Monday, August 28, 2023

Groot Who Walks Behind the Rows

There are essays and encyclopedias to be written about the endless funnel of Children of the Corn movies (and how much that franchise aligns with Hellraiser). The amount of diehard horror fans I've seen vow to marathon the series only to fizzle out midway through could, well, fill a cornfield I suppose. 

Still, whenever one emerges every few years, it's hard not to get just a little bit excited that FINALLY, someone got it right. There's so much potential in the material and yet there's just never been a genuinely good movie to come out of it. Could this be the day that changes?

Grown-up Nelson Muntz thinks not

Quick Plot: Teenager Boydd emerges from the cornfield outside his children's home, armed with a knife and ready to slay the adults inside. The idiotic local law enforcement decides the best way to handle a hostage situation is to fill the interior with gas, which has the unfortunate effect of killing the 15 kids that were resting peacefully inside.

The town of Rylstone doesn't react well. Stores close, neighbors fight, and the corn, which had been treated with commercial grade fertilizer from a bad corporate deal, is now essentially poison. The town is offered a hail mary in the form of a government subsidy to destroy the fields, which appeals to the adults but upsets the kids at a scene in town hall that makes Parks & Recreation look like government at its finest.

Seriously, one townsperson begins laughing at a child in full Simpsons-bullying fashion, then announcing to the whole room that he's going to beat his son later that night. It's a sight to behold.

The minors of Rylstone voice their dissent. 17-year-old Bo, the voice of reason, tries to convince her dad not to go through with it, even going so far as to contact a reporter in the hopes that the publicity can save the town. But it's little Eden (the sole survivor of the opening massacre) who has the real plan, and if you've seen any of the dozen movies in this franchise, you can probably guess what (and who) it involves.

The twelfth installment in any franchise is going to feel familiar, and certainly Children of the Corn (the third film with that same TITLE in this franchise no less!) is going to have to dig to find anything fresh. And by golly, it does!

Now please understand: my definition of fresh doesn't necessarily mean good. It's sort of like how I love a good handful of stale, chewy popcorn. But in reverse.

Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer of Equilibrium and Ultraviolet back in 2020, Children of the Corn is...something. This is a franchise that so often has had to scramble at the eleventh hour to make a quick movie in order to maintain the rights, so it's refreshing to see this variation try some new things (even they mostly come off as very very silly). 

At the heart of Children of the Corn is the same deep motivation that springs the horrific Who Can Kill a Child? to life: the adult world has failed its youth, and at a certain point, the kids will fight back. There's an environment argument thrown in here as well, as the leadership of Rylestone has literally polluted its children's future only to finally decide to destroy it outright. 

All of this sounds probably makes Children of the Corn sound much smarter than the final product is. Wonky CGI doesn't help, and the rushed one crazy night timeline has such a "that escalated quickly" energy about it that it's laughable to take the film too seriously.

All that being said, Wimmer finds some new ground to tread here, which is admirable 12 films into a franchise. 

Well, I THINK he finds new ground. Like most horror fans, I'm incapable of remembering half of the Children of the Corn films I've seen. But I'm a good 99% certain none of the others relied on the adorable friendship between a highly organized homicidal child with prime leadership skills and her giant Groot knockoff, so for that, I'm all in.

High Points
There is no Shirley Temple-sized Oscar gold enough to fully reward young Kate Moyer for the supreme Queen B ME3AN-esque energy she brings to the role of Eden. With her Rhoda Penmark braids and decisive girl boss energy, I can easily say that without hesitation, I'd join her environmental cult in a heartbeat

Low Points
I like the idea of seeing He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Until, you know, I do.

Lessons Learned
An undergraduate degree in microbiology isn't an eternity

So what if your town is lacking resources? So long as they stock pink child-sized gas masks, can you REALLY complain about the quality of living?

Gasoline works differently in the midwest

Telling you that you'll enjoy watching the 12th low budget installment of Children of the Corn is like saying, "just order the chicken fingers, they'll be fine." This is nowhere near a good movie, but I found it wildly entertaining. No, it doesn't boast a grand death-by-voodoo-whittling like Part 2, but if Naomi Watts and Eva Mendes can emerge from these movies with their careers, let's put all our chips in Kate Moyer's basket for her future stardom. That in itself is kind of worth it all.


  1. Wowee. I had no idea this franchise has gone for so long. I *think* I saw the first one or possibly two sequels way, way back when, and I remember being very bummed with them even as a kid. And it didn't take much for horror to make me happy back then, so that's saying something. So for you to have sat through so many of these...I don't know what to say. I'm constantly in awe of your genuine enthusiasm for films of this quality, and this is just another one of those many moments. Bless your heart, Deadly Dolls House!

    How do you like the original CotC? I loved it as a kid, and it still has some charm (and a ton of nostalgia) for me but after re-watching it several years ago I sadly found it just hadn't aged very well for me.

    1. I have a complicated relationship with the original. It was a staple in my house (there was a longstanding sibling argument on whether it was "He Who Walks Behind the Rows" or "He Who Walks Beyond the Rows") so there are aspects of it that always stayed with me -- mostly the creepy kid crayon drawings and children's choir music. As an adult, I can look at it a littler more objectively and say...well, this isn't great. I think the film ran out of money 2/3rds of the way through filming and it realllllllly shows. It's still something of a comfort movie for me though, and wildly enough, it's STILL the best of the franchise, which is know.