Monday, February 27, 2023

The Good, The Bad, and The Verdict: "Children of the Corn" (2023)

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s RLJE Film’s Stephen King adaptation Children of the Corn, the latest genre flick from writer/director Kurt Wimmer (Ultraviolet; Equilibrium). The horror outing, which gets a theatrical release on March 3 and an On Demand and Digital release on March 21, stars Elena Kampouris (Sacred Lies TV series), Kate Moyer (Our House), Bruce Spence (The Road Warrior; Dark City), and Callan Mulvey (Avengers: Endgame; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice).

Synopsis Possessed by a spirit in a dying cornfield, a twelve-year-old girl (Kate Moyer as Eden Edwards) in Nebraska recruits the other children in her small town to go on a bloody rampage and kill all the adults and anyone else who opposes her. A bright high schooler (Elena Kampouris as Boleyn Williams) who won't go along with the plan is the town's only hope of survival.

The Good
Joseph: I haven’t seen the original feature version of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn since its opening weekend in 1984, nor have I seen any of the sequels, reboots, or what have you, so I’m judging this version on its own merits. I came away pleasantly — so to speak, for such a dark film — surprised. There’s no shortage of moody, brooding horror, not to mention ill will toward adults, here, and enough family drama to make the characters interesting and worth getting invested in. For me, the high point of the film is the all-in attitude that Kampouris and Edwards infuse their characters with. Kampouris makes her teen protagonist , square between the ages of the violent children and the adult victims, believable and interesting, and Moyer seems to be having a blast as the main villain.

Mike:  Children of the Corn has never been on my favorite horror franchise list. Far from it, actually.  But I have seen the first few and, coincidentally, caught the original a few weeks ago while scrolling through one of the numerous FAST services available (probably Pluto TV).  Anyway, I went into this with as open-a-mind as I could and, honestly, I was quite surprised at Wimmer’s take on King’s classic short.  It’s much darker in tone and delivery with none of the (unintended?) campiness that affected the original, and the two leads (Kampouris and Moyer) are quite enjoyable in their roles.  The creature in the corn is conceptually a pretty cool monster, and there’s a good sense of tension overall as things ratchet up and the kids start their shenanigans. The message - that the parents and grandparents have pretty much ruined everything for the kids - is relevant enough without being too much of a hot topic and makes for a rational excuse for their irrational response.
The Bad
Joseph: I like the idea of a corn creature for “He Who Walks” but the execution doesn’t always work, CGI-effects wise. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I couldn’t understand the final line(s) of the film well because of a garbled voice effect, which, along with — again — less-than-impressive CG effects, blew the ending for me. Plus, the climactic action by the protagonist (again, no spoilers) was something she could have done much earlier and without the all-too-obvious build-up toward it, as many viewers wonder why it isn’t happening as soon as they think of it.

Mike:  Time is critical to a film’s story and that aspect was my biggest problem with this film.  Simply put, bad editing and pacing makes it unclear how much time has passed from scene to scene.  Days?  Weeks?  Does it even matter when you’re faced with not-so-good CGI? I mentioned a conceptually cool monster, but he was kinda neutered by the CGI, and some of the blood and violence was a bit amateur or dated, looking like maybe something you’d see in the 80s.
Plus it’s, you know, a Children of the Corn film.
The Verdict
Joseph: Children of the Corn has enough going for it that I rate it worth a watch. The spirited performances from Kampouris and Moyer alone make it worthwhile.

Mike:  Despite not being a fan of the original film or its plethora of sequels, I’ve gotta say that I enjoyed this.  Good acting and a nice, eerie tone help it overcome its editing and pacing shortcomings.

Children of the Corn, from RLJE Films, is in theaters from March 3 and On Demand and Digital starting March 21, 2023.

Children of the Corn
Directed By: Kurt Wimmer
Written By: Kurt Wimmer
Starring:  Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Bruce Spence
Run Time: 93 minutes
Rating:  R
Release Date: March 3, 2023 (limited)

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