Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Kurt Wimmer.
Starring Elena Kampouris, Bruce Spence, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Ashlee Juergens.
Horror, USA, 93 mins, cert 15.

Released in the UK on digital platforms via Vertigo Releasing on 31st July 2023.


It is quite an extraordinary thing that nearly forty years after the original movie version of Stephen King’s short story CHILDREN OF THE CORN, somebody still thinks there is life in the franchise as there are no less than eleven movies that bear the title, three of them being direct adaptations of King’s tale. However, audiences may disagree with the studio execs as the release of a new CHILDREN OF THE CORN movie is usually followed with a sigh, an audible ‘are they still making those?’ and the tedious inevitability that when you do get around to watching it you are going to be disappointed, but it was the only thing in the listings you hadn’t watched yet. You couldn’t get off the sofa and pick a disc to watch.


And so, we now have CHILDREN OF THE CORN, the third adaptation and therefore not connected to any previous movie in the series, and it does offer up a few things we haven’t seen before, which at this stage in the game is something to be applauded. The first change of note is that we are no longer in the small town of Gatlin, the familiar setting being replaced with Rylstone (in reality, New South Wales in Australia), and our main antagonist is a twelve-year-old girl called Eden (Kate Moyer), who replaces the twin threat of child preacher Isaac and his enforcer Malachi.


Indeed, the adults in Rylstone get wiped out by the mob of angry children, but they’re not driven by religion. Still, rather the decision made by the town’s adults to destroy the failing fields of corn so they can receive government subsidies. You see, Eden is our connection to He Who Walks (but not behind the rows this time – he walks, and awkwardly at that), and she is none too pleased about this decision, so the adults are rounded up and punished, leaving resourceful teenager Bo (Elena Kampouris) and a couple of other older children to try and put a stop to the madness.


So, while this version of CHILDREN OF THE CORN eschews the religious sermons and twisted Bible interpretations of the 1984 movie, we do still have the diabolical force of He Who Walks lurking in the fields, only this time, we get to see him and not just some ridiculous animated graphics drawn onto the film itself. Rendered in CGI as some bastard offspring of Treebeard from THE LORD OF THE RINGS and the weird shrub creatures from GAIA, He Who Walks may be the big baddie. Still, his fleeting appearances don’t have the desired effect when he isn’t built up all that much to start with, unlike in the original when he is mentioned precisely every four seconds by every cast member. He does get a mention once or twice. Still, the lack of religious symbolism or any backstory for Eden, who doesn’t dress in religious garb or have anything about her appearance that says she is in a cult, unlike Isaac in the original, means that he ends up being quite an underwhelming presence.


However, what isn’t underwhelming are the performances by Elena Kampouris and Kate Moyer, who pretty much carry the movie between them and are probably the best antagonist/protagonist pairing in the series since the original movie, with Kate Moyer impressing as the evil Eden, whose expressions and line deliveries belie the fact that the actor is only twelve. Bruce Spence is a familiar face to many, having appeared in several franchises including STAR WARS, MAD MAX, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and his appearance as the local clergy Pastor Penney adds a little spice. Still, he feels underused in a role that should have been a lot bigger. However, being an adult and a member of the clergy in Rylstone does come with certain caveats, and when Pastor Penney’s ultimate fate is revealed, it leads to one of the best scenes in the movie, and the actor sells it well.


You must ask the question, though, as to whom this movie is aimed at because this far down the line, there are likely only a few patient franchise fans left who have any interest in a new CHILDREN OF THE CORN movie, especially one that is going straight to streaming (as they probably all will from now on). The movie looks cheap, but it does feel like there was some effort to differentiate it from what has gone before – the lead character being a little girl, the younger children in the town being the ones to cause the chaos instead of the older teenagers, the lack of religious symbolism, the focus more on violence, etc. – and that is to be commended as, outside of the original trilogy, this is probably the best movie to bear the CHILDREN OF THE CORN name, but considering how terrible the other movies in the franchise are that is a pretty low bar to reach. However, there is gore here (not all of it practical, but we’ll take what we can get), there is a story with actual characters occasionally doing sensible things, and it gets in and out without being overly drawn out or tedious. Suppose you enjoyed last year's TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE Netflix exclusive. In that case, you’ll probably get something out of CHILDREN OF THE CORN, as both movies are presented in very similar ways – both visually and tonally – only this one does at least make a bit more sense, but is it the franchise reboot the filmmakers are hoping it will be, kick starting more folk horror/slasher crossovers with killer kids and possessed cornfields? Highly unlikely.


Chris Ward


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans