The Pitch: Kurt Wimmer’s 2023 entry in the long-running Children of the Corn franchise, the eleventh(!!) film in a series that started as a straightforward, modestly tense adaptation of a Stephen King short story before spinning further and further into direct-to-video oblivion, is less recent than you’d think. You see, Wimmer’s version was actually shot before the pandemic and released in 2020 to a few test audiences in Sarasota, Florida as a seasonal Halloween treat. Then it was promptly shelved until it could enjoy a brief theatrical window and prompt offloading to Shudder.
Watching Children of the Corn (2020/2023) now, it’s no wonder they were shy about putting this thing in front of an audience: Even within the auspices of a not-terribly-inspiring horror franchise, Wimmer’s take is a dull, repetitive, meaningless slog that carries only superficial similarities to the very story that shares its title.
There’s the rundown town in rural Nebraska, the coterie of craven kiddies who take the town for themselves, the whispered commands from a mysterious entity in the cornfields. That’s about it. Ostensibly, it’s a sorta-prequel to the original film, depicting a massacre at an orphanage that leaves many kids dead, save for little Eden (The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Kate Moyer), emotionally scarred from the experience and hearing voices from…. something out in the cornfield.
Also, the crops are dying due to the adults’ complacency, with no new world for their children to inherit. It’s the kind of thing that’ll make you gather your fellow tots and go on a murderous rampage against all the grownups in the town, with only a spunky 17-year-old activist named Bo (Elena Kampouris) to stop you.
Field of Screams: Apart from that opening sequence, which is decently harrowing in a mid-aughts Texas Chainsaw kind of way, there’s very little about Wimmer’s take on the material that inspires much beyond boredom and the occasional unintentional giggle. The script is a mess, grasping at some intermittent social commentary it can’t successfully commit to: rather than the cosmic horror of the King version, this take is all about GMOs killing the crops and the feuding factions who want to either keep the corn alive or burn it down so the dying town can get those delicious government subsidies.
The first half of the film is all about this provincial conflict, scene after scene of actors braving some of the clunkiest expository dialogue uttered in a film this decade (poor Callan Mulvey and Bruce Spense are particularly wasted as Bo’s dad and the town preacher, respectively) in town halls and cornfields.