2023 | rated R | starring Kate Moyer, Elena Kampouris, Bruce Spence | directed by Kurt Wimmer | 1 h 33m |
2023 Halloween Horrorfest, Pt 4 & 5
A Kurt Wimmer-directed umpteenth adaptation of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn takes the prequel angle with the story. Instead of rolling into a town run by killer children, it follows the run-up and extermination of the town adults and the establishment of the new child order run by young Eden (Kate Moyer) and rebelled against by teenager Boylen (Elena Kampouris). The Malachai character doesn’t exist in this version and religious puritanism is replaced with environmentalist (the adults vote on whether a big pesticide company can come in and kill their crops to save town jobs). So much is changed, Wimmer gets away without crediting King at all here.
Wimmer is a director-for-hire and a studio writer, reliable to slap together a modern completely disposable remake to fill a movie’s genre quota for that year, whether it’s the remakes of Point Break and Total Recall or action movie junk like Law Abiding Citizen and Street Kings and director of Ultraviolet and the admittedly interesting Equilibrium. He’s not a horror guy and an example of how studios think all genres are completely interchangeable without any skill required for each. This take on Children of the Corn is free of any suspense, chills or even gore, so edited to ribbons I was surprised it retained an R rating. The film’s visual language is ultimately it’s biggest flaw. It regularly cuts away or around the kills. The film’s most potentially chilling scene, in which the town adults wake up in a mass pit and are threatened with being buried alive by a child-operated bulldozer is assembled so incomprehensibly that it’s impossible glean any horror from it. This isn’t a mystery or a hidden monster, it’s something that would naturally be in the face of the characters to see slowly happen and the audience is denied that.
The other chief problem is the premise. Filing it under “Just because you could doesn’t mean that you should”, while a prequel to Children of the Corn sounds like a good idea, the major fun of the original film, and King’s story, is the adult couple that wander into this otherworldly town run by kids. What happened to the adults? how did they get rid of them all? This movie, like Rob Zombie’s infamous Halloween, fills in gaps that don’t need to be filled in and squeeze out the fun and mystery of the story. A prequel where we see children murdering town parents just turns into another slasher movie.
The movie starts without a build-up, with a kid coming out of the corn with a knife and murdering his parents, drags immensely in the middle and turns into full monster-movie schlock in the third act – a big, fiery, CGI action movie finale right up Wimmer’s wheelhouse. Despite Wimmer’s best efforts, the movie is kept from a complete washout by the committed performances of Moyer and Kampouris as the two sides of the child assault, waring for how far to take things. Initially captive to Eden’s villain speeches and attempts to take over the town, Boylen a bit older than the rest of the invaders and with a foot in both worlds, decides she’s the only one who can stand up to them. Moyer and Kampouris are having fun here, but the movie has no direction for them, unable to decide how sinister or campy Eden should go and how horrified and heroic Boylen should be.
And speaking of uncredited authors…
Killer Book Club (El Club De Los Lectores Criminales) | 2023 | rated R | starring Veki Velilla | directed by Carlos Alonso Ojea | 1 h 29m | in Spanish with Subtitles |
From the opening on-screen character names that showcase the different high school cliques of our characters (visa vi The Faculty) to the film’s inciting incident where a prank goes fatally wrong and an off screen villain seeks revenge (via I Know What You Did Last Summer) to the book club of horror movie enthusiasts who deduce the killer is following horror novel tropes and use them to find his identity, Killer Book Club is a lot of Scream, but also a pilfering of all of writer Kevin Williamson’s meta-horror work in the 90s. With Scream back on the big screen 25 years later, now’s apparently the time to totally rip it off.
Angela (Veki Velilla) is both a college student and famous author, whose first book based on a true crime has left her with a pressure to write a follow-up, while also dealing with the advances of her literary professor. When the professor goes to far, the Horror Book Club she belongs in decides to capitalize on the fad of internet clown sightings by staging a costumed clown attack of their own – a prank that leaves the professor dead. Soon (like the next day) an anonymous figure dressed in a giant clown head starts bumping off the book club one by one for revenge – but also while writing their own horror book and publishing it online chapter by chapter.
In an attempt to cram in every influence it can think of, Killer Book Club is a misbegotten mish-mash of ideas (some contradictory, Angela is a published author and in school to learn to write?) – but it also doesn’t seem to understand these influences. It dives into a post-It/Terrifier fear of clowns theme and then presents us with a clown that looks like an emoji. It presents the Horror Book Trope idea, but without fully committing to a Randy/Kirby/Mindy character to walk us through the rules. The reason you would introduce such a thing in your story is to play with those rules and twist them up, KBC is having none of it. The film follows Scream beat-by-beat to the point of predictability: from the sulking, overly suspicious boyfriend, to the emo admirer to the group that suspects one of their own and the “shocking” reveal of multiple killers.
Both this year’s Scream 6 and last year’s meta-literary gem See How They Run have more to say about the tropes of literary crime/horror while also constructing fun mysteries in their own right. “The First Suspect is Always the Second Victim” is an Agatha Christie trope from Run. Both movies prove meta-mysteries aren’t dead, but Killer Book Club’s serving of stale slasher tropes, clown-sploitation and a killer you’ll figure in the first 10 minutes is the stuff of moldy 25 year old leftovers.