael Bay money shot.

If you’ve ever actually walked through a cornfield, you know the dark side of that equation—shit’s terrifying! Unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal, the stalks are going to be taller than you, and it’s easy to lose direction. Then there’s nothing but the squawking of crows and the insidious whisper of cornsilk—shudder. It’s comparable to the opening scene of Blue Velvet—the green grass of a suburban yard looks great until you get lost in it and can suddenly see all of the writhing insects underneath.

And yet horror movies, try as they might, never quite live up to that uncanniness. (One definite exception is M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, which works wonders with its farm setting.) I mean you’d think it’d be easy—Field of Dreams has always been a Field of Nightmares to me, with all of those creepy jock ghosts skulking around the stalks, demanding hard labor and meaningful heart-to-hearts. Ugh, no thank you, Shoeless Joe!

But the one franchise devoted to the entire subject, the Children of the Corn films—now eleven movies deep, if you can believe it—has been a flop on the corn front. Whatever shimmers of magic Stephen King wrangled in his original 1977 short story have been lost on the screen amid a sea of over-the-top Amish-adjacent religious buffoonery. The films have always been more concerned with mining the sub-genre of Scary Kid Horror, to be honest. But the setting, the very “Corn” of the title, keeps getting lost in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, the 2020-by-way-of-2023 Children of the Corn, which has been sitting on a shelf gathering corn dust for three years, is not the one coming to Corn’s rescue today. Not that this comes as a huge surprise given the delay seems to have been, for once, more about quality than it was about marketplace downturns. That this garbage fire is eking out a small theatrical release at all before hitting Shudder in a couple of weeks is itself a-maize-ing, if you will. (Listen, I’ll try to keep the corn puns to a minimum, but I make no promises—we have to entertain ourselves somehow.)

Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, who’s made a career out of writing the scripts for the shitty reboots of classics like Total Recall and Point Break, this Children of the Corn seemed primed to take us back to the source material; a back-to-corn-basics after all of those Urban Harvests (hey, Naomi Watts) and 666: Isaac Returns sequels. The plot itself is really more of a prequel—King’s original story is about a married couple on a cross-country road trip who stumble upon the isolated ghost town of Gatlin where the children have gone corn-nuts and killed all of the adults. This movie here steps back and tells us of that original corn-nutting.

So there are no outsiders this time around—our main protagonist is a townie teenager with cornsilk hair inexplicably named Boleyn (Elena Kampouris), who’s about to head off to college. This is much to the chagrin of her pissy little brother inexplicably named Cecil (Jayden McGinley), who sees for himself nothing but a dead-end townie nothingness stretching out toward the horizon. Cecil might be a pissy Cecil, but he’s not wrong—the adults have already ruined everything by letting Big Corn (yes they utter the term “Big Corn” right there in the movie itself) come in and put profits over plough, leaving the town a husk of its former self. Whatever kernel of a future there once was for Gatlin has been wiped right off the map. They’re shucked! (Yeah I totally lied about the puns thing, sorry.)

At a town meeting led by Boleyn and Cecil’s father Robert (Callan Mulvey)—who really should be standing on that podium answering why he named his children Boleyn and Cecil, if you ask me—the town’s adults are finalizing their plans to go all the way, and to let Big Corn swing their big scythe down on it all. (And one of them actually screams, in the film’s great highlight, “This corn economy can kiss my ass!” And yes I am having the t-shirts printed as I type this.) Big Corn will buy all of the farmers out basically, obliterating every kid in Gatlin’s future in one last gasp to keep the lights on for a bit longer.

I don’t entirely grasp the financials of this Big Corn bargain, but no matter. Led by local be-wigged bully Eden (Kate Moyer, the film’s greatest asset), who is obsessed with the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland for some reason, the kids demand to be included in this decision process and get their own vote. It is their future the adults are bargaining away here, after all! But the adults, a real rogue’s gallery of redneck stereotypes, scoff the kids right out of the room, with promises of Budweiser belches and domestic assault after dinner for good measure. What are the kids to do but to pray to their Corn God and pick up their pick-axes? The fuckin’ Boomers left them no choice, man.

Knowing this movie’s three-year delay in its release is important to the timeline here, because I was shocked to realize the character of Eden was written and directed before adorable child curmudgeon and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg became A Thing. I suppose it was inevitable that in our real world, a youthful voice would have to rise up upon a sea of fury with regard to how we older generations have really shit the bed when it comes to environmental protections for their future. But everything about Eden, from her pigtails to her furious speechifying, seems hellbent on leaning straight into the right-wing demonization of Thunberg. Literally, as Eden makes an actual deal with a demon, and then begins hacking up Momma and Poppa Corns left and right. She’s Tucker Carlson’s nightmares turned flesh!

Meanwhile, Boleyn — playing the Martin Luther King Jr. to Eden’s Malcolm X — tries to broker a more peaceful solution. She sees the fault in her parents’ ways, sure, but maybe dumping everybody into a big corn-hole and letting your evil CG corn god tear a woman in half groin first isn’t the way? But there’s no compromise with Eden, who seems deep in the throes of some kind of corn ecstasy. Eden’s a modern-day Joan of Arc, whose ears (meaning her regular ears, not like corn ears) ring with the field’s demonic demands—the fields want to feed! And they’ve got a taste for flesh!

If I have made all of this sound like a camp delight, well then good—that is exactly what I intended. While nothing here might reach the so-bad-it’s-awesome heights of the wheelchair scene in the second film, there’s plenty of cornpone corn porn to go around, from Eden gleefully swinging around a pair of freshly plucked eyeballs to the computer-generated monstrosity that makes up the last act’s stalk-walker. Did I groan? Oh, I groaned until I was hoarse with groaning, and then I groaned some more. But do I also know that one day in the near future when I am feeling down I will get myself righteously drunk—perhaps on corn liquor, hardy har!—and re-watch this corn trash and hoot and holler at its abominated being all the corn way? Aww, shucks they got me.