1 of 5 | Eden (Kate Moyer, L) leads the "Children of the Corn." Photo courtesy of RLJE Films
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Stephen King's Children of the Corn was a short story, leaving plenty of room for elaboration in a film. Writer-director Kurt Wimmer's adaptation, in theaters Friday, takes the biggest swing of any interpretation, but still can't quite make a movie as interesting as the title.
The farming town of Rylestone has been in hard times. Local teen Boyd (Rory Potter) entered a a children's home and committed a massacre. The police gassed the building to subdue him.
The Rylestone crops are dead because Robert Williams (Callan Mulvey) encouraged the town to team up with a corporate farming company whose chemicals damaged the soil. Now, to bail Rylestone out, Robert suggests signing up for a government program that will pay them to stop farming, thus eliminating competition for subsidized corporate farms.
While the adults are preoccupied, young Eden Edwards (Kate Moyer) leads the other Rylestone children in a revolt. When Robert's daughter, Bo (Elena Kampouris) realizes Eden is taking this too far, she tries to stop the children of the corn and save her parents.
Wimmer wants to use Children of the Corn to address modern farming and the chemicals corporations are pushing. That is a valid and progressive elaboration of the title, but unfortunately the film devolves into shock value exploitation.
As in the King story and previous film adaptations, the children become murderous. Wimmer's film makes a strong case for how even young children could overpower adults.
Eden has a lot of older boys who follow her. Acting as her muscle, the boys can easily gang up on one adult, especially if it's an older, more frail person..
A lot of the sudden, graphic violence is more about gore than social commentary. Not that it can't be both, but the musical score even emphasizes "Look at this!" rather than asking the viewers to think about what they're watching.
Wimmer has a valid point about the younger generation suffering for the environmental decisions their parents wrought. The children of the corn take it to the extreme, but it shouldn't be surprising to see kids get mad as hell and not want to take it anymore.
There is such a palpable message about adults underestimating children that it is unfortunate the film can't trust the unsettling consequences of that alone. The town adults are caricatures mocking the children for speaking up, so the film suggests the adults who consider children weak are fatally mistaken.
The young actors are devilish and scary in a way that harkens to unsettling acts of real-life violence.
Children of the Corn goes completely off the rails when it includes a supernatural element. Once monsters appear, the real world perspective is irrelevant.
If there's a monster involved, then it's no longer the parents reaping what they've literally sown. Besides, no computer graphics creature is ever going to be as scary as the theme of a generation driven to violence by negligent, toxic parents.
A short story and B-movie franchise leave a lot of room for improvement, and Children of the Corn is close to having a poignant take on the material. It's especially disappointing it ends up leaning into the violent horror schlock of the franchise's straight-to-video sequels.
Children of the Corn will be available on video-on-demand March 21.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.